Kindred Spirit

Star Light, Star Bright

A momentary glance at you

A quick smile exchange

And my desire to speak to anyone else

Right now just fades.

Because you are enough.

Almost everyone else is just extra.

Your kindness, your gentle eyes,

Takes me to another era –

Where I never stopped being a little girl

And you never lost that childish smile

Where we can both freely say what’s on our minds,

Unfiltered; at least for that mini while.

I may not even know you long enough

Or well enough to call this fond feeling a pure love

But what can I do if my heart has decided you are a kindred spirit

Angelically sent into my world with the function to uplift

Even when we talk of subjects dark, grim, and unpleasant,

Your company alone is still one of life’s most marvelous presents.

Upon running into you,

I only wish you knew

The way I instantly feel

A flurry of excitement

But also a calmness more real.

A minute before you walked in my day,

I felt like I had a million things to say

A minute after you left, I felt my socializing was done

For the day.

Not because you drain me

But because I feel fulfilled

Full to the brim with contentment

At this kindred spirit friendship, so splendid.

We may be from different worlds

I don’t expect them to always synergetically collide

But when they do, it blows my mind

And when they don’t, regardless,

I feel happy and blessed

To know someone that uplifts by a simple smile,

Even if I only see you once a very long while.

It suffices to enrich my life,

Because you are so enough.

Glamorous

February 18, 2019

But Then You Laughed

~ Dedicated to those who smile in the faces of others – those they know, and those they do not. Smiling is charity for the soul.

proud-rose

All these people

Who care primarily for an air of seriousness

Lest their light-heartedness be deemed heedlessness

They assuming my quiet nature expects formality

So formal are they I forget the sounds of gentle hilarity.

And so when I met you,

Surprised I had to be,

When you burst out laughing

At a joke I said half-heartedly.

All these people

Who care primarily for faces of solemnity

Lest their openly wild spirits be deemed social abnormality

They assuming my conservative nature requires they tread cautiously

So cautious are they that I forget the sounds of charming

awkwardness.

And so when I met you,

Pleasantly unsettled I had to be

When your eyes poured a river of kind laughter

Upon seeing my friendly smile immediately.

People can crack smiles,

Or make you smile,

But you,

You are nothing but smiles.

People can force a laugh,

Or make you laugh,

But you,

You are nothing but pure laughter.

People can feel joy,

Or bring you joy,

But you,

You are made of nothing but joy.

All these people,

Mundanely living to get by, with things to regret after

But when I met you,

You spared no time before filling my heart with laughter.

 

And God knows best.

Written on city bus, Nov.15/16, 9:03 PM.

-A.S.

When The Walls Fall

Dedicated to Trisha. I am very grateful to have her in my life.

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That little secret I kept inside

Like oxidizer with fuel, burst into fire

I thought it was all good,

That all was as it should,

Because if not, then what would I do?

 

‘How are you, dear’, she asked

‘Oh, fine,’ I replied

In the tense second that followed

We both knew I’d lied

Because believe it was no big deal, I tried.

 

But she looks into my eyes

Sees deeply, not only spies

That guilty selfish need to spill it all out

Just to hear her reassurances out loud

Because her opinion weighs more than a crowd’s ever will.

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It’s tough to be vulnerable and knock down your own walls

Piling brick after brick for months

Makes a building quite tall

Yet still I laid it all out, and let my soul shout,

Is this really for me?

 

With her gentle hands, she takes my heart

With her soothing words, she removes the doubt

With her beautiful smile, she radiates hope

With her earnest goodness, she extends a rope

And catches me before I fell, for I was falling, steadily yet abrupt.

 

That little secret I kept inside

Like oxidizer with fuel, burst into fire

Now I know it is all good

For all is as it should

Because if it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have been able to do it.

~

(Written May.29/14, 9:05 – 9:20 PM)

A.S.

Mother Tongues & Vulnerability

~

NOTE: This is a self-analytic reflection. It may ring with you, or, more likely, it may be completely bogus to you. You have been warned.

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“You know how some people are full of layers? I’m not like that. I like simplicity, and I’m simple. I don’t have a million layers. What you see, what you get, is what I am.”

These intriguing words were said to me by a friend when I expressed to her that I feel as though I sometimes over-think my actions, my feelings, and ultimately, my intentions.

While I admire her outlook on life, people are unique and what works for one person may not work for another. Externally I may seem to be an extrovert, but in actuality, I find I am first and foremost an introvert of some sort.

I don’t really mind having so many layers to myself. Not only do I not mind discovering bits and pieces of myself at the right times, but I have no desire to be known and understood by simply anyone. I unconsciously find myself putting up invisible fences, or barriers if you will, to determine if someone really cares or is merely curious. You can be curious about a lot of things, but it doesn’t necessarily mean you care; and one of my pet peeves is to be put under the microscope for no reason other than for mere curiosity to kill some time. Like it or not, when you are under a microscope by someone you care about, you allow yourself to become vulnerable.

What is vulnerability?

What does language have to do with this?

Admittedly, when I am in particular gatherings of all Arab folk, Arabic words flow easily to the tongue, and there seems to be no chance of being censured or getting emotionally hurt of any sort. But for some reason, when it is not in a dominantly Arab setting, the rules suddenly appear to be much more wary.

A Canadian-Palestinian friend once told me: “I don’t speak in Arabic to a stranger unless they are a friend. Otherwise, for the stranger off the street that talks to me, my speaking in a language known only to us in the crowd is almost like a sign telling him, hey, we have something in common. Let’s see what else in common we have! I want to be closer to you.

In any relationship, from work colleagues to friends to family, the foundation of a relationship is communication, and the medium of communication heavily depends on the language that transports the meanings and words.

So what happens when you and the other person are multilingual, and in fact, share the same mother tongue? Do you start off in the mother tongue even though you may end up really not liking the person… or do you start off in English/French and then transition to your mother tongue once you’ve gotten comfortable?

Can deliberately avoiding the usage of one’s mother tongue simply be putting up a barrier?

Perhaps I am the only one who even bothers asking these questions to herself, but they’re questions I’ve been silently pondering on for a good half-decade now. Maybe it is time to peel one of my many layers, place it under the microscope (I’m allowed to do that to myself), and analyze it. Here are my (very much) scattered thoughts on the matter:

Often, depending on how close I am with someone, or how much I value the relationship, do I permit myself to be more vulnerable in language. In other words, if you are Arab and I am Arab, and we both speak fluent English/French, and yet I relentlessly speak only strict English with you even when you request a change of language… more often than not, it could imply either I don’t want to get closer to you, OR, I don’t trust you won’t mock me at my western-influenced Arabic accent.

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What does speaking in Arabic to a stranger have anything to do with becoming closer? It doesn’t have to, necessarily. But coming from the background I come from, it feels so. When I speak to a stranger casually in my mother tongue in a country that doesn’t speak it, it indirectly implies we have something, and something very significant, in common… because with a shared language may come a shared culture, shared ideas, shared hopes and dreams –

And then again, maybe it doesn’t come with any of these things, and that silent implication is wasted and merely created a tense moment (will describe those moments in a moment!) I thought it was only me, but speaking to others in my place made me realize it’s a lot more common than I thought…

Now this pecks at my curiosity: is this just an Arab-Who-Was-Raised-in-a-Non-Arab-Country thing, or does it apply elsewhere? .

Here is my self reflection of the matter.

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Growing up in Quebec and attending schools in the English sector made it very rare that I ever had another Arab in the class. If I was “lucky”, there might be another Arab in the grade.

Why do you put “lucky” in quotation marks, Aya? You ask.

I’ll answer that plainly. It is because even when there was that one other odd Arab in the grade level, my relationship with her/him was no different than the rest of my classmates.

“If there are three of you, never should two of them talk without the third until you mix with other people, for this would grieve the third.” (Bukhari)

Even before I learned of this hadith, common sense dictated to me that if you’re three or more people hanging out and all focused on one conversation, it is extremely rude for two out of three people to start their own private conversation in the presence of the third friend. It must be very awkward for the person who can’t keep up with the conversation simply because he/she does not speak their language. Well, since the two of them can at least speak the third’s, why not stick with it in his presence?

I mention this because all my friends throughout elementary and high school were non-Arabs. CEGEP came along and I started new friendships, some with Arabs and some with Pakistanis, but the bottom line was that there was ONE sisters’ prayer room, and whenever I just wanted to chill and hang out, there would always be that one non-Arab in the room. So what did I do? I loved all the girls and wanted to get closer to them all, but to do it simultaneously. To keep everyone in the loop of things, I spoke solely in English.

Then came a day when it was only I and a couple girls. Maybe I was studying, or maybe I was reading a book; I don’t remember what I was doing, but all I remember was that as they spoke among themselves, I couldn’t help but playfully throw in a comment in my mother tongue.

They both stared at me: “You can speak Arabic? We’ve never heard you before!”

I was more shocked at this statement, this weak assumption they leapt to and developed without having first bothered to ask me for themselves, than they were at the language my comment was clothed in. Since then, I’ve been expecting it periodically with new acquaintances. This statement has been repeated to me so many times over the past few years in university that all I do now is faintly smile in amusement and explain my rationale for not having revealed this high-top language secret.

I suppose speaking always in English, a language known by almost all those I contact, has always been easier on my tongue in the long run than Arabic. Habits take a long time to build up; but once built, they are incredibly difficult to break.

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Not Identifibly Clear

I speak Arabic in the Khaleeli Palestinian dialect… or so I thought. All were only too pleased we could speak and read any Arabic at all, so although they never pointed it out, when I went to Palestine, I realized my dialect sounded a lot different… All my sisters’ did.

It’s a puzzling scenario and my sisters and I often wondered why that was the case. We came to a (potentially completely wrong) conclusion: growing up listening to Egyptian music, visiting Algerian neighbors, having Lebanese family friends, spending Friday halaqas with Syrians and Palestinians from Nablus — well, is it really no wonder my dialect is not very Khaleeli Palestinian? I’ve had so little interaction with others from el-Khalil. Mix that salad of familiar dialects with the saucy fact that I spend most of my outdoor time speaking in English, and it’s no wonder that changing the language path (from English to Arabic) with someone I don’t trust is unsettling. It’s like I’m giving them permission to look into me and determine, for starters, if my dialect is right or not (which, by the way, has happened more than once).

I’ve gotten some “where are you from again? I thought you were Palestinian but you don’t sound it.” And then I ask their opinion of where does it sound like I’m from? Thoughtful facial expressions appear and after thoughtful moments pass, thoughtful responses come: “Well… you SOUND Arabic. Because, like, your words are clear and your sentences are grammatically correct. But, um… you don’t sound Syrian or Lebanese or Jordanian or Palestinian…”

Often the conversation, at this point, will have completely strayed away from the initial purposeful topic, and try as I might to change the subject and revert back to it, they just want to figure me out under the microscope- analyze why I speak like this, how do I feel about speaking like this–

It’s a tiresome process; When someone wants to figure you out, not all of you, not the part you want to be known for, but just that one little insignificant detail that they cannot get over…

Mind you, whichever dialect I speak, even if it can’t be identifiable with one particular country, shouldn’t need to be a big deal if I myself don’t think it is. The fact that it is makes the introvert in me squirm inside and wonder: Really? Should I be worried or am I being too haughty about this whole thing? And, well, then I go in circles trying to identify why I’m feeling annoyed, upset or irritated, and the final result is me trusting that person or willing to confide in her/him a whole lot less.

Perhaps at this point, you might understand a little why speaking in my mother tongue, to those who are ever so proud of theirs, is a sensitive thing for me. It means willing to bring down the language barrier; this is synonymous to allowing a part of myself to be momentarily examined like a book. (This excludes those who only know Arabic, and would be feeling incompetent in speaking a language besides it.)

Now I have friends, dear friends, those who seem to have bits in their souls that absolutely resonate with mine, whose empathetic hearts are always willing to listen to you– these are those that I don’t feel the need to keep up a barrier of any sort. These people want to know you for your heart, your mind and your spirit, and a swift language change will not have them biting their nails in anxiety wondering why you didn’t reveal such a hot topic before now. These people I frankly tell them my Arabic writing isn’t the best, my Arabic book reading (besides the holy Quran) are few, and I’ll throw in words and phrases at random, or have entire conversations with them in Arabic, because there is no need to be defensive anymore.

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 The question is, should one ever need to be defensive in such an area? I’m wondering if other minorities in the West face these issues or if perhaps they’re not issues at all. Maybe this is just another episode of me overthinking and overanalyzing…

Maybe.

Regardless of which language you speak, I would be delighted to read/hear your perspectives if you would like to share them.

Until next time,

 مع ألف سلامة

              –A.S.

The Awkward Thing About Awkward Silences

Dedicated to people who find the very notion of awkward silences very awkward- at least, when it’s between friends.

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You haven’t seen each other for years and years.

The last time you spent quality time with each other, you were children.


Yet for the past few months, you re-connected virtually, either through Facebook, LinkedIn, somewhere, somehow- and since then you’ve both been (in vain) struggling to set a time to physically meet up. However, it seems that something keeps popping up at your or their end, and fate simply won’t let it happen.


And then it does, finally, at long lasts. A time clicks; you both cancel anything and everything that tries to set you apart.


And what happens when you meet up? Instead of the fireworks of friendship you and she/he were clearly expecting, an unexpected guest shows up to this reunion: he tends to go by the name of


“The Awkward Silence”


Now let me give you a little run down about these two friends’ – you and their- backgrounds:


  • You USED to go to the same school, took the same classes, had the same teachers, hated the same bullies and stuck-up snobs. You used to have this in common.


  • You USED to have the same social circle, watched the same movies, played the same games, bought the same toys. You used to have this in common.


  • You USED to have the same interests and priorities in life- it was all about getting good marks, right?– and gifts, of course, be they for holidays or birthdays. You used to have this in common.


  • You USED to have the same sense of humor, and laugh about things you didn’t understand, and giggle away uncomfortable incidents that were immediately forgotten. You used to have this in common.


Those were the days that The Awkward Silence never for a moment intruded. There was too much to talk about, too much to do, too much to agree with one another and too much validation needed to enlarge one’s self-esteem. Now that you’re both all grown up with unique personalities, you start noticing things when you finally meet up you did not consider previously.


You notice that


  • Ever since you went to different high schools and post-secondary institutions…
  • Ever since that once-seemingly-permanent mutual circle of friends disintegrated and people found new friends more compatible…
  • Ever since your interests changed in drastic ways- one preferring hot celebrities and gossip and worldly pleasures while the other delved deeper in faith and spirituality…
  • Ever since your sense of humor changed- one enjoying random outbursts of unusualness while the other preferred a sexualized, degrading form of lower humor…
  • Ever since your priorities in life changed- one preferring to live according to a higher Being’s pleasure and the other wanting nothing more than to be accepted by others like herself, also waiting to be validated…


Now that you sit across each other holding your cups of coffee, both of you wear the tightest of smiles because suddenly there is nothing to talk about.


The Awkward Silence takes over (naturally).

quick!

But why is it awkward?


Here is my personal theory. Many of us are conditioned by society’s norm to always be moving, acting, talking, in motion, be it in body or tongue. The notion that the words are moving at an alarmingly fast rate in one’s mind while they never leave the lips is not considered socially comfortable. Below is probably the conversation unraveling in the two friends’ minds while the well-known beast called The Awkward Silence thoroughly enjoys the scene.


For sake of simplicity and lack of confusion, let us call arbitrarily call the two people You and I.


SCENE:


Both you and I sip our coffees, pretending to be immersed in the flavor of it while really, we do anything to fill up the time. When we accidentally catch each other’s eye, we quickly exchange smiles but avert our eyes away, as though afraid the other will see the nervous thoughts you are thinking… they go something like this:


YOU: Wow, my friend has really changed. I’m interested to know more about her… but she’s barely doing any talking. She probably regrets agreeing to meet up with me, I probably scared her with all my spirituality obsession. I don’t want to annoy her with questions; let’s just drink this coffee and get it over with.


I: Wow, my friend has really changed. Her new unusual lifestyle intrigues me. I want to know more about it. But she might think I’m being all racist or something. Best to stay away from matters like these.


YOU: It’s really too bad this silence is so awkward. I’m enjoying her presence as it is, I feel like a careless kid again.. but she probably thinks the reason I’m quiet is because I wish she’d go away. This is embarrassing. Why can’t I think of anything to say?!


I: Honestly, this is ridiculous. At this rate we will never meet up again. But I have really good memories with her and I don’t want to ruin a friendship just because we have no common grounds! I’m sure we have lots in common we don’t know of. We just need to talk about it. But she’s not talking! Probably disappointed in what she sees. Shame, because I appreciate the person she is, not what she does…


YOU: It’s what she IS I appreciate, not what she DOES. I wish I can tell her I’m so glad she’s sitting across of me… but then she’ll think I’m being cheesy or sarcastic. Just keep my mouth shut then.


I: She’s not talking. Clearly she regrets meeting me.


YOU: She’s not talking. Clearly this was a mistake. She won’t look at me. Well, I mean… we have nothing in common.


I: I actually don’t mind silence. But she probably thinks it’s awkward. Knowing she thinks the silence is awkward is exactly what makes it awkward.


YOU: I don’t MIND silence for a bit. But she probably thinks it’s awkward, which is making it increasingly awkward, and I don’t know how to break it.


I: I can’t break the silence; it’s like ice now. I’ll just keep sipping coffee.


YOU: Must… keep sipping coffee to fill the silence!


*slurp slurp slurp*

 

*The Awkward Silence slapping his knee uncontrollably and shouting LMAO!*


This, folks, is what makes a silence awkward. Each member assumes the other is taking it as such, and in thinking this way, it becomes so. Truly your thoughts have power over you.

heisenberg awkward


Now this didn’t actually happen to me recently, though I foresee it to as a long-ago childhood friend and I would like to connect and meet up in person. She was the closest thing to me in my early years and it’s such a shame that we live in the same city yet have not had a decent conversation for the past, oh, I don’t know… past decade? We’d been Facebook friends for a while and we both undoubtedly saw the very different lifestyles we were each pursuing. This doesn’t mean I don’t care about her anymore; her lifestyle and her being are two different things.

 

I don’t find silences awkward, but I know she might. It’s good for me to sort of brace myself for what might happen, to prevent it from doing so. Maybe I’ll start the whole thing off by telling her how glad I am we’re finally seeing each other, and to point out in advance the truthful fact that I have the bizarre habit of either speaking as though I swallowed a radio, or that I enjoy simply listening in rapt attention with no words on my part. (I should be a little bit more moderate, I know…)


Interestingly, one of the ways I determine how strong my relationship with someone is is actually through a very simple test. I wait for a moment when words are lost between us, and see how it plays out. If it’s all nervous smiles, lip biting and hand fidgeting, I know they’re not completely comfortable with me: they may be assuming I’m thinking negatively of their inability to keep up the conversation, or I might be thinking that of them. However, when I can spend a solid 5 minutes with a dear friend and casually mention, “by the way, just to let you know, I actually like moments of quiet; I really do enjoy your company!” and the other bursts out, “Me too! Oh my God, finally I find someone that relates!” – well, I know it’s a friend worth keeping.


Long story short: silences are not awkward. They are beautiful moments in time in which you both embrace the fact that sometimes, silence is louder than words. A silence can either be a very direct way of saying ‘I don’t like you, you’re not worth my time so don’t even think of getting on my good side’ – or it may mean ‘I’m so comfortable with you I don’t need to pretend to have something to say right now when I don’t’. Silences among friends are not awkward unless you think them… then they become it.


Elliott Kay summarizes it most eloquently:


“Silence is beautiful, not awkward. The human tendency to be afraid of something beautiful is awkward.”

contemplative leaves

Wishing you a day of beautiful rich silences filled with depth and meaning. 🙂
~
Peace,
A.S.

Mystery Solved!

*Dedicated to that so-sweet-soul that left me a friendship letter when I took a brief nap in SSMU the other day (see previous blog post). She finally told me who she is.. and subhanAllah, she was actually the first person I’d initially guessed! Out of respect of her wishes, I will not say her name. She is a blessing from above and my angel of a friend– and I think that description alone suffices.
The mystery was solved only today, Mar.14 (at last!) when she let me read her journal entry of the incident. I thought it was filled with so much deep wisdom and cuteness that I sought her permission to share it.
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Something awesomely strange happened 3 weeks ago.
I was searching for a quite place to enjoy the sister’s Samosas before I rush back to studies. I thought to myself  “Club’s lounge will be calm, and I won’t know anyone there. Surely I can eat quickly and quietly.”
Something about all sleeping people is angelic (it is known as the small death- as the soul temporarily leaves the body while one is sleeping).
Sleeping people are vulnerable, and I can’t help but feel merciful and thoughtful of them.
My eyes quickly spotted Aya as I entered. Whatever she had to go through to sleep here, away from people, at noon, at Juma’a time, I thought.
I felt like consoling her, encouraging her, and letting her know I love her for Allah. I impulsively took out my notepad, and started writing. I don’t know where all the words came from, but I just wrote. I didn’t hesitate to use ink. I didn’t think twice before writing. Heck, I didn’t even read over what I wrote, not even once. As I wrote the second paragraph, I felt that that is what I wanted to hear from someone. As I was going through a hard time myself, those were the words that I came across in the last few days collectively that made me cheer a little.
I figured, I sincerely wanted to advise and help her. I didn’t care if she knew who it was from, as long as it helped her. I also thought it would be fun for her to receive a letter this way. She was sleeping after all, and the opportunity kept screaming.
I wanted to read over what I wrote, but a sudden sense of acceptance came: that what I wrote is perfect the way it is. I also felt a sudden sense of urgency: I needed to leave the paper Now. Who knows when she would wake up? I damned my bulky shoes with every step I took, fearing she would wake up as I approached. I was easily able to leave the letter folded under the elastic, as her bag was in a perfect position for me. I couldn’t help but wish ‘please don’t wake up don’t wake up’, and I tried imagining what an awkward situation it would be had she woken up finding me stalking her and her bag.
After I was a couple of meters away, I sighed out of relief. I walked away quickly, and I went outside not even hungry any more.
I was surprised how quickly the word spread. Aya seemed very confused, and her updates sounded worried and anxious about the anonymity. I soon started feeling more and more guilt. I wrote 2 drafts at different time points apologizing to her about pretending I had no idea about the letter, and about putting her in this emotional vortex. Something/someone always kept me restrained. I felt a voice inside me saying, “Wait. Just a little more. You wanted to help her right? Why do you need to tell her now? She is going through a phase, and it will be over soon. Just be patient”.
Soon enough, she wrote a post about it, and I discovered Allah’s wisdom. Like I can never imagine. How I was inspired the words. How I was inspired not to tell her in the suspenseful week. And why me? She wrote how it helped her realize the blessings of friends, and loving for Allah. She seemed to be content with not knowing who the author was after all. I hope the anonymity ultimately helped her think deeper about the meaning and the story, rather than who wrote it. It helped the people she discussed the letter with. It helped and hopefully inspired the people who read her post. Would it have left 1/10th the effect had she known immediately that it was me? Because she had to be the detective, because all the focus was on the content, unattached from the human imperfections, it made her spend more time thinking about it. It made me think about it more as well. Of course, I am not writing this claiming credit for this brilliant wit. I didn’t know what I was doing, it was Allah’s plan for everyone from the beginning.
It made me realize, the out-of-human scope wisdom Allah has. I feel extremely eager to share with her the other side of the story, and how it is equally mysterious to me. I want to discuss with her the beauty of Allah’s wisdom in this shared experience.. (and let her believe it didn’t just fall from the sky 🙂 ). One day.
Subhan Allah.
And as she always ends her words: Allah knows best.”
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Oh man. These kinds of moments are what Paradise on earth is made of.  May Allah bless all of us with them!
This brings to mind one of my all-time favorite quotes:
~ “An act of goodness is of itself an act of happiness. No reward coming after the event can be compared with the sweet reward that went with it.”
And to conclude… yes you guessed it!…
Allah knows best. 🙂
A.S.