Everything Will Change In A Year: April 20, 2019

I saw a quote this morning that made me think: “Look around you, and enjoy, be grateful; in a year, everything will be different.”

Last Weekend, April 13, A beautiful day in Ogunquit, ME

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.

I know, everything will change in a year.

Hanging out with Daiyaan and Shania @Portsmouth, NH
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Upgrades of Life. March 2018

Late last year, I upgraded my IPhone and my car; same brands, just newer versions and different models; The IPhone X is a delight to switch from my news, to texting, and then to music, and my phone battery doesn’t die; the Audi Q5 overhead sunroof, along with Audi Pre-sense, which tells me about approaching traffic, and with Appleplay, makes my morning commute more productive and long distance driving definitely more enjoyable.

Some upgrades, in accessories, are definitely good.

When you leave your birth land, to find a my new country, is that a good upgrade?

When one leaves a boss who is described as, the bear from the movie The Revenant, scratching your eyeballs out every morning, is that an upgrade?

When one moves on, from high-school friends, who don’t really understand or empathize, to build your own new community, is that an upgrade?

Our lives are full of choices; sort of “forks in the road”. I have written in the past, of being at an intersection or crossroads – with decisions to be made. Not every decision, is an upgrade. On the other hand, if one is willing to do the hard work of research, and is committed to the investment, one can choose to make that turn in the fork, an improvement.

I made a choice, some thirty years ago, to leave my loving, warm family, and move thousands of miles away, to a whole different land – and start fresh. Many of my friends stayed behind and made their lives in Bangladesh – and then others have gone to Europe or Australia. No one ever is in the position to judge, why or how someone makes that decision to leave home – and one cannot consider these decisions upgrades or downgrades – who am I to say that my life in the US is an upgrade from my friends who chose to live in Bangladesh, or, for that matter, move to Australia. What’s most important is that they are happy and content wherever they have chosen to live.

Even since moving to the US, I have lived in some 11 homes, in 8 states in 33 years. Once, my young daughter came from school and asked if we were in the witness protection program! At least twice during these times, in Denver and Fort Lauderdale, I felt that I found my home and was going to live there forever. Then life changed; an amazing career move led me to Florida, where I thought we had built permanence. Then disease struck our family and we had to make a drastic move out of Florida.

I always wanted to live in a real city, coffee shops and crazy restaurants in every corner. I wanted a walkability score of 90+, coupled with heady intellectualism. When we moved to Cambridge, we found all that and more. Museums, a vibrant cultural scene, beautiful green spaces, and access to a coastal town, Ogunquit or Provincetown, in 90 or so minutes. I meet the most curious and intriguing people here; our dinner conversations are often about Blockchain and artificial intelligence, and the number of new fusion restaurants here are beyond my count. From late April to late October, Cambridge is a wonderful place to live. However, I also crave those blue waters of Florida, palm trees and that afternoon drizzle, soothes my soul.

January 2017, on my 50th birthday, I finally decided that however many days I have, I want some Florida in my life. So, I took the plunge and decided to build something which I could eventually call my home, at least for a portion of my life. Sometimes, in life, upgrades are necessary, and then other times, you know you gave up something good, that you just want back, even if it’s for a portion of your life.

There are other decisions, that are quite easily made, even if someone makes them for you! No regrets about leaving that annoying boss who makes you cringe every day, or puts their feet up on the desk while talking to a customer in their office. No regrets about letting friends go, when they bring you down more than they lift you up – however long that friendship maybe. In my experience, work or friends, if they are not willing to listen, or be “additive” in your life – should be upgraded quickly – without regret.

After a long day of dueling decisions, argumentative employees, fighting crazy traffic, when you return home and your twelve year old asks you, what’s the highlight of your day Daddy?, and you respond, without hesitation, dinner with you, honey!… that’s when you know, that some things in life are best just the way they are, without upgrades.

Beautiful sunrise by my new home in Oakland Park. Not upgradable

The Sunrise Last at the beach by my home in Florida. Not Upgradeable.

Celebrating Life in Long Hand: January 25, 2013

Holiday Cards
The Gifts of 2012 Holiday cards on our wall!

This weekend, one of the last rituals of a festive holiday season was, taking down the wonderful holiday cards we have received this season. Altogether, there were 44 stories on our wall, telling us about newborns, weddings, cancer recoveries, pet tragedies and many other interesting anecdotes. Some cards were shining photographs of friends and family, smiling and posing in uncomfortable poses with unusual costumes – and there were those that displayed genuine smiles with wonderful gestures – maybe at a Thanksgiving dinner, a karate chop, or a day on the beach!

Receiving and sending holiday cards, has been a family tradition for my family, from when I was a little child. I remember my parents sending out UNICEF cards and handwriting those cards to friends in far-away lands. I have always been mesmerized by the act of generosity when we received amazingly colorful cards from four continents.

In recent times, friends often send one page essays of highlights from the previous year. I learn of new dog additions – or piano recitals, college graduations, unique bike rides and many other interesting and unique aspects of many families, in a quick snapshot. Once, I received a CD with pictures of a family’s annual highlights, embedded with their favorite musical tunes! Love the creativity!

Even in this age of electronic agility, I am always amazed by how much, this small gesture of sending of a holiday greeting card, still moves me. It makes me sit and think about the year. The year of links connected, or disconnected; of relationships built – or ended. It makes me grateful for the amazing gift of friendships that I celebrate in my life.

This year, after holiday cards arrived, I actually re-connected with two colleagues from different past work lives, with a quick phone call. It is always great to hear their voices and learn about where they live now or what new adventure they are embarking on.

Recently, I saw an electronic posting where someone wrote, one’s age maybe celebrated by the number of friends we have – not the years we live! By the list of friends and family, that we either sent cards to – or received cards from – I feel incredibly blessed!

At work, I always urge my up-and-coming leaders to write hand-written thank-you notes to customers and colleagues – for some generosity that they have experienced that particular week.

Every Friday, make it a practice, to take thirty minutes of your working day to sit back and reflect on your past week – think of all the gifts you have received – close your eyes and thank that person and write them a note – nothing major, just a plain, simple ‘thank you’.

Having written many such cards myself, I have often seen thank you cards, my thank-you cards posted on people’s bulletin boards. The power of a simple “thank you” is immeasurable. People do care, when they receive a hand-written thank you note.

In this world of electronic gimmickry, people send electronic thank-you cards on the guise of being eco-conscious or just simple, efficient. Nothing wrong with that; however, let me say, there is something cathartic of writing a small note and closing that small envelope and maybe putting a stamp on it. It’s just a bit of a sacrifice – of time and of emotion – that goes a long way to express gratitude – holiday season or not.

This season, the Mahmood family holiday card has pictures of my beautiful princesses – well poised for a Cinderella Ball – embracing and smiling – as one often does for cameras. Everything that one goes through in a year, the anguish, the loss, the pain – cannot be summarized in a small card. It also does not suit the occasion.  We don’t have a long essay to share. Our comments are borrowed from a dear friend’s gift: “To Believe, is to Know that Every Day is a New Beginning”. Shania and I personally label the envelopes and seal/stamp them, almost as a family ritual, the day after Thanksgiving.

In 2013, we wish all our friends with new beginnings – wherever they are. We wish everyone well – good health and happiness. In November of 2013, when it’s time again, I hope to keep up is this “old-fashioned” ritual of writing a small note to all my friends, telling them of achievements and setbacks that make our journey complex – yet a meaningful curve in our meandering river of life.

The Apple Tree Conundrum

“There may have been a strong wind blowing the day the apple fell from the tree” was the quote I heard on a sitcom recently.

Everyone thinks they are very different from their parents. Some try their best to be different from their parents. Can one really be that different, even if they live in different continents or in completely juxtaposed opposite lives?

It always amazes me to think how different (and alike) we are from our parents (and children) and where these similarities start or end.

Recently I was reminded of an incidence in my seventh/eighth grade. I was sad the day my mom told me to stop associating with a new friend because he came from a “different” type of family. In the mid 70s/80s in Bangladesh, we were the limited income families and my new friend’s parents came from a “baniya” (business) background and had more of a freewheeling (money spending) lifestyle. My mother explained that they had very different “values” and I couldn’t be friends with him no more!

It seems bizarre in today’s context, but I lost my friend and since then, have not re-connected with him.

Recently, we told our teenager to stop mixing with one of her friends because we found her parents to be obnoxious and rude (from many different, unexplained dimensions). I know it sounds weird, but the question remains: can the apple really fall that far from the tree?

The ultimate debate of “nature” vs. “nurture” rages on in academia, but what my mother did some thirty years ago and what we are trying to do, today, are ironically not that different. Sometimes misguided, (but mostly on mark,) parental instincts, always drive us to try and protect our children from harm and heartbreak. We have this inner confidence that, having been through our own experiences, we now have much more wisdom (!) to pass our learning to our naïve children.

Sometimes I wonder, had I remained friends with that lanky kid in Dhaka, would I have turned up, somehow, a different person? Many of my parents friends’ children, coming from these “middle/limited income families” made ostentatiously egregious life-choices and didn’t turn out any better/worse.

I realize that not all families have similar biases. In today’s day/age, a blacksmiths son doesn’t necessarily have to become a blacksmith. Men and women our age are charting completely different courses of lives from their parents (and ancestry). I also don’t (in my mind) believe that a seriel killer’s son has to be a seriel killer.

We talk the large egalitarian dream of being completely unbiased and nonchalant about the environment and its surroundings. We parrot large, classically American phrases: Fairness, Equality, Justice!

But in the prisms of our heart, we hold that darkness (or maybe it’s light), that causes us to think of lurking danger when we see an alcoholic or an abusive parent and tell our daughters to stay away from their sons.

My heart wishes to be more egalitarian; I wish I could tell my teenage daughter to be just open her arms to all who enter her life; but I have not been able to reconcile between what my mind thinks and how my heart feels.

My frailty is that I love her too much and I just cannot watch her getting hurt. Even living in a different continent, like my parents, I superimpose my biases on her every day, with the associations I choose and the values I chastise.

In my mind, I know, that this maybe a complete mistake. But, in my heart, my child’s protection becomes my ultimate priority.

After all, now, that I feel that my tree has a purpose of its own, when my apple lands on the ground, I want no bruises (and I don’t want the wind to blow too strongly either).

At the end of the day, my identity has evolved: from a liberal educated man to a careful, protective parent.