Author Archives: roszeen

Participants in Play; Toddler Development & Home Ed reflections

I came across this tweet yesterday:

tweet 1

If you’re on Twitter you may have come across it too because it’s since had the meme treatment. Of course I scrolled down and read the comments. A lot of praise. But there were a couple others that stood out to me which I will share below:

tweet 2

tweet 3

I feel like this tweet and its responses cleared up something that’s been bothering me for the past few weeks regarding how I approach my son’s development. 

The new mum experience

My first year of being a mum was filled with awe and a very firm resolve to not rush my son into any of the development milestones. I got the usual advice from others about working on his sleep routine, not holding him for too long, not rocking him to sleep in case he gets too attached, about how so and so month is the usual time when a toddler begins to sit, to crawl, to walk. I ignored it all. But my son, Musa, was quick with developing his gross motor skills, masha Allah. He started walking at ten months. When things like that happen you as a parent don’t have to put yourself into the category of ‘why isn’t my child doing so and so yet’. You feel happy at the seamless progression. I think where I did get a lot of opinions was on his speech development, because Musa wasn’t really talking. He said a few words, names of objects that he’d caught in conversations. Definitely no sentences. I even had a woman tell me to take him to a speech therapist. Really? Again, I ignored the concern. 

When Musa turned two he continued his thing for naming objects. He also began to pick up the alphabet from baby videos on YouTube. The alphabet song helped him to learn it pretty quickly. Along with this he picked up his numbers and shapes – all with very little input from me. And then he stopped. But in my head the ball was rolling and I took it as a sign that he’s ready to develop a bit more in formal learning. I began to count with him to twenty, began to sit him down so we could maybe start the Arabic alphabet too. I used to draw the English alphabet letters so he would familiarise himself with those and not just the recitation of the alphabet song (and maybe he might begin to try and write them?). I thought this would all be natural progression. 

But Musa wasn’t really interested. He’d learnt what he’d learnt of his own initiative and he was continuing to learn other things on his own. He didn’t want to sit passively and take in information, even when I tried to make it creative with different mediums, different activities. The reason for this was that the relationship between us in these times became solidly teacher-student. And he definitely picked up on that! Why should he be interested? If anything, my overly involved interest in what he’d learnt of numbers alphabet and shapes was making him stick firmly to them and not want to memorise anything further. I noticed that the more I tried to get him to count beyond 10, the more he kept counting everything to ten. When we went down the stairs he counted each step and when he reached 9 and there were still more steps he would keep counting 9 9 9 9 and then 10 only when he got to the last one. He counted his toys to 10. He was firmly stuck on 10 as if to subconsciously tell me that he was comfortable with that and to back off (lol). I realised that I needed to leave him be. This is a minor example, but it made me think of cases where children exhibit OCD or ADHD behaviours and I just wondered if it was because of the misdirected development pushes that we adults may be placing upon them. 

Where I’m at now with my son

I’ve completely backed off trying to encourage the kinds of learning that society would see as marks of achievement. Instead I’m trying to sync myself with my son to see what he likes doing. The relationship is now one of participants in play, not teacher-student. 

Musa’s second year has been full of loving dinosaurs – which led to learning the names and characteristics of different types (a continuation of his interest in the names of things), acting like the different types of dinosaurs he knows, role playing with dinosaur toys, organising the toys into their types etc.

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From one of his dinosaur books, Musa saw the picture of a volcano. When I told him what it was the word stuck to him. Yesterday he painted a picture of a volcano with a dinosaur underneath it. And after painting that picture he exclaimed ‘beautiful colours everywhere!’

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I realised that he’s been saying a few things in the past couple of weeks which are really significant to me as a parent who’s been watching his speech develop. For example, our fireplace stopped working a few days ago and since then he’s been pointing at it and saying ‘the fire is sleeping.’ He loves the evening time when I switch the lights on and yesterday he told me ‘the light is shining everywhere’ because he noticed that when I switched it on the light hit all parts of the room. That is really remarkable when you think about it.

It made me think of that tweet at the beginning. I don’t know the parent who wrote it. I don’t know exactly how they meant it. I’m guessing their children aren’t speech robots, but I know their approach isn’t one I would choose and it would not work for Musa. Musa was slow to pick up language when compared to the standard, and yet now that his language is forming organically he’s making sentences of his own. He expressed his observation of the movement of light. He personified the fire to explain how it isn’t working. He observed and stated the beauty of colours! 

His organic learning is a contrast to the way he reacted when I tried to teach him further counting. If I had taught him sentence structure from the beginning I think it would’ve created a similar obsession with ‘how things are meant to be’, and getting the rules right.

The importance of bonding, play and curiosity

I read an article that was posted in a homeschooling group about how toddlers and parents sync each other when playing (https://www.princeton.edu/news/2020/01/09/baby-and-adult-brains-sync-during-play-finds-princeton-baby-lab?fbclid=IwAR1D8uP6MRJ-DjX8WWZO-EJq2xfexG5Ve_SRLE2jRU3xv2tAPlj9MwdaIaw). The same parts of their brains light up and the adult even begins to follow the lead of the child. This is what I thought of when I read that comment about how mirroring the child’s language actually helps them to develop. I personally think that the foundation of this syncing is love because playing is bonding. There have also been research studies that have found that love and security go much further in helping a child’s growth than only just seeing to their physical needs.

Developing language for a child is the same as play (everything for them is play!) and so I see baby talk as communication, but I also see it as playfulness, creativity and an expression of love. They will still pick up how proper language sounds/works because they still hear it. Reading is a great example of this. So there’s no need to worry that the child won’t be able to speak properly one day just because we’re speaking in ‘baby talk’ with them now.

On education in general

The last point I want to make with all of this is our approach to education. Shaykh Hamza yusuf talked of the infantilisation of children in schools, e.g. through constant monitoring, the school’s inability to accept different ways of learning (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RF6Zskb21w8), also their killing of curiosity (as mentioned in this article: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2020/jan/28/schools-killing-curiosity-learn?CMP=).

At the baby to toddler stage we expect rapid gross motor skill development, rapid language acquisition. At school age we expect them to sit day after day for hours on end (we expect them to sit!) inside a classroom and take in tons of information according to a specific structure of topics which don’t make room for curiosity.

Trying to iron-press a child’s curiosity and physical energy out of them will surely have consequences for them in later life. When in the toddler stage my son responded to my push (however gentle I thought it to be) by continuously reciting 1-10, what would be the implications of me forcing him into an education system that goes against his natural development? I couldn’t with any consciousness take that kind of risk.


The Spirituality of Tidying; My thoughts as a Muslim on Marie Kondo

I was fortunate enough to watch ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ on Netflix without having been exposed to too much of the criticism currently being posted about her on social media. I think I probably came across one meme of her with a speech bubble saying something about books. I’d seen the show come up on Netflix recommendations but never really paid attention to it till I saw her name popping up on Twitter a couple of times. I’m not big on home décor or lifestyle programmes and so it wasn’t something I considered my territory – that is, until I watched the first episode.

Marie Kondo met her first clients – a married couple with children – and asked them if she could greet their home. I thought her request would be met with amusement/cynicism/something negative (as I’ve later seen to be the case on social media), but I was pleasantly surprised when the couple said; ‘I love that!’, and she proceeded in her ritual. They even joined in with her and sat in silence, taking in the atmosphere of the house. And what’s more – they felt emotional doing it, feeling the significance of the silence. It was clear that they were visibly moved when Marie had finished.

This glimpse into Marie Kondo’s spirituality had my attention. (For more on the culture behind her spirituality/philosophy see this great Huffington Post article tackling the negativity being posted about her on social media: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/marie-kondo-white-western-audineces_us_5c47859be4b025aa26bde77c)

As I continued watching, she went on to present other aspects of her beliefs (aspects which form the basis of her philosophy of cleaning): that we should keep a hold of items that make us feel joyful, that we should hold onto what we would like to go into our future with, that we should remember the significance of the objects we possess so as much as to thank them when we do let go of them. I can well see how all these things promote a healthy outlook to living – helping one to move away from an unhealthy possessiveness, hoarding or the indifference which allows clutter to build up within our living spaces, and help one be happy with what they possess. What’s more, Marie’s spirituality is one that is accessible to people of no religion just the same way that Rumi’s translated poetry is – in that there is no mention of ‘God’ to frighten away the atheist, there is no gratitude towards a divine deity. The gratitude is posed upon the object, the house, the memory, the experience, really – upon ourselves. And I think spirituality – even in this form – benefits the person practicing it, giving them a basis upon which to feel something greater than themselves without having to give that something a name if they feel uncomfortable doing so.

This is the reason why Marie’s show really got my interest. As I watched her process of tidying, I thought about my own spiritual beliefs: to want less, to possess only the things that matter, to have a healthy relationship with everything around me (including my memories). When she tells her clients to thank their clothing, I think about how I could thank Allah for the objects I hold, how I could thank Allah for giving me the means to have them even when I am choosing to let something go.

I have heard teachers of Islam say that we should live like travellers in this life, that we should develop good habits, live with meaning and purpose, and work to clean our souls. I have heard stories of great people who have lived with very little – the objects they did possess being those of great worth to them. I have also looked at the millennial trend of minimalism and seen how this can apply to a follower of Islam who wants to rid themselves of the many material possessions which, in reality, they have no need for. And yet I never made the connection between tidying and my own spirituality as clear as I did when I watched this show. It was like the knowledge was there, but the practical means were not. And now…I’m thinking of the many things I want to donate to charity, the many things I own that I want to pick up and say alhamdulillah for before placing them respectfully into their rightful places around the house. These are not small acts, I see this also as part of dhikr.

And so, I’m grateful to Marie Kondo for fearlessly being herself and presenting her philosophy to a Western audience – even at the risk of it being ridiculed or completely misunderstood. It was a breath of fresh air which helped me to consider something seemingly mundane as tidying as having the potential to be spiritually cleansing. I would like carry a greater purpose with everything I choose to include in my life, and if I can handle objects as gently and gratefully as I see Marie teaching her clients to do, I’ll know that I have achieved a greater appreciation for what God has given me.


The Unwritten Woman

She Speaks We Hear

by Roszeen Afsar

@Roszeen

‘Few writers have had a direct vision into woman. Few women had vision into themselves!’ – Anais Nin (quote attributed to D. H. Lawrence in Nin’s Diary, Volume 1)

I love reading and writing, it has been my passion since a very young age. After much reflection over the past few years I have started taking it seriously. My dream is to have a book published, a novel of my own making. But I’ve thought endlessly about why this dream makes me abnormal, why loving to read and write is a strange activity in my cultural community, why women of my family do not include creativity in their day-to-day lives. To this day these questions puzzle me. It is true that we have plenty of female writers in the world, some even from Pakistan, but the vast majority of the women I associate with my cultural…

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The Feminine as the Balancing Force; Poetry & Literalism

New piece 🙂

She Speaks We Hear

by Roszeen Afsar

@Roszeen

The literalist way of thinking among certain Muslims is sad to say the least. I’ve been exposed to it many times, but the most memorable was in my university prayer room. I remember being hauled into a discussion about Sufism amongst a group of girls who carried a negative opinion of it. I mentioned Rumi to them and was surprised when they laughed, in amazement that I should bring up a poet in a discussion about theology (unaware of Rumi’s status as both poet and theologian). It was then that I realized how little is known nowadays of the history and fruitfulness of Islamic thought or more specifically, spirituality.

These girls were not new in their thinking. Their dismissiveness came from a specific disposition known as ‘Salafism’. Salafism is a literalist movement which, within its folds, narrows Islam to a dogmatic set rules, rejecting therein a…

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Dear Diary; the Words of the Beloved

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When you first start to read all you see are letters making up words,
you don’t see the words,
the page is just full of letters strung together.
Then you learn the sounds,
the way those strung-together letters should sound when you say them.
Then words start to become meanings as you learn definitions.
Sentences begin to pull together to become thoughts.
Thoughts come together, meld into each other or build up to make sense of the world,
and if you read the best of words they start to light the heart.
They’re not just letters anymore, filling up a page.
They’re inspiration, uplifting and alive.

These are the layers of worship.
You learn the rules, you see them like strung-together letters.
Even before you begin to learn their meanings, you have to content yourself in repeating them over and over again
to form the habit of memory.
To form the virtues of discipline.
Then the meanings come to light.
You build your understanding by putting them together;
by acting, by thinking, by learning more.
These actions move you, you start to see the patterns.
You always find something new, you realise you’ll never find the end,
you’ll never know it all.
But that is not what you want anyway, anymore.
You want to feel the love of those pages, behind those pages, above those pages.
Then the world releases you and you hold it in your hand, to turn over and open as you please,
like a book.
But of course that last stage is only for the fiercest lovers.
And I’m just describing what I’ve learnt is the ultimate aspiration.


The Aliens; Islam & Feminine Spirituality

She Speaks We Hear

by Roszeen Afsar 

Bird painting by Roszeen Afsar Bird painting by Roszeen Afsar

In my previous post; ‘The Smiling Sister; Paintings of Hijab’, I wrote that knowledge of spirituality today is very little, and as such female spirituality is never brought up in discussions on Islam. I was asked why that is. This is an interesting question and one I touched on in my final year at university. The answer, I found, is both because of how Islam is perceived on the outside as well as how Islam has largely continued on the inside.

Islam from Outside

In terms of religion in the present day, although many believe the developed world to be mostly secular, I found in my research that there’s been a growth of new religions and the resurgence of interest in human spirituality. This is believed to be due to a backlash against the Enlightenment and modernity. In an age of…

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The Smiling Sister; Paintings of Hijab

She Speaks We Hear

by Roszeen Afsar

“The hijab is much more than the external solid scarf, but it is worn as an internal spiritual means of faith, these collections depict that so well.”

Image by Rozseen Afsar Image by Roszeen Afsar

The above quote is the feedback I received from a friend after I showed her the piece I’d painted of her [above] based on one of her photographs. The photo I saw showed her with a peaceful yet sombre expression I would imagine of a Victorian woman saving her smile, but looking satisfied and elegant in her pose, confident in her femininity, dignified as a woman. The collection of mine she was referring to was not only the painting I did of her or the plans I’d shared with her of my future work, but also another piece I’d made previously which was inspired in the same light; by the expression of another friend whose hijab

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Dear Diary: Confessions of Inertia

Ya Lateefu, Ya Lateefu,

My husband told me that tayammum, the dry ablution, the washing of the skin and soul with dust, would not have been permissible with the earth if the beloved Prophet’s (pbuh) feet did not walk upon it. The beauty of this haunts me, drowns my lungs as something outside of my surroundings. Different – just as consciousness is different to matter. The epiphany is beautiful. I need it as fruit to devour, to survive, to transcend above survival in the grip of the darkness I feel inside, falling as I am into that same earth the Prophet (pbuh) walked upon with such purpose, humility and grace. I do not know how to rise to its surface, but keep digging at the dirt to try and find a way. He (pbuh) made the earth move with his steps, but I can only suffocate in it – cannot even become it.

I have watched as an elderly woman cried beside me about the son she lost to illness at an age too soon, and I did not hug her. This haunts me. I have held her a million times in the confines of my thought, sharing her grief as my own, but unable to make my rock-like bones move in reality where it may make a difference. I think about the times I have hesitated due to overthink, running something over in my head so much that my body became stiff. The times I have not spoken when I should have. The times I have not cried when I should have. I despise the way my voice comes out from my throat, barely audible when greeting strangers. The times I have not acted when I should have. The times I have not followed a decision because all I could do was stare into my thoughts trying to find a way to get up from the floor. The peace does not come. I did not call my mother the night I missed her so terribly that I lost myself to a living sleep, but the morning after numbed my brain into the routine of the day. I switch off. I put things off for years. I can put people to the side for a long time, and in that time they live inside my thoughts. I speak to them, apologising, praying for them, hoping that one day perhaps they can benefit from something I have intended although I have not done for them as I should have when required. To just be there for someone is a beautiful thing. I have never underestimated the strength of those who show their faces where they must, as propriety demands. As is a Muslim’s right over another.

For all of these regrets the dear diaries have been trapped inside my head. It is hard to release a great many experiences locked within their time which could not be written in the moment. It is difficult to write when most in need, just as it is difficult to talk to someone and get a grip over the subtleties of tears and madness. My husband holds me and does not give up. It is not good to submerge into water to deal with oneself. It is selfish.

I write now with a stronger hold over my mind than in such times. But the thick of battle offers no mercy. That battle is between one’s life and one’s limbs. I write after it has taken place – in retrospect, missing how the breaths of those moments wheezed out from my throat, how mind-numbing the onslaught of anxiety was. Internal darkness is a reality, not part of a diagnosed state of being, but a hardship with its own reasons that are above and beyond my understanding. But the depth of the heart’s abyss reveals itself in times of sorrow, showing how the human being has a great deal more inside than what the surface of happiness can expose. This darkness is not simply to be sad or in grief or in anxiousness or fear. It is the inability to move. It is inertia that takes over. A great weight bears down on me, as if a huge shadow is holding my body, engulfing my mental and physical form, and hugging tightly my heart. All I want is to have the strength to swing it off me, and by the same movement be able to get up and do something; to do what I should do, to follow propriety, duty, act justly, act mercifully, give myself to something other than this lull,

“don’t fall into a lull,” he says,

this silence, this extended pause, this spiralling thought. Something other than it.

This is not simply a wish, this is a desire, this is a prayer, this is dhikr.

Ya Lateefu, Ya Lateefu,

my love holds the hand of my inertia, rocking it back and forth until I get up with him and pray.


Dear Diary: Friends, Frenemies or Companions in Life

In a time before we were overly self-conscious, my oldest friend and I used to sit on the cement and brick arms either side of concrete steps in front of the entrance of our primary school. Sometimes these arms were our sandy horses without saddles which made me feel like a warrior princess as I looked out across the playground. Sometimes we were each mounted on our own horse, sitting across from each other whilst discussing new ideas for games, imagined worlds and novels we’d started reading.

She always talked more, her manner daring and confident whereas I was always shy and reserved. Our conversations turned to how we saw our lives ten or twenty years from then and I loved to hear her predictions. Mostly they were of us being young and independent, living cosmopolitan lives which included having sleepovers at each other’s ‘apartments’ in between our jobs and going out for shopping sprees (ideas I’m sure were down to her love for the sitcom Friends). But sometimes we were traditional daughter-in-laws sacrificing a great deal of…we didn’t really know what…but having children and doing right by our families. Talk turned to laughter when we described what our husbands would be like, but these latter conversations were also tinged with fear or anxiety when she warned me that we’d have to get used to boy lurkies because marriage meant sharing a bedroom with your husband. Either way our weddings were going to be joint – a beautiful fantasy. We’d get married on the same day and sit together with our husbands by our sides – wouldn’t that be amazing?

Fifteen years into the future and my feet are firmly on the ground, a lot more stable in my heels than half an hour ago. My blue nikah dress touches the floor, dragging when I walk. Everything is blurring into something surreal as I fight away nostalgia in order to stay present in the moment. I’m stood as a witness between large banqueting tables in a hotel wedding suite filled with her family and guests, surrounded by lights and cameras, silk frills and friends we only met or really got to know in the past three years. The old farewell of ‘Babul ki dua’ain leti ja’ begins to play like a cruel but moving joke, and the emotional charge of the hall which has been building up like a ball of fire reaches its pinnacle point to burst. This is the point everything was long prepared for, including every napkin and left over morsel of food. We were so entangled in our bright clothing and light banter that we’d almost forgotten what happens next.

I’m stood in the crowd thinking about how formal occasions turn people into strangers, not just because we have to act out a role, but because the situation doesn’t allow for much intimacy…except stolen hugs to say goodbye. I wait for her to pass close enough for me to do that, but that moment doesn’t come, it passes me as I watch one by one the guests, family and friends crying and coming forward to meet her as she walks away. I’m frozen like the emotionally-stiff woman I predicted myself to be, but the closer she gets to the lobby entrance and the car waiting outside, the more flashbacks I see of times gone by. My mum is crying beside me, most likely thinking of how she had to let me go. I try to comfort her, but she likes to deal with grief alone. I hear my friend’s younger sister crying too and feel myself breaking at the sight of her because her shaking sobs are what I know to be the sound of the heart tearing apart.

As I begin to follow the crowd, I remember things I didn’t know my mind had kept away inside me, and more than anything I try to fight away my own tears. I feel our friendship, our past enmities, our competition, our sisterhood, our love, our hate, everything we shared together all hit me at once as if that ball of fire has been aimed straight at my heart. I recall years of us being the most influential people in each other’s lives although we wouldn’t admit it at that time. And then I remember the time before then when we used to be each other’s best friends before it became uncool to say. All that time of being important to someone – positively or negatively – feels as if it’s turned to dust as I stand in the crowd as an onlooker. And for so long I’ve acted like it was ok to drop such a relationship.

For once in my life I let an aspect of my ego go that I’ve never before. I cry because it hurts to be forgotten and also to forget. I cry because of the way we’ve treated each other in the past. Although we forgave each other in the build-up to our weddings, only in that moment do I realise there’s no such thing as regrets between two people who have deeply hurt each other as well as been each other’s support. I cry because I want to say goodbye as if we were still in primary school, but we’re no longer the girls who are afraid of boy lurkies or who want a joint wedding.

In that moment I ask Allah to console me through this grief, but He knows there’s no need for consolation; He listens to my inner plea. I see her mother look straight at me in the crowd with a slight smile and – despite her tears – she gestures for me to go to her because I haven’t had my chance to meet her daughter before she goes. I rush forward and hug my oldest friend and feel finally the reality of us both rush to the surface – no pretences, no holding back. A cry releases from both of our throats as if from our own wounds. It feels like a release. I didn’t cry at my own wedding because of the daze I was in due to the shock of everything that was taking place, but all of a sudden I feel like I’ve been given a second chance of sorts. We have shared something real and Allah has put us together to experience a new reality at the same time in our lives for a reason. All I really want to say is; ‘Look, I didn’t cry at my wedding, but here I am crying at yours.’

I want to laugh as I tell her that, but all I can do is nod helplessly as she finds her voice to tell me that we’ll meet at her walima.


Dear Diary: I am grounded

It’s a night so cold you’d think snowflakes are about to fall from the darkness any second onto the metal rails of the Millennium Bridge, swung open and unblinking like an eye – as it was designed – the outer rim of its top lid blazing in changing colours that brighten up the night, set aside from the surrounding white lights of cafés, hotels, the Sage, the Baltic, and those trees dressed in Christmas wires woven around their branches, the small bulbs of which cause them to sparkle between the tables and chairs outside the Pitcher & Piano that you can still see from the bridge if you look back over your shoulder.

We’re stood above a black river whose bed knows a bicycle that a drunk let slip out of his grip during the New Years’ fireworks display a couple of years ago when I was still at uni, and we’d all thought someone had jumped into the Tyne. But it may as well be an abyss in this moment with its waves unseen as if now part of a gaping hole and so I choose instead to look with complete focus at the blazing outer rim which has changed into a luminous red and will stay like that in our minds as my cousin tells me what I’ve missed of her life.

She tells me about her experiences with the mercy of a tone that makes it all seem as though we do this often. We pretend as if this is just one catch-up alongside many others been and gone, as if this is our regular meet-up place, in a time when the spotlights are on everything, and yet the night is so dead that the combination makes it seem as though everyone can see everyone and hear everything being said. And yet it is night – a time in which the blaring light doesn’t cast pressure upon anyone to behave in any certain way; you behave in any which way, the light is simply something beautiful to stare into – to talk to, no matter who’s listening.

I’ve been here before with friends, on my own, in the car, walking. I live in this city; I’ve seen its metropolitan landscapes as a student, mostly as an individual. But right now I’m experiencing all of this for the first time with the person who, in terms of blood and childhood memories, is the closest to me as a sister anyone can come, and I had forgotten the truth of this for the past few years. I’d forgotten how grounded that can make you feel. There are a lot of issues within our extended family. I won’t go into any details of what has been amiss, whose mistakes, what has been neglected etc. There have been many divisions, patched up by no one. All of this was mostly before we were born and no one has had much interest in reconnecting relations within our family.

‘I’m sure you could probably tell I was suffering anorexia,’ she mentions it so casually that I’m reminded of the way people in our family seem to walk calmly through their tornadoes.

‘I was almost not gonna make it. I couldn’t even get out of bed at one point. My dad was crying in the hospital.’

I think of her father, my uncle who I hardly know, and wonder about the extended family I’ve always seen as cold and am shocked that someone cares for someone else, am shocked by the beauty of a scene of my uncle crying for his daughter.

‘They were going to send me to some place in Glasgow for treatment.’

‘It was that serious? How did you sort it out?’

She grins, ‘Your wedding. I said to my dad that I have to go to Roszeen’s wedding no matter what and that was the motivation for me.’

I have to blink and look elsewhere quickly to avoid her losing me to tears.  And what shocks me more than anything else is that I’d wanted to speak to her a lot these past years, and more so than ever in the few months before my wedding. The feeling had been unparalleled; I’d felt an instinctual need to talk to her as if it was of the utmost importance beyond a feeling of guilt of having cut off from someone who was like a sister. I’d had no way of knowing what she was going through, but finding out that it was her will to be a part of the biggest day of my life which led to her beginning to recover made me understand more about the strength of bonds. Though younger than me my cousin understands the word family much more than I do when I’ve always seen extended family as a system of blood relations which have no emotional importance other than what is placed within them through societal norms; norms we’ve not been given in our family to care an ounce for each other – or so I thought, because her actions have changed my mind about that, and I guess that I’d just completely forgotten our youth.

My cousin’s recovery is miraculous, not that she lets that be a lingering thought between us, and we exchange memories this time from the things we’ve lived together.

Grounded. That’s exactly how you feel when someone talks about something you’ve experienced together so that for once it doesn’t feel like you’ve entered into an outside conversation. Grounded. That’s how you feel when someone can complete your memories, how you feel when someone has the same opinions about someone else’s deeds without you having to explain why you’ve come to such conclusions. Grounded is how you feel when someone speaks the same language as you, how you feel when someone is going through experiences you know how to guide them through because somewhere in the past you were taught the same things, or you taught them the things you were taught.

I could have helped her a great deal through her struggles. We could have been there for each other. We’ve seen the veins of our loved ones broken off in the body of our family and the blood of relationships and meaning and love spilling into a drain because no one seems to appreciate these things. We’re learning from the mistakes of the previous generations. We’re trying to make things better, and we’re starting from sincerity and religion.

Through this one conversation I’ve also been able to think about the other relationships in my life. I’m happy and grateful for the new family Allah has blessed me with that have come as a gift through my marriage. Alhamdulillah. I could not take them for granted even if I tried. In fact, I’ve been so overwhelmed with the warmth of the love from my family – both through blood and marriage – that I sometimes fear doing something wrong which would lessen these bonds, and sometimes the weight feels heavy and I am overwhelmed thinking of how to strengthen my relationships without constantly falling into the introverted separation my mind believes it needs in order to recharge so that it can get through life. My views of family and my distance in general is something I’m slowly being taught to reassess and correct. Practicalities of life stop me from spending as much time as I would like with my family which has now grown so much bigger alhamdulillah, and I need to do more to change this and myself.

But what I would say to the people that are warming my blood, in’sha Allah, is that I’m learning that the sweetest and warmest moments are from the heart and so I’m learning to keep my heart present when we meet, as well as throwing a rope for any bridges burnt.