Starting Over

So many events have happened in my life that I should be content about such as: Finally, having insurance and getting my eyelid retraction surgeries in February; working as a technician at a retina clinic; getting accepted to nursing school; bonding with my brother; joining a grieving group; etc.

Everything that I worked towards is either happening or being set in motion and it scares me that everything we desire may come true one day. It’s said to be careful what you wish for and I’m one of those people who dreams with my heart wide open; ones that are fearless, limitless and hopefully, long-lasting.

Yesterday, at WBEZ’s Global Activism Expo, I attended a session where an organization had the following goals it wanted to instill in children:

“I am a gift, I am surrounded by gifts and I become a gift to my community.”

These are all goals I need to learn to believe in more. I keep telling myself that when I start living my dreams out and when my visions are realized, that’s when I’ll be content; that I’ll think of myself as a gift. Either you need to be really egotistical or a miracle baby or a genius to think you’re a gift.  And I only want one of those things.

The idea of thinking you’ll be content in the future if X happens is ridiculous because there’s no guarantee that anything will happen. And yet, I’ve reached some of my dreams and I’m still not content. What does that say about me? that I’m fickle. I’m still working on feeling alive in the present moment and trying to find ways to feel content about my current situations and relationships.

The truth is so much has gradually changed in my life over the past five years that I am shocked that I’m still experiencing grief and loss and attributing my reactions to different situations to it; that ramifications of my family’s deaths and my Graves’ Disease are this long lasting and so rooted in my psyche that I can never escape them. Those chapters will never close and it’s so naïve of me to think I can walk away from these experiences and be able to move forward and learn from them. I will always be learning and drawing conclusions from them at every milestone or struggle in my life. It’s almost as if all these new developments in my life give me the illusion of starting over or moving on but I know, no one can truly start over because your heart goes wherever you go. By starting over, I literally mean moving away, making new friends, having a new career, finding and being in love, etc.

I might be a little stronger because of these experiences but they have shaped my life so deeply that I don’t understand the person I’ve become and how it impacts my relationships. Am I who I am because of these experiences or because I choose to be this way? The classical nature or nurture versus free will debate. I certainly don’t choose to be blindly optimistic and idealistic; it must be an imbalance in my chemical makeup. I don’t choose to feel sad and dejected and then, overwhelmingly happy and rejuvenated in the span of an hour. How much of your experiences define your current affairs and relationships in life? How much of your emotions can you control?

And then, there’s the issue of lacking faith. How does one go from deeply believing in God to feeling so indifferent to faith? In the past, I would look out for red flags in my behavior; today these “red flags” are everywhere whether it’s distancing myself from childhood friends, opening up to new experiences, developing new habits and changing old ones, etc.

I call it becoming open-minded and growing up but I know so many religious people would call it digression. It’s normal for me to do things I would never consider before. Why am I so afraid to acknowledge this different person I’m become publicly?

Mostly, I’m worried about what my parents are thinking, even if they’re not physically in this world, I worry about their opinions of me.

I’m also worried about whether I’m making the right choices; will I look back at my current life and be OK with who I’ve become or will I want to “start over” again?


Faking being good

Lately, I’ve been feeling like a fake, mainly, because I only blog about the warm, fuzzy things that happen in my life.
I had intentionally stopped complaining about our inadequate healthcare system and how upset I still felt about having Graves Disease, even after my orbital decompression surgeries (last May) and my scleral buckle surgery (this past December).
I just want my eyes to look normal – not bulging, unsymmetrical, and bleary.
I couldn’t figure out a way to write about my life without pouring bitterness and feelings of ungratefulness back into my writing. So be warned, this post probably won’t make you feel like skipping around the block, not that anyone would want to, because of the giant puddles everywhere.
I had promised to update my limited readers about developments in my disease, but somewhere, along the way of returning to school, I forgot about this blog. It’s true, when you become busy and distracted, you don’t mope around as much. My relatives are always telling me to stay busy because it’ll help me move on with my life. Whether you avoid issues or confront them right away, at some point, they become unavoidable.
Anyway, as of right now, my scleral buckle surgery has left my caruncle (corner of the eye that contains glands) inflamed and slightly, protruding when I close my eye. I also have a semi-permanent pink left eye.
Thank God for Systane and Visine.
I cancelled my insurance this past February so I could be eligible for the Illinois Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan, which requires members to be uninsured for six months. I also had my thyroid stimulating hormone checked last week and it was elevated. So now my levothyroxine dosage has been upped from a stable 112 mcg to 125 mcg.
None of the above situations in themselves are reasons to complain. Whenever I do feel depair, it’s mostly due to my life as a whole. I’m caught in between returning to school full-time and finding a way to finance my upcoming surgeries. I hate how everything in this world comes down to a sum (my friend’s mom’s words). Hopefully, after getting accepted to IPXP, I’ll be able to have another orbital decompression surgery (if needed) and eyelid reconstruction surgery, Godwilling.
Part of my self-disgust comes from respresenting myself as an optimistic, happy person online; these realizations of gratefulness only come after reflective writing and life-changing experiences.
After volunteering this month (for a day) at the St. Bernard Project, I’m really grateful for having a roof over my head and for having my mom and brother in my life. I realize now, while writing all of this, that I should apologize to my mom for yelling at her for not being able to read English and not distinguishing between black and blue ink (I swear this happened).
Call me flaky for spending a day volunteering in NOLA, but even those eight hours, opened my eyes to the work that still remains in St. Bernard Parish, six years after Hurricane Katrina. We were helping rebuild homes in Chalmette and as I painted a door and baseboards under the hot sun, listening to Bob Marley’s Redepmption Song and Lupe Fiasco’s new track, I felt thankful for having a place that I call home. 
The airline ticket to NOLA came from a cancelled reservation from an earlier trip. I was suppose to visit my friend who handed me more than $20,000 last year for my orbital decompression surgeries. Her sister had asked me to visit her a month before and I had the nerve to say, (not in these exact words) I’d check my schedule. Who am I? A freaking executive assistant?
I was so caught up with assignments and exams that I didn’t follow-up and instead, waited until the last minute to hear back from her sister before booking a flight to NY. I found out later that the family had requested people to stop visiting. It was too late.
My pure-hearted, generous, amazing friend and journalist passed away on March 6th, 2011. May God grant her the highest level of Paradise and surround her surviving loved ones with patience, peace and her lasting good deeds.
I was suppose to fly out the same weekend, two days earlier, and instead, I cancelled the trip, because I couldn’t find the courage to go. It’s sad that even when loved ones are dying, their story revolves around us. 
It’s disgusting how self-absored I am, even in the face of death. I remember when my grandmother passed away in 2001. Right after hearing about her death, I read an article I wrote in a community newsletter. As if a byline would be the ultimate comfort.
With my brother’s death, the news was crushing and immediate. With my dad’s, I just felt numb and void of any emotion. I remember my cousin’s mom, demanding me to cry immediately after his death.
Perhaps, we deal with each death differently and it’s not a reflection of how we feel about the person but how much reality we’re willing to register at that moment and the days, months, and years that follow.
Volunteering in New Orleans was suppose to be in my friend’s memory but I couldn’t even last one day.
Excuses or just plain sad, I can’t decide. Anyway, that’s about as much of an honest update I can give for one day.

Reflections from the Outside

God asks us to reflect on nature and so I hope that spending time in it will be my salvation.
There are times when I’m ready to give up, wondering about my purpose in life, tired of the everyday grind of life but then, moments like this happen and it makes me wonder about what else I’m missing that’s right in front of my eyes everyday. 
I heard this author on NPR talk about awesome moments, things we don’t even think about, such as having the underside of your pillow to flip over when you can’t sleep at night or getting the right ratio of cereal to milk. Seriously, who really thinks of these things as blessings when they happen unless you’re consciously looking for them and counting them (which is what the author did).
Everyone of my mentors has told me to attempt to count my blessings and then say Alhumdulilah which means, All Praise is due to God, after each one.
 It’s strange how everything comes back full circle, like when you get clarity of  the trajectory your life has taken. Today, I felt like emanating the feeling of Alhumdulilah, as I went about my day. 
I was planting trees, one of my father’s favorite hobbies, in the backyard of Read Mental Health Center, the same place we had visited my brother back in 2006. I wish I could go back in time and ask the right questions, not be timid and shy away from the pressing questions that should come to anyone’s mind if they found out their brother was in rehab. As I stood in the midst of these woods contemplating how my new founded science knowledge was bringing me back to my roots, literally, I was blown away by nature and the effects it had on me. It felt like my calling, being outside, getting in touch with the Earth, my home. 
 Now that I think about it, I can think of specific memories of spending time outdoors marvelling at nature, whether it was carving mine and my then best friend’s initials into a tree; sitting with girls from Tucson after climbing a hill; staring out into the mountains at Taba. Even the everyday memories of going to North Park Village and losing myself in the therapeutic sound of water, shying away from rapping while a friend spit great lyrics because she was inspired by sunlight (the effects of living in Chicago), running with different family members in Peterson Park or getting caught in the rain.
I really want to capture the afternoon we spent planting trees in the Dunning Read Conservation Area, hence the first blog post after so many months. The moments stood still, you could barely hear the cars on Irving Park; all around were bare trees. In the crisp, windy air, I could see the true beauty in nature all around us, even without its greenery, it was full of life. The leaves from last year carpeted the ground and plants stood straight into the air blocking my fast steps. They forced me to take in the breathtaking view, while the twigs and bare plants kept swinging towards my legs with my every step. It was deserted and cold, with no hint of spring approaching; it was as if the woods thrived during the winter. We were out there picking up trash. It’s surprising how unrecognizable plastic bags and bottles become after being outside for so long. It makes you wonder, what havoc our littering is wreaking on plant and animal life, the effects of which we can’t see if we’re not aware of them.
Perhaps the most bizarre discovery was finding a deer carcass which was placed in strategic areas by the Friends of the Park staff so that coyotes could feast on the bones and their movements could be tracked. I hope my friend scrubbed his hands when he got home. Seriously, how many times do you get to find a deer carcass in the woods?
I hope something meaningful comes from taking all these chemistry and biology classes (which is what I’ve been doing since moving back to Chicago last year); to open my eyes to the complex and brilliant world around me. A mentor from DC always said everything is not what it seems, even the solid matter we perceive.
The fact that we’re made of tiny atoms and molecules continues to amaze me. Our Creator thought of everything; when I think about what I complain about everyday, it’s things that humans do, such as not acting fast enough; not seeing signs of diseases; everyone (mainly, me) complaining about problems; or something terrible happening across the world, such as Libya’s dictator killing his citizens. Everything we complain of originates from humans and while I could spin it to say, God made our DNA and planned our every move, I believe we control our destiny (not to channel Brittany Spears’ new theme for her perfume). As Muslims, we’re taught to give up control, because we believe things happen for the best. We believe God does the best even if that saying feels empty and mockingly false sometimes. Don’t get me wrong, I will let things play out by themselves after a certain extent of intending, planning and acting, but my destiny will not include living in helplessness and desperation, ignoring signs that my body and the universe gives me. Hearing “God does the best” by friends and strangers will not make me run away from religion, which has been the case for a long time, when things fall apart.
It’s becoming common for me to blame God,  my culture, my family and myself, but my destiny cannot include being bitter and resorting to violence and anger against myself. It would be self-destructive. I guess it takes calmly looking at the bigger picture or in this case, associating calming, positive activities like planting trees with traumatic events, in order to come to small self-realizations.
My destiny doesn’t necessarily have to be bigger and beyond my wildest dreams or for me to insanely optimistic every second of the day – it just needs constant reflections in it and signs that something better is on its way.
So Alhumdulilah for everything we perceive, for seeing clearly even if it’s for a brief moment.

28 things I miss the most about Omar

Today is Omar’s second death anniversary and rather than painfully recount the cause and the hours leading up to his death, I’d rather remember how he made everyone in my family laugh.

So, here’s a brief tribute to my older brother who would be 28-years-old today.

“Where u at?” that’s how Omar started a lot of his conversations when he was checking up on my older brother and I.

I remember this one time my mom and I were shopping at TJ Maxx and Omar crawled underneath the clothes racket and grabbed my leg so I jumped. But it didn’t make me shop any faster. A woman shopping near me, said something like,

“You should enjoy spending time with your siblings because they’re not always around.”

Man, was she right.

He wrote the funniest emails. Here’s a snippet from when I was traveling in Egypt:

did u see any snake charmers? see if u can steal something from the tomb of a pharoah for me I would appreciate it.dont step in the wrong place the walls could start closing in. and dont grab anything without de-boobytrapping it.

hey do u need any more money? If u do call us and we will laugh at u (just kidding).

The Sunday before his death, I went to a bbq at my friend’s house and arrived home in the wee hours. He actually called me a couple of times so see if I was OK and then opened the door for me.

He told me to never work for free. He paid me after I helped him move in February 2008. I still have pictures from his apartment. In fact, I learned more about my brother’s adult life in that ride than I did with him living at our house.

He introduced me to Foo Fighters and other rock bands that I never paid any attention to back then. Sometimes, we would listen to the piano and other instrumental music in his car.

He would honk the horn for no reason just so I’d be embarrassed and hide until I felt that people were no longer staring at me.

He would imitate my version of driving, which was basically jerking the wheel the other way when the car went in one direction. He was the first person in my family to take me on the highway and said,

“Now don’t try to be Superman and drive in the furthest left lane. Stay in the right lane.”

He always made the funniest facial expressions.

He was really generous with his money, even though he wasn’t always employed.

I loved that he was the only family member who spoke to me in English.

He called me Moe from the “Three Stooges” because I had short hair and wore glasses and screamed hysterically whenever anyone said, “Aisha is Moe.” Trying to call him Curly didn’t get a response out of him.

He made these hilarious robotic noises that felt more adequate than words sometimes. In fact, a lot of my family members communicate through non-verbal noises.

He didn’t believe that I bought a pair of earrings from Michigan Avenue. The fact that he even noticed my new earrings makes him awesome.

He was really sensitive and hilarious. He would make people laugh all the time and had dimples in his cheeks.

My mom and him always had really interesting conversations ranging from what lions eat to Jinns and to God knows what else. I love that he considered my mom a friend.

He read people really well and could characterize them as if he knew them for a while. Most of the time, he was right.

He told me I was selfish.

Sometimes, we’d fake fight…except I’d take it really seriously and scream angrily and we’d run around the dining room table doing what siblings do. I think he genuinely enjoyed teasing me.

He used the word artist on his resume.

He stuck up his middle finger when I tried to take pictures of him.

He watched shows that usually revolved around crime, nature and survival on TV.

We shared the same taste in food, mainly pizza.

He was really compassionate and kind going out of his way to help people. He always conversed with people – be they relatives or strangers.

We spent six months squabbling over the remote control on Adil’s sofa.

He helped my dad dig a pond in our backyard.

He played the guitar hooking it up to an amplifier until my dad made him quit.

Omar, Adil and I prayed together the Friday before his death.

I miss him desperately and wonder what he would do and say about everything that happened to our family. Allahu Alam.

Giving Back

When my friends handed me that huge chunk of money, they hoped I would have one less thing to worry about. They were right, they saved me from having to navigate the messed up insurance system. I keep praying Allah (swt) continues to grant them and all the people who gave me money relief from hardships and happiness at every turn.

They also said, they hoped I would use my eyes to read the Qur’an, look at my husband lovingly – all the good stuff we want to be doing, that goes on our to-do lists.

Don’t get me wrong, reading or listening to Qur’an isn’t some far-fetched task, it should come from a sense of love and discipline and I need to cultivate both.

It’s so puzzling to me that now that I have the money to pay for my surgery costs and my eyes are healing well, thank God, the tables haven’t turned. I don’t see major changes in my life.

In fact, I still feel that deep sense of melancholy, a burden on my chest, the passing time mocking me. What have I accomplished so far?

Is it just me or does everyone seem to be climbing up a ladder in their careers, struggling to pay for necessities so much so that we’re forgetting our end goals in life.

What it is about being in my 20s that makes me feel so incredibly disheartened with my life? Maybe, it’s this redundant process of applying to jobs over and over again trying different ways to market myself.

Or it’s trying to figure out the mysteries of destiny’s tricks and turns. As much as I feel disheartened with my lack of contributions to the world, I also feel incredibly blessed and I wonder what I did to deserve such good people in my life.

Logically, I know good things have been happening since we were in our mother’s womb. We just don’t acknowledge the miracles of being able to walk, breathe, think and talk all at the same time, while our body keeps 50 trillion cells alive and functional.

Maybe, the melancholy comes from this innate desire to feel useful, like our existence and mental health matters to everyone. We want to be rocks for the people around us, defining our purposes in life as changing the status-quo and leading a spiritual life doing good actions. We want to help strangers and our family members; we want to help end poverty; take away people’s worries; end violence and all the scary things happening in the world as a result of humans inflicting pain or neglecting one another.

Unfortunately, somewhere in my journey, I’ve been convinced that earning money is more important than pursuing journalism, which is my version of helping people. And let’s be honest, if I earned more money,  I could donate to causes or at least, pay for my medical expenses.

While spending time with my family in Baltimore, I found out my biological mother didn’t have insurance. I can’t help but think that might have contributed to her lack of care and the now-defunct hospital she died in.

It really hit me hard that 22 years later, I was dealing with my insurance not covering a pre -existing condition — it’s as if nothing had changed. My father also compromised his health care by enrolling in Medicaid because he didn’t have insurance either.

By societies standards, my family had literally died achieving the American dream. And I worry that I won’t get there as well if I keep persisting in being a journalist. Like my dad, I should be able to make that tough choice of picking a high-paid job to support a family, instead of acting as if there’s only one career molded for me.

I don’t feel guilty about receiving money and getting care from one of the best hospitals in the world, just immensely grateful that God is really watching over me keeping me from losing hope and dismissing my belief in the survival of the fittest theory.

I don’t think I’m better equipped for surviving in this world but after seeing my brother die, hearing about my mother’s death and seeing how vanquished my dad felt with his life, it seemed that how our lives ended came down to how we viewed ourselves and valued our physical, mental and emotional health. But my mom tells me, even the manner of our deaths, had been decided by God, so that part is out of our hands.

Part of me wants what my father wanted for me, the security and happiness that comes from being in the ever-insulated health field. He also wanted me to marry a doctor, have kids and live out the rest of my life raising strong, healthy Muslim children. Honestly, I want to start witnessing my own life for once.

There’s stories within me that have yet to be told, that need to prodded and pulled through to see the daylight.

For example, why do I have a communication barrier with the one person in this world who can understand my life experiences as much as I can? How can I nurture my spirituality so I’m truly submitting to God? How do I balance taking care of my mother and taking care of myself?

And how do I find something I’m good at that gives back to my community and the world?


It’s been almost three weeks since my first surgery and my emotions have gone through roller coaster rides since that day. First off, my eyes are healing well Alhumdulilah. I’m so grateful that my vision hasn’t been affected and that I’m recovering in one piece. Other than a nasty bruise on my left eye and numbness on the left side of my face, I’m good as new and I’m so happy that this chapter of Graves’ Disease is finally closing.

I’m also really grateful and amazed at all the support and love I received from my cousins and friends:)

Almost a week has passed since leaving Baltimore but I haven’t even processed everything that has happened. My mom said those two weeks in Baltimore felt like a year. My brother kept insisting it was his vacation and that he wanted everything to be stress-free. After a bumpy start that included a driving detour to the ER for my brother right after my right eye bandage came off, things settled down for the second surgery.

It was right after my first surgery where full of pain meds and antibiotics, my brother said I was wasting my time in DC.

What have you been doing these past five months? Our dad didn’t pay for your college so you could work at a minimum paid job.

I’m pretty sure that resigning from my internship has something to do with his comments.

He had a point. If I wasn’t high off morphine, I would have said, I’m building my resume and sticking to journalism, even though it hasn’t gotten me far in life. In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have overreacted and hysterically called friends and relatives.

I think when my mom and brother came to help me out, they were coming from specific perspectives. For my brother, it was his vacation time and a closure to what my dad wanted for me. Of course, like my mother, he wanted to take care of me and I can’t complain about those two weeks in Baltimore, because it was the most stress-free surgeries anyone could ask to have. All I had to do was lay in bed and recover.

If I consider it a vacation, it was the first time, I spent so much time with my older brother and it was the first time, we were vacationing as a family post my dad’s and Omar’s deaths. Throughout the whole stay, we kept mentioning my father. He would have loved the history of Baltimore; the open green space in DC; the historic buildings; the live fish market; the boats lined up on the harbor; and the cool refreshing nights.

Those two weeks were therapeutic on many different levels and not just because it was part of my recovery time. I keep wanting to go back, however, nauseating and difficult it felt at that time.

At one point, my dad’s  friend who lives in the area came to visit me, reminiscing about the times him and my dad spent together. He shed light on my dad’s life after he first immigrated to American in 1971 on a student visa and how my dad’s unsatisfying career affected the course of his life. He promised to email me never-seen pictures of my dad from his college years.

That same day, two dear, angelic friends of mine came to visit me and brought thousands of dollars to cover my surgery costs. I was shocked that they raised money and that people wrote large checks and donated for someone they hadn’t even met. Their generosity continues to amaze and I pray Allah (swt) accepts all their good deeds and multiplies it for them in this world and the next. I feel incredibility blessed that God can bestow his bounty on me in seconds when I least expected it. I’ve been taught lessons in donating to people and in purifying my intentions, in accepting help and feeling immense gratitude and in being like my friends who just felt compelled to do something. I want to be like them, selfless, strong and attentive.

Two hours later, I started panicking, thinking about the ethical issues of this money. My father left me money, granted it was stuck in a CD for several months and that my share didn’t cover the entire surgery costs, but I knew my family would come through for me, even though that money would mean my mom would have less to survive off in the future. But then, you can’t return Sadaqa and I know, God gave me access to this money for specific reasons and I needed to honor those reasons and pass along the favor that was granted to me. My friends’ gesture taught me a lot about not complaining and spazzing out, about having patience and of coming to someone’s aid when they needed it the most.

Can I ever do the same for someone? I hope and pray so, InshaAllah.

Incidentally, when I re-read journal entries from when my dad was dying, I asked myself, “Can I be a hero? Can I be as patient, as understanding, as calm and strong as my mother and brother?” People like my friends, my mom and brother who go the extra mile to ease someone’s troubles are amazing stars in this world and I’d give anything to have that one characteristic where I put other people’s desires and needs before my own.

In the end, it isn’t about being a hero or saving someone because sometimes, it’s out of our hands (which happens to be the conclusion of the season finale of Grey’s Anatomy). Before I left for my surgeries, my roommates said,

You believe everything’s written and you co-created your surgery circumstances as much as you could coming to a renowned hospital, but leave the rest up to God.

And that’s the biggest lesson I have learned of really trusting God. We say it all the time, but if I really trusted God, I would have been more patient and happier with what was given to me and I would have trusted God enough to know that he would take care of me in the future.

Here’s a quote from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf that helped me out a lot last year and it’s relevant again.

“You are in the possession of God; if He wants to give you the worst disease, it’s not wrong. He can give you a joyous life, or a miserable one. That’s the God that is frightening. It’s the God of tsunamis, holocausts, fire, cancer. That is an aspect of God, and we are in submission to Him. He’s also dhul jalaali wal ikraam, the God of overflowing bounty, He hides his bounty in his terror, his blessings in his tribulations.”

Alas, humans are so damn fickle because that deep sense of gratitude lasted a week before I started worrying about finding a job. My brother in his shockingly cavalier way sent me a text saying he’s leaving for a year and he needs me to come back home to look after our mom. I’m totally up for it because while recovering, I realized I wanted to go back to school in Chicago.

To be continued….

The countdown to tomorrow

My mom called me yesterday to tell me that’s she coming to the surgery and it was such a huge relief. When she had told me she couldn’t come for whatever reasons, I responded nonchalantly, but I felt letdown. I couldn’t believe that someone who raised me felt inconvenienced by a surgery I’ve been putting off for four years, because a relative was coming to stay at our place this week. Why did you change your mind? I asked, expecting her to say something like you’re my only daughter and you need me. She said she had a dream where my dad asked how everyone was doing and she mentioned my upcoming surgery.

“Let’s go to it,” my dad told her.

I’m so grateful and amazed, that one, my dad can still influence people’s choices from his grave and that two, he has my back through all these unseen veils.

But I’m also infinitely grateful for my living family members, especially my brother, who didn’t hesitate about taking off from work for two weeks and spending money on a hotel and a flight to be present for my surgery. Even when my mom said she wasn’t coming, my brother said, don’t worry, it’ll be fun. And in an odd way, that makes sense, because I’m so excited to see them. I don’t know what to expect during this week, but dealing with unrelated demands from friends, my sub-lessor and employers does make me want to skip ahead to tomorrow.

As I’m writing this, I get a call from the hospital asking that I pay a little more than half of my deductible about $1300 upfront. It’s ironic that they’ve reached me to ask for money, but not to tell me when my surgery’s scheduled. I ask about it and it’s at 9:15 a.m., normally the time when I’m on the metro heading to work. I call my mom to ask her to send me the money and she has to go through an elaborate procedure of finding a ride, transferring money from her savings to her checking account and transferring it to my account before 5 p.m. eastern time.

Amidst all these logistical issues, still being at work, trying to stay focused and awake after a late night of dropping my friend’s stuff at her friend’s place, I don’t think it’s hit me yet, that in 24 hours, I’ll be recovering from my orbital decompression surgery, God willing. I don’t want to put too many expectations on the surgery itself but I’m also not allowing “what ifs” to squirm their way into my head.

If my friends were with me, they’d tell me to trust in God, trust that He supports and loves you more than anyone else and do Dhikr because you’ll get through this procedure and the second time around, tentatively scheduled for May 11th, it’ll be easier. God willing.

Naturally, people are asking if I’m nervous but mostly, I’m just ready to change the course of my life. I’m excited about all the possibilities and the doors of opportunity this surgery can open up.  I’m excited that I won’t have to wipe my eyeglasses every five minutes to remove water and mascara stains and go through the ritual of taping my eyes shut every night.

Maybe, afterward, I’ll move back to Chicago and start taking sciences and econ courses at a community college; finally apply to grad school or find a real job in DC; go to Dubai for a women’s program and just focus on improving my life as opposed to feeling stuck in the past and spiritually and emotionally stagnated in one place. People say you never stay in one place, you either improve or decline or my personal favorite of Dr. Sherman Jackson saying we can learn lessons from a hermit crab, which looks back but moves forward. I’ve tried to Google whether that’s true but it’s a little awkward to be looking up hermit crab behavior at work.

The fact that I’ve turned to God more in light of this surgery makes me ashamed of my heedlessness in regards to all the other times in my life when I’m watching mindless TV and generally, wasting time instead of praying or doing selfless acts. My father used to call all the free time we’re blessed with golden opportunities that you can’t get back. I feel that I’m passing up precious time by becoming too comfortable leading a life of routine and it’s turning to complacency and laziness in all the important aspects of my life.

When major life events don’t rock your life frequently, you delude yourself into thinking that everything is fine and that life should generally be worry-free and fun. But we all know, it’s just temporarily fine. Just as there will be times when it’s temporarily frightening, inspiring, earth-shattering and happy.

SubhanAllah, I know I deserve happiness, just like every individual, regardless of our relationship with God, just because our innate nature knows that something higher and powerful will hold us accountable whether it comes in the form of our parents, colleagues, strangers or tribulations. But if I hate that people only turn to me when they need a favor, then why should I expect God to grant us everything we ask for when we haven’t been praising him and serving him all along? I suppose God’s magnificence and forgiveness is incomparable to human’s paltry attempts at being magnanimous and giving.

My reactions to this surgery is revealing a lot about how often (and the reasons why) I turn to God, because I get to compare my actions and thought processes to last week’s and notice a tangible difference in my worship and attitude. What if I spent everyday thinking about a life-changing event that would take place tomorrow? It would be exhausting and mentally draining and I’d constantly have that churning pit in my stomach and think twice about all my major and whimsical decisions but at least, I’d be more consistent and in tune with my reality.