Lived, Loved…

I am looking for a third word. That word, that descriptor, that simple verb, that will encapsulate and finalize my life when I am gone.  It’s as if, at my life celebration, there will be three words that may emblazon cocktail napkins; will be part of the vocabulary that people will use that late afternoon. I know the first two words: 

Lived, Loved, …… 



What’s the third word? Adventured… Dreamt… Climbed? 



None of these truly captures the essence of everything I believe in, or want to be remembered by. 

My goal is to not leave any debris behind, when I leave. But, if I were to have an epitaph somewhere, or a brick that had my name on it at a school park, what three words would I like to be remembered by? Drank wine (too many words)? Boated? Maybe it’s Devoured?  

At the beautiful ripe age of fifty, why am I thinking of an epitaph. It’s not that I have a death wish, or have recently diagnosed a debilitating disease.  

I am at a good place where, whether its one day or another seven seven thousand days (~20 years), I want to look back and say I did these three things well and those are the best descriptors of my short time on earth.

 
I believe that what we say, think or write down, ultimately has a higher likelihood of happening. Hence, I must choose carefully and select that third word that will determine my destiny for the rest of my days. 

I believe that words are everything. 

Words are powerful. What you say, is critical and important. 

 Words can start or break relationships or wars; words can also soothe your soul and change a persons life. I have been told that words of affirmation have helped people think of their careers; in one instance, a young project manager at a place I worked, came in and resigned because he had read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist, which I had given to him as a holiday gift, where Coelho talks about being a Shepard or a Baker. At his exit interview, he told me he didn’t want to be the baker, or in his case, a project manager – he wanted to be the Shepard, and fly jets around the world. He went on to become a pilot.

 Hence, one of the first thing I teach my children, and at work, that we must choose our words carefully. Be selective. When it comes to verbalizing our thoughts, almost always… Less is More. 

In today’s environment, where blustering twitter feeds, insults and promulgations, some of our ephemeral leaders are bombastic and freely throwing words around, that mean nothing; they command attention for thirty seconds, and somehow take up empty space, like that extra sweater in your closet that you haven’t worn for years.

In this verbose environment, words are even more important and require even more careful introspection. Words cannot be just thrown out and expected to be forgotten. In the world of ether, whether it’s a hurtful text, or a drunken insult, it’s out there, forever.  

I would love to have the word Inspired. But that sounds self-promoting; I wouldn’t mind, Laughed. I could live (or in this case, die with that!).  Friends have suggested Cared ! I love it. 

Have you thought about your 3 words? 

I am open to suggestions.  

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Serendipity, Happenstance and Toast with Guacamole


I do believe in serendipity and happenstance.

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.  

Our First Drinks at our New Home

We Will Carry On: April 2016

Five years ago, I came back from an overseas work trip and found empty card-board boxes in the lobby of our beautiful South Florida home; family pictures were off the wall, things were strewn all around the place, there was disarray in my carefully manicured paradise.

In the weeks following, my life changed forever. Unbeknownst to me, I became a FAMY (Father Mummy) that week.

Shania recently taught me this new term she learned on TV: FAMY (pronounced FAH-MEE).

Fifteen birthdays, five New Year Eves, one learning to read, and one high-school graduation, one learning to drive and one learning to ride a bike, one buying a first car, first loss of front teeth and one getting her first job,  and many other “firsts” later, here we are; undeterred, unapologetic and, each of us, in our new trajectory. There is no looking back; no retrieving time with a “back” button.

Five years ago, if someone had told me that Daiyaan, at almost twenty-one, is going to school in Florida, while building her career in insurance – or that Shania, at almost eleven, is growing up to be a sparkling, amazing, foodie-movie critic-worldly-loving and compassionate child, I would have been surprised; not because, I don’t want them to be this way, but more so, because I had no idea –how to be a FAMY, what it meant and what it entails.

I also had no idea that I would be in another global business leadership role, in a major publicly traded corporation, or living a new life, in the heart of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Five years ago, I blogged about Jumping into a Meandering River, because that’s how it felt.

We started swimming in a stormy dark night with no destination in mind; I could taste the saltiness of three streams of tears, while the rain beat down on us. Fear, loss, anger and pain, commingled, all tears taste the same.

At that time, a wise friend advised me, “Remember, YOU are the pole that holds up the tent, if you fall, the whole tent collapses.” I keep thinking about that phrase, and shudder.

As a FAMY, there is really no looking back, or falling sick, or for that matter, being out of commission. The tent could fall apart. It’s a lot to digest in one sitting.

Some thirty plus years ago, on a May morning, my mother also took up a similar role. In a lot of ways, I am following in her footsteps.

When my father died, there was a discrete reason for the change, it was clean-cut. Death happens and you learn to live with that. There’s defined mourning periods for death in most world religions.

In our case, the world of mental illness is undefined, taboo, and spooky as hell. You can’t really talk about it in public. There’s shame, there’s misunderstanding and guilt. Death is explainable and you know it’s inevitable; who does one blame for mental illness?

Even in movies, they photograph mental illness with a grayish hue, a cloudy or hazy lens. They usually end the movie with someone sitting on a chair and the lens moves far away. Worldly religious books don’t provide you with guidelines on how to behave when your world is struck by mental illness.

In situations of ambiguity, you create your own rules, define that path that brings the best possible outcome you can imagine.

So we started our journey, one-step-at-a-time. Didn’t pre-plan, didn’t have time to strategize a grand outcome. One school-lunch, one parent-teacher meeting, one birthday party and one doctor’s visit at a time. Just had to get it all done.

The Three of Us together Oct 2011
Three of Us Happy in October 2011

Once I was dating someone, who asked me who was “first” in my life; my answer was simple, I am not even first in my life!

Today, looking back, so many changes and heart breaks later, I look at these two beautiful gifts in my life, and feel blessed.

We didn’t choose this life, in many ways, this life chose us.

Our lives are not perfect, neither are they festered with disaster. All we know is to make the best decision we can, with the information we have, in hand.

You do your best, every day.

If life has taught us anything over the five years, there is no single path or stream of happiness. It comes in bursts, sparkles and shows up without notice.

We have to be ready to accept happiness, embrace it.

Recently, the three of us are vacationing in Amsterdam, just after Daiyaan’s close call with a terrorist attack on the Brussels airport; Shania turns around and tells me that she wishes that she could time-travel back to my childhood and be my friend. That’s when I realize the gifts of a FAMY.

Tomorrow may not be as happy as yesterday; it may be a lot better!

 

Seven Years, Seven Jewels of Fort Lauderdale : July 5, 2014

Sunset at Pompano Beach
Sunset at Pompano Beach

Fort Lauderdale is a quintessential beach resort down; as if you’re on one long vacation, 24/7/365; there’s not a lot of history, arts or super-character core community here. The core here is formed of water – it’s either the azure blue Atlantic – with amazing sunrises – or the magnificent, man-made, inter-coastal waterways that weaves around town.

The Mesmerizing Blue of the Atlantic
The Mesmerizing Blue of the Atlantic

Often my friends from elsewhere would say, you live in Miami; they could not be farther from the truth! In seven years, I haven’t ventured to Miami twenty times for pleasure! When you have a wonderful inter-coastal waterways, and a great beach – that you can actually access, without putting up with traffic, construction, need to learn Spanish, or less attitude– you rarely need to go to else where!

photo of sunrise on the Atlantic

In fact, I rarely ventured west of I-95, hence, my bias is restricted to a small geography. To complete it’s touristy nature, you are not surprised by, the number of wonderful places you can go to eat, or just hang out!

As a tribute to my seven years here, I wanted to point out seven jewels that have the best foods and memories held for me, in this magical city of Fort Lauderdale.

While there are 25 other great places that may have great food, what authenticates these, are their service and warm hospitality.

Breakfast at Jukebox Diner is always a treat
Breakfast at Jukebox Diner is always a treat

Jukebox Diner: By far the best breakfast place in town; if you haven’t tried their Banana’s Foster French Toast – you have truly missed out. Bring friends and family and hang out at this bright and cheerful location in Pompano Beach, right across from the iconic Houston’s on the inter-coastal. Great value, great food and simply the best service from the two co-owners who will personally greet and serve you.

Chill Wine Lounge: hang out with friends, or your loved-one, order a bottle of wine with some olives or cheese, listen to music on Saturday evening, and just let the evening melt away. Very knowledgeable servers will recommend good wines, if you ask; the music scene, is mostly local and always lively. This is not a bar set for really young people – the crowd I experienced around 10 or 11 pm was usually in their 30s/40s and had a relaxed vibe to it.

Eggs Benedict

J Marks: J Marks is a local restaurant with two locations; whether you want brunch on a Sunday morning, or just want to hang with a cucumber martini (appropriately named, A Day at the Spa), this is the place to go; great food, great service – just wonderful ambiance and warm, friendly service. We invariably went to brunch their after our Sunday morning spiritual services – with a few friends and family. Two of my favorite salads in town – their chopped salad with tangy lemon juice – or their Kale Salad – with Chicken!

Don't miss the Dessert with the eclectic cuisine of Hot & Soul
Don’t miss the Dessert with the eclectic cuisine of Hot & Soul

Hot and Soul Café: relatively new to this area, I have found the food here to be eclectic and soulful; they call themselves, “world cuisine” – I found the flavor distinctive and cocktails and the different brews – a great combination. This is not a place you go for fancy dining – but if you want a great atmosphere, coupled with some unusual and fun food – I would definitely try this. By the way, do take a look at their amazing dessert menu.

Red Cow: If you like funky, open, industrial looking environments with a large screens playing cartoons from by-gone days – yes, Red- Cow is your place to go! Amazingly flavorful bar-b-q, tasty sides, a great selection of wines and beers and excellent service makes this a local favorite. Really, really good beef brisket – if you are into that! I always order the sweet-corn bread for a starter and then usually their toasted greens as one of my favorite sides. The owners of Red Cow also own two other great places, Coconuts and Foxy Brown – but I find this the easiest of all to hang out at!

Tap42

TAP 42: This is by far my favorite place to enjoy a crazy-goat burger with one of their delectable brews on tap; food is always hearty, the sweet-potato fries are served on a wooden cutting board. Again service is excellent. The place does get crowded – even on week days; I have found a place to eat here on weekday afternoon. If you have a short stopover at the Fort Lauderdale airport – this is less than 2 miles away.

Sequellea Café: This is one of the first places I discovered, during the relocation from Denver. There aren’t a lot of places in Boca that I have experienced that has great service; Sequellea is different because it has great food and good service, consistently. Love the brioche egg sandwiches, Italian style coffees and the freshly squeezed orange juice any day. They also have great Gelatos. People can eat outside with their dogs or inside in the air-conditioned setting. Even though it’s set out in a plaza setting, you get the typical Florida feel, with palm-trees swaying in the gentle breeze

When someone has the opportunity to live in two of the most beautiful places on earth: Denver, Colorado and Fort Lauderdale, Florida, it’s tough to go anywhere and say, this is more beautiful than where I live, or have lived.

After seven years of Fort Lauderdale, where life-long relationships have been built, and defining moments of truth accepted, Shania and I are headed to start a new life, in the megalopolis of Dallas, Texas.

There are cravings, to come back to this town – one day – re-anchor my heart in these azure blue waters. Until then, we will enjoy the sounds and flavors of the prairies of Texas!

Watermelon Salad at Thasos Greek Restaurant
Watermelon Salad at Thasos Greek Restaurant

When Happiness Just Shows Up, Without Notice: May 2014

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This week I had a series of text conversations with my nineteen-year-old, over happiness.

On Monday, she texts me, saying, “Daddy, I don’t know what really makes me happy; I am kind of always satisfied; that’s not right! ” I advise her that this is normal and she will know when she is truly happy.

On Friday, I get a note from her that her roommate just spontaneously invited her to go to Key West and since she had no classes that day, and had the day off from work, they were leaving for Key West within the hour; later in the afternoon, she texts me to let me know how happy she is suddenly, to get away, enjoy the blue sea, not have anything to worry about.

I sit back and think about our Tuesday conversation and text her back asking if she realized that happiness, just shows up sometime, like this, without any notice!

Throughout the afternoon, I get a series of IPhone pictures of her feet hanging on blue waters, selfies, the blue ocean, the amazing sunset; just by the tone of her texts, I can tell that my princess is happy for these few moments.

A couple of years ago, I wrote something about Designing Your Own Happiness; where, I talked about doing exactly what makes me happy on my birthday.

When you sit back and think about all the things that really make us happy, and wonder how much of it comes spontaneously, accidentally – and how much of it can really be crafted for execution.

There is a marked difference between things that make you unhappy and those that make you happy. I think it’s important to distinguish that it’s not a linear equation – in fact if you visualize it, most likely on a completely different plain.

If you choose to do the reverse of what makes you unhappy, somehow are not going to necessarily be happy.

So, as example, eating chocolate me happy; and I also know that when my kids are hurting, that makes me unhappy.

But eating no cake will not necessarily make me unhappy – and if my kids are just all “well” doesn’t necessarily make me rejoice with happiness (it’s kind of my basic expectation!)

If you accept this premise that happiness comes from a different plain than the sources of our unhappiness – It becomes a lot easier to “craft” or plan for happiness!

I believe, the first thing to do, is to understand those independent sources of happiness within us.

I notice that I become joyful, when I hear an old favorite song suddenly play on the radio; I become super happy, to run into a friend at the supermarket. These spontaneous sources of happiness, teaches me that I like spontaneity in my life. That makes me happy.

Now, one of my children, on the other hand, is petrified by spontaneity and resists everything new I propose to her. So, it’s important to recognize that spontaneity may not be everyone’s source of happiness.

Occasionally, it’s nice to sit back and think what are 5 things that made YOU happy, over the last 2 months: make a short mental list. Try to replicate that again, sometime over the next few weeks. See what happens.

Today, on this beautiful sunny Saturday morning,  spontaneously, we invite a couple of friends we like to hang with, to come swim with us at the pool and bring something to grill and just catch up on life. Of course, over a bit of wine!

I think, that will make me happy! Will keep you posted.

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The Value of a ME-Cation: March 30 2014

I just booked a one-week trip to Napa Valley.

Just the thought of getting away, on my own, to a place that’s beautiful and filled with possibilities – makes me happy!

I have written about my Me-cations before; I try to go away, for a few days, to explore, connect with myself, and more importantly to really NOT do anything significant. It’s almost a meditative time off. There is something about being alone for a few days – thinking, reflecting, contemplating and adjusting to our journeys.

Most of the vacations I have taken in my life, with parents, friends or immediate family – were a set of compromises. They were also happy – to observe the happiness in someone else’s eyes! I remember driving my mother to visit her Alma Mater in Stillwater, OK  ! I remember every hot and sweaty vacation in Orlando to see Mickey or Minny with my two princesses. Memorable family trips – but to please someone else!

The key characteristic of a ME-cation, is that you get to plan (or not plan) the whole thing. You don’t have to carry anyone’s luggage or eat at restaurants you don’t like, or go to see museums or art galleries if you choose to do so. For those few days and hours, you get to do things that make YOU  happy – just YOU!

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My first such Me-cation was at Provincetown in Cape Cod.  I stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast, a bit away from the busy town; every morning, I woke early for a run in the misty roads of this charming New England resort town, with white picket fences and a beautiful shoreline. After a hot shower, I enjoyed a hot, home-made, breakfast– a hot cup of English Breakfast – and read the New York Times, cover-to-cover. I only talked to people, when I felt liked it.

Later in the morning, I rented a bike and explored the streets and surrounds of this charming town; I stopped and took pictures of interesting points; I rode up to see one of Provincetown’s seven beautiful lighthouses – sat there and just listened to the waves – in abandon.

Later in the afternoon, after a light, goat cheese salad and a glass of white wine, I read one of my favorite hardcover books…. and fall asleep to take a two-hour uninterrupted nap.

The most important thing about this journey is that, most of the time, I am alone; but none of the time am I lonely.

I was alone in Provincetown – but never lonely; I was with myself. And around me were lots of people who I have never met (and unlikely to meet again). What gave me peace, was to know that no one here had an agenda – or expected anything, in particular, from me.

There is something very cathartic of freeing oneself from all the expectations that we often have created for ourselves. As we grow in life, our families, children, and even (some of ) our friends, start expecting us to do certain things – or behave in certain ways.

When you go away on a ME-cation, you leave those expectations behind and decide to really explore within yourself – to test and see, if you really like who you have become.

Over the last three years, I have zip-lined in the rainforests of Costa Rica, experienced the markets of Cartagena and walked the white sandy beaches of different shores, searching for lighthouses.  Sometimes, with a non-demanding friend – and sometimes, just by myself.

I recommend this concept of Me-cation to all of my busy friends and family, whom I observe getting close to exhaustion. But, I don’t think we need to get to that point, of a burn-out, to go on one of these. Instead, I recommend, once a year, to put aside a few days – just for yourself – to get away from all your chores and expectations; and do something that you really want to do.

You deserve it.

Some of us get into this mode of feeling guilty for taking this time off – for ourselves; sometimes it’s the environment that we live in that creates that un-natural pressure or guilt.

People who truly love you, will understand and encourage, your need to re-connect with yourself. In fact, every time I went on a me-cation, my focus and care for my two beautiful princesses only grew deeper. Nowadays, my eighteen-year old asks me when I am going away for a few days again!

I feel privileged to be able, to make this time for myself and the ability to get away… for a few days….to almost become a child….but without the worries of the everyday world. All that’s needed to make this happen, is planning.

I look forward to my Napa vacation with a few friends next; I want to go see the balloon fiesta in Albuquerque and maybe make it to Santa Fe again, this fall. So many places to see, so many opportunities to re-connect and re-charge.

Almost as soon as I come back from one me-cation, I start thinking about the next one;  living life, one vacation to the next. That’s what life’s all about….. 🙂

When Good Things Happen: November 9 2013

The last four weeks have been some of the most tumultuous times in my life.

After struggling for three years, with dissolving the institution of marriage, the divorce finalized.

I moved from one home to another.

I was offered another “once in a lifetime” chance to join a world-class team to take an organization from “good to great” – the kind of opportunity most people dream about.

Heading  into these four weeks, I was nervous, anxious, worried; I stayed up late thinking about all the possibilities of things going wrong. My analytical mind concocted up linear algorithms of disaster, trauma and tragedy!

Finally, the nail-biting stormy, triple effect night passed, and none of those disasters materialized; this morning, as the sunlight shines down from heaven, I feel stronger, motivated and relieved. The feeling isn’t euphoric – it’s just a “deep breath” moment.

When the lights come down from heaven

I have regained my confidence in the energy of the Universe; good things do happen, when you keep your intentions pure and clean and when you choose to do the right and beautiful thing.

Your expectations do become your experience.

All through my journey, I am grateful for the moral compass of my two beautiful daughters. Every decision I make, every step I take, I have made their safety and  well-being as the center-piece. This centering allows me to think clearly – even if my heart is wondering or my brain is analyzing and criticizing.

I am also grateful for a wonderful, supportive community of friends and family who watch me struggle – never interfering– but keep telling me over and over – “This too shall passyou are making the right decisions”.

Just before the three events took place, I went away to Key West for two days and just walked the streets or sat by the pool trying to re-focus my energy. When quandary overwhelmed me, I called a friend asking for his guidance – specially on this emerging new role; his answer was clear, “Dude, you have trained yourself for this role all your life – why are you thinking so much? Do you think Shania will be happy if you aren’t happy? “  It gave me the clarity of thought at that moment to stop being a worrier!

I remember the evening before the court proceedings, I texted a few friends about being a nervous wreck; they left their work early, and met up for a glass of wine and helped me divert my attention to other things in life.

I Skyped my sister on weekends and unburdened my emerging feelings and anxiety. She patiently listened and encouraged me to keep moving forward and staying focused on the day after – the day when all this drama will be over.

At the end of the day, as I look out to what the Universe has gifted me; my health, my two awesome daughters,  wonderful – supportive friends and family and a truly wonderful career that has availed me possibilities to learn, grow, travel and work with some amazingly talented people. I have re-connected with my spiritual side and found peace in boating, writing, reading, wine and food.

I have so many things to be grateful for.

I watch the Atlantic this morning – the surf on the azure blue sea and wonder about the changing scenery – the clouds appear and disappear in a moment’s notice; as if the sea and the sky are teaching me that same lesson.

Good things do happen, when there are good intentions.

The skies do clear up and the ocean does regain its blue; just have to keep believing in the immense possibilities of the future.