I’ve been reading back through all of my old livejournal posts, the oldest of which are from my senior year of high school, and far from being embarrassed and mortified as I usually am upon reading things I wrote when I was an adolescent, I am actually relishing every line. Last night I was in stitches from laughing so hard, tears streaming down my face both from the hilarity and also, eventually, from the nostalgia that hit me like an ether and knocked me on my ass (you know how you’ll be laughing so hard you’re crying and then all of a sudden you’re just crying? Yeah, like that).

I read this article about livejournal the other day, which is why I even went back to reread my archived entries, and it’s true: the writing there is raw, it’s bare, it’s totally unedited and somehow, for a 17-year-old, totally un-self-conscious (which is like, I’m like, “HOW” because ALL I WAS back then was self-conscious). And what’s more, after an hour of reading ridiculous hyperbole after ridiculous hyperbole, I found myself wanting desperately to get that back.

These days it feels as though writing is some kind of production. It’s not spontaneous and brutally honest in that way where everything just becomes AGONIZING to read because there’s so much blood and guts on the page. And I actually miss that. There is something refreshing about the fact that I made blatant typos and had absolutely no desire to go back and correct them, though I easily could have, and it points to this total lack of interest in proofreading AT ALL, and I just can’t imagine that now – being so bold and unapologetic about the weird shit that goes on in my own head when I’m all alone.

Which is not to say that I’m not honest when I write now, but the honesty is different. It’s measured. I don’t want it to sound like I’m calculating about anything, but there isn’t that boundless freedom with which I wrote then, run-on sentence after run-on sentence and curse after curse after curse.

For instance, take this gem:

oh god. shit shit shit. shit shit and loads more of shit. what a fucking bad week to end school with. being fucked over by bronx science and sciencites. maybe thats the way it should end…four year of shit with an icing of shit.

Like: what? Who writes that?

Or this excerpt from a paragraph-long post entitled, “i’m in chemistry.”

ok so i’m in chem and trying not to let me teacher see that i’m online so bear with me if i misspell thinga bwecause i cant look at the keybboard. anyway, i’m sleepi and i dont know what to do to not fall asleep/ i think i’m dyslexic.

i’, really unmcomfprtable too and i really want to fucking go home right gads/ i am, foing to go//

i want to die. i feel like a sticky hand you buy for a quarter/

Um. There are no words. I feel like a sticky hand you buy for a quarter? It’s brilliant, but it’s insane. (You know those things, right? If not, here:

51v87hNlG6L._SY355_ I still feel like one of these sticky hands sometimes, truth be told.) Also, I totally recognize that I sound like a stoner or something – which, for a girl who was pointedly anti-smoking and drinking (because “it makes you totally stupid”) is a little hilarious to me in retrospect.

Is this what high school was like for anyone other than me?



what the fuck is going on? i’m being phased out of every goddamn relationship i have ever been in. i’m losing my mind. i dont understand how all of a sudden people dont like you and arent your friends anymore and act like nothing happened.

Total drama overload, folks.

But really, honestly, truly, that’s what high school felt like so often. And I was just being honest – albeit, a little histrionically.

where did all my friends go? everyone whi was ever close with, who ever knew me…is gone. <name redacted> for one. i still think she knew me better than anyone could ever. we could and did talk about everything. and now, i dont even remember the last time we spoke to each other. the summer before senior year. i remember now. we were talking about college and where we were going to go, and what our plans were for the rest of the summer,and how boys were and whatnot. sometimes i sit down and lose myself and think nothing has ever happened. i forget i’m not supposed to anymore, and think “oh, i should call <name redacted> because i didnt call her last night” and i think we’re still best friends. sometimes i think i should call <name redacted> too, but what willhappen? will we talk about elvis costello, our surviving link, or what? and it’s like i feel like i have to prove something to someone, that i’m an ok person and that not every friendship that goes away is my fault. but i mean, it is, isnt it? because i’ve lostall my friends. it must be my fault. and promises, so manyfucking pomises and they’re all meaninglss now. because in the end no one remembers.
so where am i now? talkin to myself throughmy keyboard, trying to pretend that yeah, i’m fine. everything is ok. but it’s not. i’m worried about not having done anything right in my entire life. my father hates me. i’m not his daugter, he says. i’m not muslim. what do i do? and when i getolder, what do i do? how do get married, how do i have a boyfriend? how do i have a boyfriend now? things are falling through my hands and i dont remember where i left my sanity.
i dont even think i can keep writing because everythng is too much right now and i cant answer any of the questions i’m asking and i’m going to cry and i dont want to and i cant fucking cry.

Something about that feels so real to me, still. I know that girl. I know what she was going through. I mean, duh, yes, of course, Saadia, she was you – but I think she still is me sometimes, is what I guess I’m trying to say. All of the wondering and second-guessing your relationships and if you measure up: I still do that, don’t I? Granted, the “so manyfucking promises” that “in the end no one remembers” seems a little overblown for a 17-year old, or even for me now, but I understand that. Looking back I understand that that Saadia meant the way that my best friend and I would talk about senior year when we were just freshman, or the way that we would make pacts over iced coffee after school – promises that to us felt saturated in gravitas, beyond any “BFF” and “KIT” cliches scrawled in the back of a yearbook. But that’s what we became, in the end.

There are less overtly dramatic moments hidden in these crazy entries, too, but still so heavy. Like these few sentences on my somewhat-forced decision to stay in the city for college rather than go to Grinnell in Iowa:

it’s like i’m waiting for this freedom but it’s never going to come. i drove by my dorm tonight with my parents and tahira and it was funny. my mom was talking about how great it was that i was going to be in the city because of all my access to everything, and tahira was talking about all th clubs we passed and my dad was talking about money…and i cant help but feel as though somehow, in all of this “good” stuff, i’m missing out on corn.

That decision became perhaps the biggest regret of my life, one that I still think about, despite my having made peace with it and the place it has brought me. (P. and I often talk about the parallels in our adolescent lives that led us to one another; he made a similar decision regarding college and without those paired “mistakes,” we might never have met.)

And then there are funny little snippets of my family that make me chuckle because there is such an indelible us-ness that never changes. From later in the same entry:

then i went to the ballet at the metropolitan opera house andfelt like a grand beautiful lady coming down the red velvet staircase. my mother said that people should stop throwing flowers at her and get the spotlight out of her eyes. my family is on crack– but good crack. then tahira and i sang songs from musicals (and did a medly of disney songs from every disney cartoon ever) all the way home. and straight to my door.i like being a dork with my dorky family. except i couldnt sing as well as i wanted to.

In a later entry I talk about how I wish my family was always like this, but how we are too fractured to really enjoy each other consistently.

It’s so interesting to walk back in the past through these captured moments. It’s like I’m going through this museum of myself and staring at all of these vignettes frozen forever in amber. I should be ashamed, really I should. I was a ridiculous human (probably still am), but I just can’t help pausing at each one and lingering for a moment, unblinking, taking in everything that I thought my life was when I was still just a girl.



Tiny Revelations


At the beginning of class tonight, my yoga teacher asked us to focus on a word as an intention for our practice and then let it go.

My word was stability: something I’m endlessly yearning for in my body.

At the end of the practice, as I lay on my side, semi-conscious and wholly fetal, she asked us to come back to the word, or, to a new, “better” word if one happened to enter our consciousness. I generally have a hard time with mental rest in yoga – it’s one of the things I’m working towards. I’m either 98% asleep because those five minutes are the best rest I’ll get all week, or my eyes are swirling in their sockets as I plan ahead for dinner and bedtime and whether we need toilet paper (no) or apples (yes).

But on this day, I wasn’t asleep and I wasn’t somewhere else. I was right there on my mat, eyes closed, and completely overcome with the word “openness”. It came at me like bright white on a black backdrop. I know it sounds contrived – oh yeah, I’m sure, it just so happened that the exact opposite of the word you were trying to focus on came to you at the end of class – but it did happen. Like an answer to a question I hadn’t know I was asking. And frankly, it unsettled me. Because I really, really like to be in control. But at some point in my practice, without my knowledge or approval, my breath had washed away my constant desire to be stable and replaced it with the actual experience of openness.

On my walk home, the symbolism felt huge. My mind had set an intention for my body, but my body rejected it.

Every day I walk around this life searching for stability. Consistency, routine, whatever – just something to count on (because if things can’t go right, can they at least be predictable?). But maybe what I actually, truly, really need is openness. What would that even look like?

I’ve been ruminating a lot lately on my feelings of failure, and I think that maybe with openness, there’s little room for failure. Instead, maybe there’s enough room for acceptance. What a revelation! Could it be that something deep inside me is calling on me to unfurl myself, to reach out, to stop trying to buckle myself down in the name of stability? Because, if I’m honest, it’s become my prison. Strength is not just the clenching, but the release; not just the holding on, but the letting go. right? So maybe I’m ready to reframe the house of my life. Maybe with less walls this time.

It’s a start, anyway.

Listening: A Birth Story

It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop. – Confucius

You’re here, you beautiful thing, you. A sister for Kiri, another daughter for Patrick and me, a person: a tiny, complete, perfect person.

Your journey here was not the one I would have chosen, but I have to believe that it’s the one I needed. The one you needed.

You took over two days to arrive, and your birth was much like your sister’s birth. I know you’ll get tired of being compared, as sisters do, so let me just say that I don’t just see your birth in relation to Kiri’s birth, despite the fact that the similarities are there. That’s part of this story, yes, but it isn’t the whole thing by any means.


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You can’t go home again, they say.

And maybe they’re right.

I just keep thinking: will she ever see Pakistan?

When I was a year old I had already spent months of my life there, half of my first words being spoken in Punjabi, eating daal and channe and being given tastes of milky malai,   being taken down into the street by my grandmother to get my head shaved by a man at the side of the gulley; my baby hair falling in light clumps into the damp earth. My mother had no idea where I had gone to, but took it in stride when I was returned into her arms, bald as could be.

1923608_506341161237_7478_nAnd then, when I was a bit older, spending my days weaving in and out of narrow streets, unsupervised by any adults, jumping from roof to roof and chasing chickens, discovering freedom, and on the third night of my auntie’s wedding, locking myself in the bathroom and eating a rose to discover its taste.

And then, even older than that, visiting by myself. Having distant relatives remark on my appearance, “but she looks so Pakistani!” and my saying, quietly, to no one at all, “but I am Pakistani,” knowing they were expecting a half-white American teenager wearing jeans and a t-shirt, listening to a discman and scowling at them from beneath a baseball cap. I spent that summer almost alone, wandering rice paddies in the countryside, writing stories at daybreak, and attempting – unsuccessfully – to befriend the local 11-year-old shepherd.

196292_503666147187_7567_nEvery time I returned home from traveling to Pakistan, something was different. The old longing returned with a new fire, the ache in my bones deepened, I would wake up in the middle of the night smelling dirt being tamped down by monsoon rains before realizing, with palms sweating, that it was just a dream. The missing, the longing – it never goes away.

And now all I can think is: will my daughter ever see it? Will she ever understand the magic of hundreds of kites flying above her head, or the pleasure of standing on a rooftop as it rains, or the taste of a glass bottle of Coca Cola when it’s 115 degrees and her shalwar is stuck with sweat to the back of her legs?

Will she ever know that there is another home for her?

There is an immeasurable distance to travel between here and there, now. A distance laden with extremists and threats and bombs and blood and bone and more than anything: fear. A distance that was once felt only by my heart has been replaced with a chasm rooted in pragmatism: “it’s just not safe.” And her daddy is white, and her mama is only half-Pakistani, of course. “Well, you can pass, but the rest of your family could be a target,” people tell me.

And yet how I yearn to take that long, long flight back. To travel back to where the missing piece of my heart resides; to see my daughter’s face as she takes it all in, not understanding what it means for me to share it with her; to take her hand and say, quietly, to no one at all, “this, this is not a vacation. This, this is a homecoming.”

Old souls

And then, sometimes I see that not everything in my little borough has changed. The kids at my old middle school still dress for PE in the same shirt and shorts I have squirreled away on a shelf in the closet; still dance for their friends  nonsensically to the music only they can hear; still stand in clumps, arms folded across their chests in all their adolescent awkwardness; still yell mostly unclever epithets at each other, laughing from their guts, not knowing anything other than this, being 13 and not giving a shit, or giving way too many and trying to play it cool. Those shirts and those shorts, how I tugged at them myself only moments ago. The trappings change, constantly and severely, but then in a moment the old soul of Brooklyn is back like a flash of sun on an incredibly grey spring day.unnamed

Take me to the beach.

“Take me to the beach” she says, kicking out her legs like she’s swimming. 

“I want to dive the waves.” 

And I understand the feeling. 

“Go, then,” I say, and want to add, but don’t: 

Go headfirst. Sink down deep. Hold your breath. Be afraid of losing it. Stretch your arms as wide as they will go and push as hard as you can. Try to grab hold of the water even though you know it will run through your hands. Worry that you haven’t gone deep enough. Learn that you have. Come up for air. Experience the moment when the silence becomes the sound of the air and the waves rippling at the shoreline. Lie back for a moment in peace. Do it all again. 

But there is time for all that, yet. 

So I just say, “go, then,” and let that be enough.


take me to the beach