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.
And I believe that things happen for a reason. At that happening moment, often, we don’t realize what that reason maybe; over time, we understand why this just needed to happen.
Also, I see, that the series of experiences I have had, were just preparing me for this moment of time.
Today, I closed on my first holiday-home (and possible final home) in Oakland Park, Florida. For seven months, I have been following the construction of this home; cinderblock by cinderblock, windows, doors, electric wires and tile work. As if, I am preparing for a child to be born.
When you talk about serendipity or happenstance, on this same date, I arrived in the US, some 32 years ago. Maybe the date is just a coincidence.
I started my new life in this new country, bursting with desire and ambition. Even after so many years, my heart and mind are just as excited by possibilities of love, friendship, a great meal, or a bottle of wine.
This morning, Shania, my twelve year old and I drive to sign the paperwork at the closing office; all the way, I keep thinking of the first home I bought on Merrimack Lane in Toledo, some 24 years ago. I remember the night before the closing of my first home; my mom and I kept talking about the concept of buying a “home”. She was worried that if I bought a home in the US, I would never return to Bangladesh. She was right.
She sat with me through the signing of papers, insurance and documents. At the end she asked me, “Bujhcho, shobkichu?” (Did you understand everything?)
Today, my strong Shania sits with me, quietly, for more than hour, while we go through some 30 signatures, deeds, titles, insurance….all of it. Later, she acknowledges, it was really boring, but she didn’t bring her headphones to the closing because she thought it was impolite. I am grateful she is here; I believe she is here for a reason more than, just that I asked her to be there. Just like my mother, twenty-four years ago, she is is providing me strength and support to nurture my dreams along.
We get home and Daiyaan arrives; we unpack boxes and put things away. We are sleeping on air mattresses tonight, just like camping. Sheets are unfolded. New dishes are put in the new dishwasher; new towels are hung up. All to the girls’ favorite music – dancing, joyful and bright.
In the evening, my friends Toby and Ray, bring champagne. We toast in our new glasses, nibble on tapas, listen to good music and break out into utter goofiness. I feel like I have been designing and planning for this day, all my life.
The goal tomorrow is to make breakfast for my girls, at our new home.
Multi-grain bread with Guacamole, sunny-side up eggs on toast, and a sprinkling of Sriracha. Orange juice, hot tea or coffee.
This is a great day for my family. 32 years from landing in this beautiful place, to 24 years from learning to buy a new home, I am here today because I have been preparing for this day. This is no coincidence. This was meant to be; Guacamole toast for my princesses, and a hot cup of red-rose tea for me.
Raised with western ideology, the concept of surrender is typically associated with defeat, giving up. In work or private life, the art of surrender, can have a different affect; a much deeper, reflective and calming outcome.
I am in a critical meeting with a group of people at work; there is round-robin criticism, about the things we coulda…shoulda…woulda….done. Why customer pricing wasn’t adjusted, why raw materials were not purchased from different vendors – the list continues.
At some point, you have two options:
Raise your hand and say, STOP. Enough bullying. I did the best I could
Surrender…accept that, yes, we could have done more, but this is where we are nowI have practiced both; depending on the circumstances, both techniques work with different degrees of complexity.
In my previous blog, The Twisted World of Bullying, I have spoken about how to deal with a bully – how to deal with individuals that like to harass; in their mind, you are someone they can control. Today, I want to get your thoughts going on the act of sweet surrender.
First, realize, that we control very little. Everything and everybody changes, all the time. Dealing with this change takes dexterity and the ability of being in constant motion. Imagine biking… or swimming in a calm sea.
A few years ago, my life was going through an unprecedented amount of turmoil – the more I was trying to control the outcome, the more it was rupturing. Everyone goes through moments like these. As if, you are driving a car on ice, and the car just keeps spinning. At that moment, the rate of motion is very difficult to calculate. All you feel, is this spinning – almost in slow motion.
The best thing to do, when you know you have started to slide on ice, is to let go – is to surrender to the reality that you cannot control this anymore; you have to believe, gravity and friction will do their job and the car WILL inevitably come to a stop.
When you can look beyond the current moment and think of that future point – where the car will have stopped – and everything important is still ok – you will have surrendered.
This difficult act of just letting go – where all your training, resistance, and willpower has absolutely no impact – is something to be aware.
As an adult, you have likely experienced this emotion at some point in your life. It may have been during the illness or death of a loved one; or during the betrayal of a friendship or relationship; or even a natural or man-made calamity; e.g. an earthquake, mudslide, or even a terrorist attack.
As I get older, I am learning to accept that very little is within my span of control, which helps me to surrender completely. In recent turmoil or conflicts, I keep asking myself, have I done my best to resolve this issue; if the answer is positive, I realize that the Universe is telling me that it’s time to surrender.
Surrender is acceptance; acceptance of a reality that change is all-encompassing.
In a spiritual sense, it’s surrendering to God or Nature. You know everything will be ok; it will work out. At some point, you just have to let it go. Let the chips fall where they may. You will make the best of the hand that is being dealt to you.
Daiyaan sends a short text, “Daddy, I don’t want to come home because it hurts me too much, that we are selling the house.”
I take a deep breath and sit back; when I moved into this home, I imagined retiring from this place, imagined Daiyaan’s wedding on the small patch of grass by our backyard; I had believed this as my final destination. In the next six weeks, we will be moving to a new place to live – smaller, more manageable for my new life.
I was in the pool last night– staring at the banana and coconut trees, listening to my favorite tunes – soaking in the happiness this home has given me.
A home has a lot of meaning; a lot of connections. When people move to new homes, sometimes they try to hold on, to their past, that has become the fabric of their souls. I have written in the past about Anchoring in an Uncertain Sea; as first generation immigrants, the concept of “anchoring” has a very special meaning, for many of us.
In my 45 years, this is the first home I have lived 5 years in one home; the first eighteen years of my life, with my parents in Bangladesh, we moved 6 times. In the last 18 years of family life, I have moved in-and-out of new homes, 7 times.
I bought my first home on Merrimac Road with a singular goal; to demonstrate to my family that I had finally attained “stability”: I had a job, and I was pursuing the American dream. The small three bedroom home, without central air and only one bathroom, is where I moved into with my unstable sofa and a single mattress. The night before I signed the bank papers, my mother, coincidentally was visiting me in Toledo and complained incessantly about why I had to take on such a big “responsibility”.
I started my career and family from Merrimac road; I met my future wife and made her a cup of International Coffee one evening, the first time we met. I got married and brought her home here; we bought our first new car, a dark blue Toyota Corolla. Our first child, Daiyaan came home and slept on my chest, the first night of my transition to fatherhood on a warm summer evening. There was a beautiful Dogwood tree on the front yard, which was in full bloom when Daiyaan arrived.
After 4 years of Merrimac Road, right around Daiyaan’s first birthday, we moved to our first custom-built home in Perrysburg, Ohio. Since then, we have never stayed at a house very long. Fifteen years later, I arrived in South Florida; in between, we bought and sold, four other homes in far away places like Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Colorado.
The first time I stepped into our new home on Marina Drive, I felt at peace; I believed, I would retire and live in this home forever. Shania learned to swim, read and carve a pumpkin, at this home.
Daiyaan finished middle school here. We went away to Spain, Australia, Morocco and many other places from this home. But every time we went away, I felt that I could come back to this blue-green home, where I felt safe – I felt that my soul had a place to rest. The little patch of grass in the backyard, surrounded by coconut trees is where my imaginary hammock rests.
Heartbreak, success, anger, celebration, pain, glory and variety other emotions are commingled in this space which has provided with shelter and continuity during a very tranquil and subsequently, a very difficult “turning-point” in my life.
When I sit outside on the patio, listening to the sound of our inter-coastal waters, I feel peace; I feel blessed that I was given the opportunity to have this as my home for this period in my life.
With my uncertain, anxious heart, I send a text back to my daughter, “Baba, A house is just a box – it’s where people live – the people are more important than the box”.
I know by consoling her, I am consoling myself as I start the search for the next stage of my life.
The late afternoon sky is almost pink; the moist air around the Florida intercoastal waterways makes me lazy as we glide down the canals. My two princesses sit on the bow as we find an opening in the water that’s ideal to hang out for a few hours. I consider anchoring here and maybe enjoying a chilled beer or some cashews, or in the case of my four year old, some salty Goldfish.
I hesitate and keep on moving; feel like there is more to see, and experience, just around the corner.
There is a feeling for millions of us, who may have traveled far from the lands where we were born; we search for something more than what life had to offer where we grew up. Some find it instantaneously, by making close friends in their community; some go a lifetime, feeling alienated from their neighbors (or colleagues) and never really assimilating into local cultures or norms.
A close family friend lived in a little known, five-thousand inhabitant town in Nebraska where Italian food was considered diversity for many years; and then I have known families in middle sized cities like Toledo, Columbus, Lafayette or Pittsburgh that still don’t feel “at home” even after living there for decades.
Anchoring is not easy; it requires giving up something that you may hold core to you or to have to make a choice and give up the possibility something more.
Some of my friends live in a single home and have something (or someone) to anchor their lives to. Sometimes it’s a home, sometimes it’s an institution – be it a religious or a political belief. As we grow older, this craving for anchoring becomes stronger.
For most of my life, I have never had the opportunity to anchor to something concrete. During my childhood, as a child of a rising multi-national executive, we were moving to a new home every 2-3 years.
In some ways, my grandmother’s home in Aga Masih Lane in Purano Dhaka, was my anchor. There was a beautiful Peyara (guava) tree at the back of the house that bore some of the sweetest of this tropical fruit. I remember the small lawn at the front, where my grandmother hand planted flowers and painted the flower pots before every Eid. I fondly remember the craving to go the rooftop, in late afternoons, to watch the colorful kites flying in random fervor. Those noises and “fragrances” of Aga Masih Lane have become a part of my psyche.
At some point, this home was sold and I have never been back to see it. I am surprised when I arrive at some old European city and suddenly find familiarity with the old brick buildings or when I smell fresh baked bread on the street and am reminded of the smell of Bakorkhani in old Dhaka.
Since moving to the US, first came college and the changes in dormitories and apartments, in a series, like daytime TV, that you change the channel on quickly.
During our sixteen years of marriage, Wasima and I have picked up homes and settled down in seven different topographies and neighborhoods. At one stage, my older daughters friends’ used to think that we are in some witness protection program.
Today, I strive to create anchors for my children – somehow that they may remain grounded to something; maybe it’s a building, maybe a neighborhood which is bigger than individual people or buildings. Maybe it’s not a building – it’s not a concrete box or a wooden structure, that can be touched or felt – maybe it’s a core set of values that bind us together. Maybe it’s an afternoon in South Florida when the sky and the ocean both adorn the color of blue.
One day, when they look back nostalgically and remember how their Baba took them boating once in a while, the sky remained blue and ocean beckoned with a salty kiss. We may have never anchored to a land mass or remained attached to something “solid”; but we enjoyed the best that the world had to offer– clear air, water, sunshine and an abundance of love and freedom.
Maybe anchoring to memories of the sea is more meaningful than a rectangular box of concrete.