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.
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.
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.
It’s still warm in South Florida. The pool water is in mid 80s; after a two hour long swim with my mermaid, I take her for a shower in the cabana. After she comes out of the shower, I feel this compulsion to dry her hair thoroughly.
My Dad used to be a compulsive hair-dryer for me when I came out of the shower and didn’t feel the need to towel my hair (yes, one day I did have hair!). It’s amazing the things you pick up from your parents or you see them do, and feel compelled to do to your children.
After shower, we enjoy some wonderful spinach samosa, veggie egg rolls and orange juice; Shania and I devour to our hearts content. It’s almost 2 pm and now it’s time for our Saturday afternoon nap; I will open a story book and we will travel the land of princesses, green fairies or tulips that hold little people. I love reading stories to my princess and watching the amazement in her eyes when suddenly the dragon of my story explodes into a hundred little dragons and take over the empire! No worries, the brave prince and his lion side-ling always wins the day with their courage and audacity and rescue the princess! I will massage her forehead until her eyes close and her face fills with a glow that you notice only when she is asleep.
I remember the times my mom lulled me to sleep in Joypahar in the afternoons with some such story in hardcover books; my father was also a wonderful storyteller. He would also massage my head and make me fall asleep instantly. He was so good that one of my sister’s friends wanted to exchange her dad with ours. We were a bit appalled by the suggestion, because it came with promises for additional goodies.
Our children are fortunate for all the material things we surround them with; however, we were fortunate for the love, warmth and security that surrounded us in our early days in Joypahar, Dhanmondi or Poribagh. The world was such a beautiful place, where no war, famine or treachery could touch us…because our parents were there – always protecting us – always shielding us from the world.
Somehow, time passes, and we recognize that we are not young princes or princesses anymore; reality of scorched earth, unfulfilled expectations, prejudice and tragedy compels us to change our world view. No one protects us from our nightmares or the stark reality of the world around us.
Sometimes, I sit gazing at the blue thinking what I would do, if I could spend a few hours with my Dad again.
I would ask him about his childhood, youth, decisions in life; how he made this transition from youth to adulthood; how he felt when he first arrived in the US in the late 1950s or whether he trembled like I did when I held my first born. I would like for him to meet my princesses and Wasima.
When you have a parent around, you take them for granted; it’s not always easy to appreciate their love, protection and care for us.
Recently, one of my friend’s dad passed; another friends mom is going for very serious brain surgery this week. I realize their generation is starting to fade away. I know it is the “cycle of life” and this will happen to us in a few years (if we are lucky).
But for a few more years, I would like to protect my princesses from this unscripted reality; if I am permitted, I would love for them to go through college without this worry of paying bills and dealing with the daily stress of making difficult choices. Their innocence and incongruence with this harsh reality of our daily lives makes me feel like I have a greater purpose, to protect them and answer their questions. I realize, it’s naïve to try and protect, but, I just love it when Shania asks me what kind of toothpaste do mermaids use!
In a few weeks, I hope to see my mother after a year. We will share good stories, great food and some wonderful memories. We will fight about innocuous and irrelevant issues like President Obama’s healthcare mandate, because, that’s the fun of a parent-child interaction – arguing about irrelevant issues. I know I cannot hold her forever either; but I want to spend this time, enjoy the creamy/sugary tea with Horlicks biscuits (cookies), for as long as I can.
Let’s cherish these toothpaste and tea stories… all wonderful times, in our short journey through this beautiful world.