121 Days

121 Days. 2,904 hours. 174,240 minutes. That is how long I went without my biggest addiction. I quit Coke (and every other kind of pop) cold turkey the week of my birthday back in March and it was only this past weekend that I had it again. Three times. This is going to sound silly but at first I was devastated. To the point of tears. I haven’t felt disappointment cut that deep in a long while. 

Giving up Coke was a rope I held on to for strength and hope and proof. Proof that I could let go of something that had such an intense hold on me, proof that I CAN do something good for myself, proof that if I can do this, I can do anything I dream of. Every party I went to, every restaurant, every public place, even in my own house sometimes, I was reminded of Coke. People offering it, people advertising it, people jokingly forcing it on me. It’s funny for them, but the internal fight I went through was so difficult. I’d be so angry sometimes. If I couldn’t have it, I didn’t want anyone to have it! Most of the time I had to fight against this inner voice constantly wondering “why are you doing this again?? It’s just a little sugar water! You can have it just tonight, you’ll be fine!” The thing is, it’s not just that once, is it? Once you open the gates, there’s nothing stopping you. I’m not the kind of person to have something in moderation; my life wouldn’t be what it is if that were true. 

It’s funny how the things we are afraid of or expect to be a big deal happen “not with a bang but a whimper.” I always thought when I would make the decision to introduce soda into my life again (how dramatic does that sound?), I would plan it out carefully and do everything I could to maximize my enjoyment of that first time. See, originally I had a plan to go 365 days without having it. A full year would show me that I really had let go of its hold on me. It would show that I didn’t need it like I thought. A year is really something. I would of course celebrate it with a Coke. But I wouldn’t need it. I would want it, I would have it, and then I would be able to say no whenever. 

But then I went to my good friend’s wedding this past weekend. I’d had a stressful couple of weeks, very little sleep, very little food. The next thing I know I’m asking the bartender for a Pepsi. Not even a Coke! (I’m a Coca Cola girl through and through). I had a sip. I thought I would hear harps and singing and a bright spotlight would be on me. None of that happened. Like I said, a whimper! I chugged it down and my life was not any different than a few minutes ago. Except I was very disappointed in myself and wanted to cry in a hall full of people. I kept wondering whyyyyyy did I do this to myself! I was doing so well! I had given it up! One moment of weakness and I gave in to this evil? Just for this bubbly taste on my tongue? Why God whyyyy! Okay it wasn’t that intense but I did get sad. 

I went home and thought back to all those months I had not had it and every time I said no and instead chose water. I thought about how many times I could have enjoyed a nice cold glass of Coke; those hot days, those sad days, those really awesome happy days! And I wondered why God let me do this after all that. I knew it was for the best but couldn’t figure out why. Why now? Why this way? Why? 

The next day, after a hot meal and a good night’s sleep, I understood. These last 121 days were not a waste. I shouldn’t worry about those days I “could have” been drinking Coke. It’s NOT time wasted. It just turns out, I didn’t need a year. How cool is that? I was so hung up on the year, I didn’t realize I had accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish anyway. It just took 121 days instead of 365. I still went through the hundreds of moments of wanting a drink. I still went through the hot days, the awesome happy days, the sad days, the lazy days, all the days I wanted a drink. And I think that’s something to be proud of no matter what! And I showed myself that I can say no when I want to. THAT was the end goal of everything. I CAN say no. I don’t have to but I can. How wonderfully cool! 

Now I gotta do the same with chocolate! 

At a Loss

Belated Ramadan and Eid mubarak everyone!! I know I disappeared for a while there but at least there’s lots to talk about now!

For anyone who’s not in the mood for a long update, I can sum up everything in these words: I did not lose ANY weight. Shocking, I know. I actually gained some, putting me at a hot 232 pounds. Yay! Although I didn’t lose weight, I did lose a friend to cancer. I lost my hope. I lost my optimism. I lost my willpower. I feel like I lost a future I had been dreaming about for most of my adult life.

For anyone interested in a more detailed (okay a LOT more detailed) update, grab a cup of tea and a blanket, turn your phone off, and get settled into your favourite reading spot. Here we go!

Last time I wrote, I was doing very well with my workout routine and eating well. I was a totally different person, so much so that I didn’t even recognize myself most days. It was new and fun and wonderful. But then…life happened. My mum had some health things come up that needed to be taken care of in another city so that meant staying in a hotel for a couple of days. Now, any other person would’ve come home after those two days and just gotten right back into their routine. Not me. No sir, I went back to my old ways with a vengeance! Eating bad, sitting around, sleeping late, etc. It was as if those six weeks never happened. To this day, I haven’t gotten back into that routine of working out for an hour and a half every day and staying within my calorie goal. I’m so mad at myself! I know what it took to get to that point and I can’t believe I let it go so easily.

Returning to my old unhealthy ways was quite a blow but nothing compared to what happened on May 12 when I got a phone call that changed my life forever. I still remember the moment I was told that my old coworker and friend Karen had just passed away from cancer. I was silent at first, in complete shock. I kept asking if they were sure it was her. “Our Karen??” I just kept asking, “OUR Karen??” I couldn’t imagine a world without our Karen in it. What a loss for the world.

Let me tell you a bit about Karen. Both of us started working at my old job within a week of each other so together we were the new girls. I didn’t get to know her too well until a couple of months later maybe when we started getting more shifts together. We had a seriously good time. I looked forward to the days I would work with her. I would eagerly check my schedule to see when we’d been scheduled together. She was a lot of fun to be around, always making a witty remark and always had a smile on her face. Over time, she revealed more and more about herself and I can honestly say she became an inspiration for me, and still is one. She told me about the time when she was given the Canadian Medal of Bravery for saving a girl from drowning. Can you believe that?? I was blown away! Then she gave me the cherry on top: she had lost over 100 pounds. I only knew her as the tall, skinny firecracker that she was but then she showed me a picture of her old self and again I was blown away. She was the definition of inspiring! The way she talked about her kids was adorable. She had just gotten engaged to a wonderful guy. She was so happy. And all of a sudden, she was gone. Just like that. And it was one of the rare times when I actually felt sorry for the world for what it lost: a lovely human being. Now, I’m not going to pretend we were the best of friends, far from it. We lost touch after I left the job. But I meant it when I said she was my inspiration. I would think of her often on my 6 week journey. I knew a real live person who had accomplished so much of what I wanted in life, how could I not think of her? And do you want to know the real kicker? She was in the process of writing a book about her weight loss and life experiences. I used to look forward to reading it. I used to daydream about reaching my goal weight and visiting her at work to show her my new self, especially because she used to give me advice on what to eat and things like that. I still feel her absence. She had such a presence about her. I pray her good deeds are accepted and Allah SWT gives her family strength through their loss.

Losing people really puts the spotlight on how quickly life can be over, despite our best intentions and plans. I mean, everyone knows this but it’s one thing to know it, and another to feel it. I got really scared after her death. I thought of all the things I hadn’t done yet. I thought of all the things I was doing, most of them not in any way beneficial to me or my soul. I wish it was enough to help me make a change in my life but, you guessed it: it didn’t. Only in my head. It made me ruminate over what I should be doing and what’s going to happen if I don’t but I still didn’t take any action.

I did start going to the gym for a little while consistently. I didn’t hate it. I started really slow and I think that helped me stay consistent. The funny thing is, before my problem was with going to the gym but I was good with my eating. Now I’m good with the gym but uncontrollable with my eating. One victory I’ve had is over Coke. It’s been almost 115 days since I’ve had a sip of any kind of pop. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Especially during Ramadan and Eid. I never noticed this until now but when people throw dinner parties, pop is more of a staple than water. More often than not, I had to go searching for water. Also, I thought I’d be safe sticking to juice but there’s even pop in juice sometimes!!! And it is oh so tempting to say “screw it!!” to the whole endeavor and have a small glass, even one sip. Nobody would actually care. And in this heat, it would be heavenly to have a cold glass of Coke. But I’ve worked so hard! I don’t know if I can last as long as I want but I need to try. I don’t want to be controlled by my addictions anymore. Chocolate and artificial sugar has to go next but it seems impossible. Anything to do with food seems impossible right now. Every morning I wake up so determined to do things right but it never turns out that way. I may have a good breakfast but the rest of the meals are horrendously bad for my body. But I don`t feel like I can change it. Junk food just seems to be a part of my soul. I love it too much. I don’t feel the same way about healthy food. I know everyone says that once I eat healthy food for long enough, I’ll start to not crave the bad stuff but I just can’t seem to stay away from it for long enough. I CAN’T CONTROL MYSELF. I don’t know how it’s possible for someone to think about something for basically 24 hours a day and still not have the willpower to do it. To anyone who says that losing weight is as easy as “putting the donut down”, IT IS NOT. To anyone who says “you just don’t want it bad enough,” THAT’S NOT TRUE. There just seems to be something blocking us. I prefer to think it’s timing. There will always be something stopping us, big or small, legitimate or stupid, until the time is right. And God picks the time. How can it be that somebody wants something so much but can’t make it happen? There must be something bigger than us, something outside of us, that gets in the way. All we have to do is be patient.

Being patient is bloody hard. So so hard. Mostly because there’s no assurance that it WILL happen. It’s easier to be patient when the question is “when” rather than “if”. It’s the “if” that gets me. But again, I gotta remember that even “if” it never happens, if I don’t lose the weight, if I don’t do all the things I want to do after I lose the weight, it must be for the better. There’s no better reason for not getting what you want.

So what do you do while being patient? Do you sit there in self pity? Do you stay on the sidelines watching life, people, experiences, relationships pass you by? No, you take opportunities as God presents them to you! Tonight I went to one of my really good friend’s mehndi celebration. She had her heart set on her cousins and friends doing a few dances. If you knew me, you’d know I’m usually miles away from any mention of dancing. I love the idea of dancing, it’s one of my deepest desires to be able to dance well. But with this body I can’t. Not because it looks bad, but it physically just doesn’t move well. So I usually do anything, and I mean anything, I can to avoid it. But this time I said yes. We spent two days practicing. I personally spent two days practicing, agonizing, freaking out, practicing some more, and almost crying. Was I really going to get up in front of 120 people and DANCE? Was I going to do this even though I wouldn’t even dance by myself in a windowless room with the lights turned off? Yes, yes I was. And I did. And although watching the video of it makes me cringe so much my eyelashes get tangled, I don’t regret it. I made sure to remember the whole time that I was doing this to have FUN. Not for it to look good or to impress anyone (though it did impress me 😉 ). And alhamdulillah, I did have fun. I got to make new friends. I got to see what my body can do. I got to see what my mind can do (learning moves is harder than I thought!). I never thought I would do something like this, especially with the way I feel about my body but Alhamdulillah I was able to forget my insecurities and do it!

Again, I must come back to my problem with food. It’s unraveling everything I had planned, everything I wanted, dreamed about, talked about, and wrote about. The day you realize you cannot control yourself is the day you feel true fear. Every other time I told myself I can do this, I can make changes, I can be a different person. This time I realized I don’t think I can. The power that food has over me is too strong. I literally believe the only thing that will help is prayer. This is true at any point of a situation but sometimes you still feel like you can play a part. I don’t think I can play a part in changing. I’ve tried, and tried, and tried, and tried, and tried, and tried, and tried until the word has lost all meaning. I have failed every time. I’m genuinely scared. It’s like hurtling towards a wall without any brakes. Sadly I’ve put prayer at the bottom of my list of things that will help me. It should’ve been the first. My Quran teacher once said something to me that was so simple but so profound: “If you’ve made the niyat (intention), then how can it not happen?” Do you feel the weight of that statement? If you’ve said to Allah SWT that you are intending to do something, that there is something you desire, in this world or the hereafter, why wouldn’t He give it to you? We often forget that His love is more powerful than a mother’s love for her child. If we ask for something, in some form, we always get it, subhanAllah! I once asked to have the confidence to one day not worry about what people think of me. I always thought that would only come once I had my dream body. But tonight, I did just that; I danced without a care!

Stay blessed my friends!

Pumping Irony

As I finish Week 6 of my “Hey-I’m-Actually-Serious-This-Time!” health routine, it has dawned on me that there are very few times when everything in life is balanced and sometimes you end up losing things you didn’t think you’d lose. I wish I was talking about fat but I’m not 😉

Six weeks ago I started making a bona-fide effort to become healthy. I stopped thinking, talking, and writing about it and went and did it instead. After getting used to eating a bit better, at Week 2 I started incorporating exercise slowly. By Week 3 I didn’t let two days go by without getting my sweat on. I surprisingly enjoy it. On the days I rest, I still get the urge to be active. Not surprisingly though, my old habits haven’t completely been killed off and I sometimes talk myself into not doing anything. But still, I have found a good balance. I don’t crave all the crappy things I used to love before. I’m fine with having one “crazy” meal every now and then to satisfy any remnants of my pre-healthy self. I found nutritious foods that still taste good enough to make me not want fast food. I go over my calorie goal a lot but I don’t get mad at myself because I somehow became okay with not losing weight fast. I’ve been so obsessed with trying to do this in less than a year rather than realizing that I’ll have more of a chance to be successful if I take things slow. Really, really slow.

I wondered for a few days why I suddenly became okay with not losing weight at the rate I wanted to before. Today I understood that my biggest problem with myself was that I was doing nothing before. I had all these plans and desires for my ideal self but couldn’t get up and make it happen. I thought all I cared about was the end result. This afternoon I was in the bathroom and doing my routine pre-shower “what’s wrong with my body this week” perusal in the mirror and I said to myself, “you look fine.” And I understood then and there that it wasn’t my body I hated, it was my lack of action. See, I didn’t worry as much about what my actions would result in; I’ve been more disappointed in the fact that I didn’t do anything to take care of my body. Sure I turned myself into an obese woman a few years ago and did everything in my power to maintain that but now I don’t want to exercise just to change that; I want to exercise because it’s what we should be doing, no matter our size.

I used to be one of those snarky girls who would get, well, snarky, whenever I saw someone thin working out a lot. I never understood that people who care about themselves get their heart pumping because it’s good for them, not only to get a certain body. Sure that certain body comes with the exercise but I was going about this the opposite way. I don’t want to focus on the body through exercise, I want to focus on exercise through the body.

I’m so not proud to admit this but I am unfairly resentful towards people who can just work on maintaining their bodies rather than having to remake them and then maintaining them. Both are hard of course! I’m basically just mad at myself for not realizing the value in exercising until now but I have a hard time admitting it hehe. And although it is again my fault, I still get unreasonably angry at food now. It really upsets me that something as small as a chocolate bar or cupcake or cookie has the same calorie count as a whole meal sometimes. No wonder I got so big and unhealthy. I ate so many of those “small” things. How is it fair that it’s so tiny?? It seems so harmless because of it’s size but it’s full of evil! And it’s not fair that fit people can indulge in these treats and easily work it off by putting in extra time at the gym and it’s as if it didn’t even enter their mouth. I’m still working off a million of these Satan’s little helpers and if I have any, I’m pushing myself further away from my goals. It’s actually not unfair at all, I did this to myself but it just feels nice to pretend it’s someone else’s fault for a few minutes hah! I suck. But really, I have new-found respect for people who make the effort to work out often even when they don’t necessarily need to. Now that I’m off my butt I feel like I’m part of them. I have separated the way I look and the way I treat my body. Now I don’t worry about the day someone asks “when was the last time you worked out?” because I can most probably say “today, brotha!! How do you like them apples?? Which I had for breakfast by the way!” …These conversations do happen in real life, right?…

I’ve come really close to giving up all this, every day actually, despite liking my routine. Working out has always been hard for me but that used to be about motivation. Now I have a lot more drive to go and exercise but my body makes it so hard. Because I’d been sedentary for so long,  I had absolutely no stamina and no muscle. I get winded 5 minutes into a walk around the block and my calves scream in pain. I can’t do real pushups because I’m trying to hold up 227 pounds of body weight. I can’t do any of those cutesy workout moves you see on Instagram fitness pages because either the girth of my thighs gets in the way or my stomach does. I’m staring to mind this less and less though. I *sometimes* get discouraged thinking about it because it seems I’m doing things halfbummed but I remind myself that I’m there every day trying and that can only make me better. I’ve been writing down every move I make and I can already see little bits of progress: I’ve gone from being able to do 3 squats during Week 1 to 40 this week; I’ve gone from jogging for 10 seconds to 2 minutes. I used to do 6 second planks and now I’m up to 24 seconds. InshaAllah I’ll get there.

In the past, my scared and depressed mind couldn’t fathom that this small bit of progress take weeks. I wanted it to happen day by day. Now I’m enjoying it, no matter the pace. I’m more excited to see how I’ve improved in my fitness goals rather than my weight goals.

Now onto the balancing life issue I started with and took eight years to mention! Now that I’ve made it a habit to exercise, it seems that I can only focus on one thing at a time. Ever since I started working out, I’ve stopped praying as much. I don’t know what’s wrong with me! It’s as if I can only put effort into one big thing in my life. I can’t multitask. My mental and physical energy goes into making sure I work out whereas before it used to go into making sure I prayed (and prayed on time) and even then it was already difficult. The irony here is that now that my body is in better shape (as in, I can go up the stairs without dying on the landing) and I have the energy and stamina to pray without sitting down, I don’t actually do it. I really need to find a way to balance the two. I’m going to try to enforce a new rule for myself that makes sure I don’t work out until I’ve prayed. I hope it works but I feel so weak in so many ways. I wanted to become healthier so that I would get rid of my lethargy and pain in order to pray properly and now that it seems it’s happening finally (alhamdulilah), I can’t get the motivation for prayers! Grrrrr.

What do you guys do to get motivated for prayers? Visual aids like charts? Motivational quotes? Gimme whatchu got! 🙂

Anywhere but Down

A note to my present self:

Today is a day to be proud of you. Tomorrow will be too, as will every day after that. Last week you weighed 229 pounds. This not only included your skin and bones, but also everything that makes you, you. The difference is that last week you focused on the parts that made you sad and hopeless. Today, you weigh 225 pounds and have shown yourself what you’re made of! For 11 days, you have eaten better, you have tried to be active, and you have made sure that every time you look in the mirror, you’re in love. Now remember: it wasn’t the victory on the scale that changed things for you. It’s never about numbers or even about changing your outer self. It was your commitment to yourself that made you realize how beautiful you are. Yes, ARE, not “can be.” You finally got to the point of taking care of your body because you started loving yourself. Always keep in mind how much time we lose to love our bodies because we are busy judging them. It’s not worth it. Trust me, it is a horrible feeling to think about your past and only remember darkness. By loving yourself, you are lighting up your world. You deserve that light; it shows the truth. Love yourself and you won’t need others to. Don’t hold off on doing things because you are bigger. Travel, eat, love. You’re still human. A beautiful one! I know this is the first time you’ve succeeded at losing weight intentionally and it feels amazing. InshaAllah these four pounds are the beginning of a great journey to new experiences. I just need you to know that even when these four pounds were packed around your body, you were great. That’s why you must enjoy the things you do to get healthier instead of treating them as a means. You can’t wait for the end because it may never come and when it does, who knows what it will look like? The path is what will bring you joy. Focus on reaching new heights and not just destinations. You can keep going higher even while staying still; you just have to set your eyes to new directions. Look anywhere but down and you’ll succeed 🙂

Up(Dates)

I’ve been away for a while! It’s okay if you didn’t notice because I almost didn’t either, so I’ll forgive you if you forgive me! Deal? Deal 🙂 I didn’t realize it had been so long until I started seeing dates everywhere. The edible kind. Have I lost you? Don’t worry, it was a whole chain of thinking that I’ll explain (especially because I need clarification myself. My mind is a weird place to be…).

Lately I’ve been seeing, hearing about, and craving dates. I don’t know what brought on the craving but really, is anyone surprised that my inner sugar beast is raging for something sweet once again? As for the rest of the signs, it makes sense because Ramadan is on people’s minds once again and you can’t have Ramadan without dates!

So what does all this have to do with my blog? Flashback to last Ramadan. The one where I made the promise to get healthy the day after it ended, to work out, to be at my goal by my 25th birthday. Well friends, my 25th birthday is literally a month away from today and not only have I not reached my goal, I’ve made it harder to achieve by gaining 5 pounds. Maybe 6. Maybe 7. Yay me! That takes effort.

Yet another Ramadan will be upon us in the summer iA and I will be exactly who I didn’t want to be: the same old me. I know there are still a few months to go but I’m still looking at all the wasted time. I could have been totally different right now! It’s so odd to think that way, to picture all the things I could have done, and all the things I’d be doing right now if I was even a few pounds lighter or at least had a habit of exercising.
But sadly I know even if I went back in time I wouldn’t end up doing anything different. That’s the problem. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of motivation on this earth strong enough to get me up off my surprisingly small butt (it’s surrounded by fat but doesn’t actually contain much itself, funny right?). Basically, I have all the tools, I have the blueprint, I have the uniform, I just can’t seem to clock in and get to work.

Speaking of work, want to know something that makes this situation even sadder? I’ve been unemployed for almost 2 months now and despite having all the free time in the world, I didn’t work out once. I instead chose to spend it watching all 10 seasons of Friends on Netflix. Twice. Ask me what Joey ate for lunch and I can tell you (it was pizza); ask me when was the last time I worked out, I couldn’t even ballpark it.

I have to admit it’s been nice not thinking about weight all the time by doing a bunch of things in excess (like watching tv, sleeping, eating, crying). It was like I locked that part of me away so I wouldn’t have to face it. But now, with the reminder that it’s almost been a year since my last promise to myself, I’ve had to open the door to all that baggage. Plus some new suitcases of insecurity that came with being unemployed.

I’ve decided to put my gym membership on hold for a few months. That money’s been going down the drain! If I ever go back, I will go once the ice on the road has stopped trying to kill me. And that will of course be during spring time. Do I stay fat until then? Well the smart thing to do would be to work out at home. I’ve never been a smart woman though.

So I guess stay tuned to what should really be called the “How Much Longer Can this Girl Stay Fat & Unhappy?” blog. Pray for me guys, pray for meeee!

Picturesque Pakistan

I was originally asked to write about my trip to Pakistan for Steps to Follow , a passionate blog about the love of traveling. I am also posting it to Moti Muslim but for anyone looking for a good read and a trip around the world from the comfort of your home, visit Steps to Follow, you won’t regret it!

Next month it will have been one year since my family and I broke the bank to make our hearts a little richer. Okay, a lot richer! But that’s what travel does, isn’t it? And it’s even better when you go to a place with hundreds of years of family history. For us, that was Pakistan.


My sister and I were born and raised in Canada but Pakistan always had a place in our home. Our parents are Pakistani and they surrounded us with the same food, movies, language, and clothes that they grew up with back in Peshawar and Lahore. I have never been more grateful for this upbringing than I was when we landed at the airport. It was like entering a whole new ocean, one that I had only dipped my finger into and was now swimming in. Actually, almost drowning!

I had seen Pakistan through pictures and videos before but being there in person was nothing like I expected. It was crowded everywhere we went. I hated this at first but after a week or so you get so accustomed to it that you start to flow with the rest of the crowd. At first glance, the cities look so cramped you wonder how people get around. But then when you really start to look, you see stunning beauty in the architecture, in the ingenious habits of people maneuvering their way around the city. The real beauty is that there are gems hidden (and not so hidden) everywhere in these places; if you blink you might miss them. There were mosques, gates, and houses, all of them with unique touches of colour and embellishments. Not one building looks the same.

Speaking of unique touches, I can tell you one thing for sure: Pakistanis take their weddings seriously! We were fortunate enough to be invited to a wedding during our time there and we were blown away by the halls. In one city, most of the wedding halls were on one strip!! You just drive and drive and drive past hall after hall after hall. The parking lots are huge! Everyone’s dressed to the nines, and you feel like you’re at the Oscars. We accidentally entered the wrong hall for a few minutes (I’m really hoping this happens often with all those halls to choose from!) so we got to see the inside of two halls. The designs were breathtaking. The ceilings had me drooling and snapping pictures every half second (all while trying not to seem too awkward after realizing we didn’t know anyone there).

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Due to this being a family-oriented trip, I can’t really say our focus was on sightseeing. It was more like seeing whatever sights you can on the way to every cousin’s, aunt’s, and grandparent’s house. I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. In addition to learning a bit about the country’s history, I also learned about how each place held my family’s memories. I saw places where they played, where bought their groceries and clothes at, where they used to go to school. I think I saw Pakistan more clearly through their eyes than my own. During these drives around the country though, we had cute little surprises pop up, such as this little guy:

Apparently they can be very dangerous and bite but this one was so cute and tame! I’m guessing he/she loves tangerines because it ate four of them in two minutes!

Another cool experience was when we got to experience a free rickshaw ride! The driver had lovely old Bollywood music playing on the radio and that combined with the beautiful weather made the whole experience dream-like.

The one uncompromising item on my to-do list was to see a peacock and it I’m so grateful it happened! The best part was that my grandmother’s house had them as pets, meaning I got to stare at them for as long as I wanted. I think I made them and my family uncomfortable at one point. But they are fascinatingly beautiful creatures!

Another item on my to-do list was to visit and pray in Badshahi Mosque in Lahore. Another check! Badshahi Mosque was completed in 1673 and is the second largest in Pakistan, with a capacity of 100,000. Just imagine how spacious it is! Walking around in this breathtaking mosque was an experience I will remember forever. I felt the serenity deep in my bones. The beautiful call to prayer resounds throughout the halls and carries you away. I could’ve spent weeks there if they allowed overnight guests haha.

Yet another cool experience was walking around Lahore Fort. Actually, the way to Badshahi Mosque is through Lahore Fort. One of my favourite parts of the Fort was the Diwan-e-Khas (Hall of Special Audience). I was told this hall and one other was used for royal audiences; standing there in the middle of it, I couldn’t help but wish to have been a fly on the wall during that time.

Another favourite was Sheesh Mahal (The Palace of Mirrors) and I’m sure you can guess by the name why it stands out for me. Cool fact about the Sheesh Mahal: it was constructed by Emperor Shah Jahan, the same guy who built the Taj Mahal! Pretty neat eh? This monument has a mirror mosaic and although it has faded over time, you can still see the beauty of it to this day.

If you recall, I mentioned that Badshahi Mosque was the second largest mosque in Pakistan. Now onto the first! Faisal Mosque is located in the city of Islamabad, near the Himalayas. It used to be the largest mosque in the world! Altogether it has a capacity of 274,000. Can you just imagine what a full house would look like? When we visited, we were just a few minutes shy of attending congregational prayers and almost missed seeing the inside because they lock up afterwards. Luckily my lovely cousin begged the guard to let us in since we had come all the way from Canada so he had mercy on us and snuck us in. We prayed in an empty alcove with the most beautiful lush red carpet. In the end I was glad to have missed the crowd because it was an incredible experience to be the only ones in an area so quiet, you can almost hear yourself blink.

Last but not least, we saw another palace called Noor Mahal in the city of Bahawalpur. It was modeled off of an Italian chateau so it was neat to see architecture like this in the midst of the previous designs I have included here. I didn’t get many pictures inside as I was having too much fun goofing off with all my cousins but I can tell you that it was nice enough to be used for a wedding photo shoot! We saw a newly married couple getting their pictures taken there and it was stunning.

Overall, this adventure was so epic that it’s still fresh in my mind; I could swear it was just last week that we were eating a hot and fresh paratha every morning, meeting long-lost relatives every afternoon, and accidentally knocking over bikers with our car doors. Not only did this trip open my eyes to a new way of living, it opened my eyes to how many blessings I have. In this country, you can’t escape the poor and their troubles. There are disabled men, women, and children begging in the middle of traffic and outside of stores everywhere you go. I was brought to tears every time we went outside. So I have to say that I am fully aware that my experience of Pakistan was through very privileged forms; it’s not that way for every citizen there. And yet I still saw a certain comfort in most people’s eyes; they seemed content and confident. And man, do they know how to drive! From what I saw in the three weeks there, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pakistan had one of the lowest accident rates! Okay, it’s probably not true, but it’s as if they all have an innate sense of how to drive in such crowded areas. I didn’t see any accidents, or near accidents even. In fact, the one “accident” I did see was the one we caused haha! We were parked in a very tiny alleyway and a guy on a motorcycle tried to get past, and we accidentally opened our car door at that moment and knocked him into the wall. He literally just dusted himself off, picked up his bike, and kept on going. So the great thing is that even if somebody does get into an accident, nobody cares. Nobody has car insurance so that probably makes all the difference 😉

Basically, life in Pakistan is kind of care-free sometimes and definitely worth seeing. I hope the pictures and the history inspire you to visit one day!

False Foods & False Friends

Things I don’t have time for anymore: false foods and false friends. Both can be highly damaging to my health so if changes need to be made to my body, the same goes for my heart.

As I grow older, my circle of friends downsizes and I’ve been told that’s how it goes for most people. I used to feel bad until I did a mental before and after picture of my life and saw that I made the right choices. Not because these old friends were bad people or anything but because they didn’t fit into what I became. I tried to picture what it would be like to have those people beside me in my current trials and fortunes and it boggles my mind how easily they were not missed. I know, I know, I sound like a horrible person! Still, hear me out. The same people I thought I couldn’t imagine my life without are now better off wherever they are. We would both rather not have the other around in our lives. We outgrew each other. And whether the relationship ended peacefully or with conflict, it happened just the way it was meant to be. Even though I fought the ending of many friendships, both sides were so much better off. This opened up room for new opportunities, experiences, and relationships. I truly believe people are put into our lives for a reason and a season.

I can’t say with 100% certainty that I don’t miss certain people at times but I’m okay with leaving our history where it is. Sometimes a friendship is more effort than we can afford. Some are easier than others and I find those are the ones that last. The easygoing ones, the ones with the most acceptance. There is a certain connection there that can last through time. But the hard ones, though beautiful and rewarding, are perhaps on a time-limit and one day they expire without you expecting it.

When I started realizing that I would have to give up certain foods (or cut down on them significantly) because they are bad for me, I saw that it was the same with certain people in my life. Just as it became more of an effort to keep eating bad, it became harder to maintain some relationships. Both were not worth the effort because in the end, my body paid dearly for a few good moments. Sadly, the consequences of each outweigh the benefits. If I leave a delicious meal feeling sick, it’s not worth it. If I leave the company of a person feeling ticked, it’s not worth it. I am trying to be a better person and thus I have to make an effort to surround myself with that which will make me better, whether it’s the company I keep or the food that I eat.

Friends and food should heal; they should bring joy, not misery. They are both part of a support system that helps you function. If your food and your friends are not building you up, it’s time for a change. It is also important to remember that these things reflect the effort you put in too; it’s not one-sided. If we make the effort to eat well, we will be rewarded with health. If we make the effort to be kind and honest to others, and listen deeply, and help them, we will hopefully get the same treatment. It is when these things are not reciprocated that I usually wonder whether a relationship is good for me. Life is too short for false foods or false friends. I’m cutting the dead weight (literally!) as much as I can this year.

May Allah forgive me for any arrogance or unkindness that unintentionally slips into my heart.

Doing the Impossible

You wouldn’t guess from the title of this post that I’m about to talk about soup. SOUP! Delicious, creamy, homemade, 90 calorie soup! That I made! By myself!!!!!! And it tasted so good that it’s going to iA become a staple for me! It was healthy, it was quick, it was a dream!

If you’ve read even one of my posts, you’ll know that I do not cook. Because I cannot cook. If something I make looks the way it’s supposed to, it definitely doesn’t taste like it, and vice versa. That is why this soup was such a huge victory for me. I feel like I can do anything now!!! I MADE SOUP!!!! It actually looked and tasted like I bought it from a restaurant. I can’t believe it. I know I followed a recipe but trust me, if you knew my track record, you’d be just as surprised as me that this worked out.

I’m going to link the recipe because it’s too good not to share! It’s healthy, yummy, and takes about 5 ingredients (most of which you probably have at home!), and about half an hour to make. Gahh I’m so happy alhamdulilah!!!! SOUP!!! Who woulda thought?? 😀

http://www.skinnytaste.com/2009/01/dads-creamy-cauliflower-soup-1-pt.html?m=1

And here’s a picture of my soup so you know that it really does turn out like the author’s!

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Introversion & Islam Part II: Guest Post

Get ready to have your minds blown! If you remember, a few days ago I wrote about being an introvert and how I’m trying to reconcile that with Islam. A few lovely readers gave amazing insight and helped me so much, so a huge thank you goes out to them 🙂

Now I would like to present an extraordinarily written piece by none other than my best friend and sister, Saddaf. Alhamdulilah she had once gone through the same problem as me on this subject and in turn had amazing insight. She has agreed to share her thoughts with you all and believe me, it’s a wonderful work of writing masha’Allah. I wouldn’t be surprised if people insisted she start her own blog after this (which I’ve already begged her to do)!

So here it is ladies and gentlemen! Enjoy! 🙂
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The Prophet (SAW) passed by a man who was admonishing his brother regarding Haya and was saying, “You are very shy, and I am afraid that might harm you.” On that, Allah’s Apostle said, “Leave him, for Haya is (a part) of Faith.” (Bukhari) – Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar (ra).

The idea of Introversion and Extroversion has made a home in my mind for many years now although I did not understand these patterns while I was younger. As an adult and through the process of self-discovery and the blessing of knowledge I was able to dig deeper and understand the nuances of these terms. The psychological fascination with these concepts has recently been replaced by an intrigue related to how these might play out in Islam and what this means for me as a Muslim. Another epiphany that arose from this inquiry is that Islam is everywhere (as in, it can be applied everywhere) – in every subject, in every aspect, in every experience, in every thought, in every emotion, in every reaction, and especially in every behaviour. I seek not to lay out any judgements or promote any opinions that support one way of being or experiencing ourselves or our lives is better or worse than another. My only purpose arose from the act of “putting pen to paper” in order to organize and express my ideas and thoughts around my place in this resplendent religion. Being an Introvert, I may easily say that my type is the best (we get to be cozy, strive for deep meaningful conversations, and thoroughly take advantage of our Netflix subscriptions 😉 – Alhamdullilah) however that would imply that I am putting down the Extroverts that enjoy fast-paced conversations, are entertaining, and thoroughly enjoy the company of their friends, families, and new faces. Both ideas are actually assumptions and also inherently misleading as Introversion and Extroversion is not about how fast you speak, if you enjoy movies at home versus hanging out with friends, or whether or not you like meeting new people. The fact is that both types enjoy all of these things – the people, the movies, the conversations, etc; the difference lies within how these types experience and enjoy these things.

Also it would be important to recognize that these categories are not black and white but instead we all fall along a spectrum of Introversion/Extroversion and everyone is different and valuable. Our behaviours and patterns are further influenced by our geographical locations, our environments, our cultures, our religions, our families, our moods, and/or our circumstances, plus many, many more. That being said, the real deal about the Extrovert/Introvert types is actually how we gain and use our energy – how we rejuvenate after a long day, what stresses us out, how we prefer to communicate, which activities we prefer, and how much interaction we seek, which are all indicative of how we expend and generate energy. Without going into too much technical detail, this has to do with our Reticular Activating System in the brain (credit to Marti Olsen Laney, author of The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, which I would highly recommend if you are interested in the topic). So, different ways of being and processing our environments: both valuable and valid.

So, how does this relate to my foray into the nature of Islam and Introversion, you ask? I think I spent a long time wondering (painfully and soul-crushingly) why I did not feel like everyone else whether it comes to acquaintances, friends, those characters on shows and movies, and especially my extended family. The questions arose: why was I not popular? Why didn’t anybody miss me when I was not around? Why did no one mention my name in an endearing way or show affection? Why did I stick out like a nail in the wall that everyone either walked around cautiously or avoided completely? Well, of course my overdriven mind came up with the most logical theories: I must be adopted, I may be invisible (and am unable to find the invisibility cloak I must be wearing), or that I hail from another planet in a distant galaxy and was mistakenly sent to Earth. Unfortunately, these theories went from humourous to dark quite quickly and no longer seemed like “theories” and more like truth: I am not wanted, I may as well not engage with anyone to avoid annoying them, I am unlikeable, I am unlovable, I am unworthy of a family, there is something terribly wrong with me, I am a bad person, I am a bad Muslim…I think I have failed my religion, I think I have failed God. I think Allah SWT does not love me either and therefore I do not belong in deen nor duniya and have no one to belong to. Yes, I did not only think these but will openly admit to believing them to my core (which I believed was inherently bad and worthless). I still believe most of them. Therefore I am hoping that the journey of writing this can result in finding my own small place within my deen and my duniya; and also be okay if I do not find it in the latter. I am certain that acceptance and a sense of belonging are intense needs for me as they are for human beings and thus do have a role in my experiences but I will instead work on describing my path towards the reconciliation between my Introversion and my path in Islam.

My realization and destination led to uncovering the idea that Introversion is indeed congruent with Islam and is in fact highly valued. Again, my disclaimer here is that being either type does not negate or predict our haya, humility, faith, and religious actions. I just needed to believe in my experience and see the evidence laid out. As stated earlier, both ways of being are valuable and valid; I used the word valid because this relates to my experience and has often defined my experience (negatively) of how I am treated and responded to in my immediate and extended family, extending to my community, my culture, and my religion. My religious intentions (and implicitly, my relationship with Allah SWT) are brought into question more frequently than not. I am a bad Muslim because I do not entertain 12 hours a day when people are around, I am quiet, I do not wake up early enough, I have no sense of responsibility to my family or my religion, I do not give enough, I only complain, I am upset all the time… how will I ever live in this great, big world of people, people, people with this attitude? That is interestingly how I am perceived. Therefore, my conclusion (completely based upon my own life) is that Introversion is NOT valued in my family, religion, or culture. In fact, I am a bad person for the way my brain works. I will tell you though: if I was an Extrovert, I am almost 100% certain that I would be treated a little more similarly to my other family members that are valued, appreciated, and praised. If I was Extroverted I would crave and seek out more interactions with people and family, I would be able to barely sleep and still have energy to hold animated conversations that include plenty of compliments, jokes, and entertaining stories, I would not need time to be alone or quiet, and most of all, I think I would be loved (at least on the surface). Now these are all assumptions of course – nothing says that both types do not partake in all of these activities or that I can be guaranteed love or acceptance but I am focusing on what is valued and what is shunned. As you can guess, Introversion is shunned and is apparently a sign of being a horrible Muslim. Whereas Extroversion is validated, encouraged, and praised because when comparing “She is so friendly and respectful.” versus “She is so withdrawn and hates interacting with other people. How disrespectful – she obviously doesn’t have any values. Who would marry her?” Which one would you prefer?

But here is the truth, MY truth: the only thing I make efforts towards when I am interacting with family members and other community members (whether out or when someone is in my home) is how can I make someone happy and comfortable to be here? How can I behave so that Allah SWT is not upset with my actions? How can I communicate that I am interested in people and wish them to have plenty to eat and drink while they are in my home? What activities can I scrounge up so that no one is bored and the kids can have some fun? How can I follow Sunnah and not upset anyone in my presence because of my unintentional or intentional actions? Am I a bad person? I used to care what the answer was but now I don’t. I care about answering: “Am I following the kindness of my deen to the best of my ability and knowledge at this time?” Sometimes that answer is yes, and sometimes it is no; however, I pray for forgiveness, more strength, and humility as to not let my moods or severe need for Introversion time turn into arrogance. It is not easy.

I found my strength reawakened by many aspects of Islam (and also recognize that I do not follow or do everything that I should do for my religion and Insha’Allah I hope to never stop trying to reach this):
▪ The value of moderation and balance (deen and duniya)
▪ Shyness as Sunnah
▪ A smile is worth a thousand words (and prevents excess talking!)
▪ Quietness a.k.a. refraining from excessive talking (see previous point J)

“It is better to sit alone than in company with the bad; and it is better still to sit with the good than alone. It is better to speak to a seeker of knowledge than to remain silent; but silence is better than idle words.” [Bukhari].

And…here is my list for why I believe my Introversion has helped me tremendously with my religion (please keep in mind that I know I am vastly far from being the Muslim I should be and therefore do not assert my experiences as opinions):
1. The times of prayer require us to be home or in a place we can pray – helpful since I love being at home!
2. Especially during the time of Maghrib it is good to be indoors and not outside.
3. Solitude and quiet actually helps me think and reflect upon my deeds while also allowing me to remember Allah SWT.
4. I am able to read and therefore gather knowledge Insha’Allah for the sake of betterment in my deen.
5. I can try to read Quran whereas after a hectic day of interactions I usually seek other activities in order to disengage (that is my fault however having my batteries charged definitely helps).
6. Avoiding eating meals outside and encourages me to cook at home (Alhamdullilah) and thus Insha’Allah reducing my contact with haraam sources.
7. Less gossip and opening my mouth and blurting out statements that are really not necessary for the betterment of the conversation.
8. Less judgment of others (this can be dependent on my depleting energy levels since more judgements arise when I am tired = less inhibitions).
9. Having better recall/memory therefore remembering to give charity, pray, etc.
10. Spending more time cleaning and maintaining my environment.
11. Napping after meals is good in Islam (just read this!) I do this a lot…
12. Finally, I encountered a little glimpse of acceptance when I stopped trying to chase the Extrovert life and began loving my authentic self which is precisely the time when I started chasing my deen…

I must mention that it is also Sunnah to accept invitations others have extended and attend gatherings. My only stipulation is that I enjoy sitting quietly for the most part and therefore easily fade away from people’s memories. It is not easy being an Introvert if people (especially parents) are against you when you are actually just exhausted and cannot expend any further energy or functional attention towards interacting or entertaining. It is not always selfishness or the shirking of my social duties that motivate me to step away or break down; it is actually similar to getting thirsty and craving water (on an energy level) to rehydrate one’s body in order to keep moving forward and I no longer want to apologize for my way of being or how Allah SWT created me. I definitely believe in all of us having to fight our instincts for the purpose of the greater good which does mean acting in opposition to our natural preferences on a regular basis however I also believe in nourishing ourselves with patience, care, and acceptance.

There is room for both ways of being. At the end, the guidance given to us by Allah SWT comes from our Beloved Prophet SAW, the Noble Quran, and maybe this voice inside our souls that acts as a chaperone for when we get lost, angry, or tired. I find my best strength in having faith that Allah SWT will guide this chaperoning voice to lead me down the path towards Him. YOU have to find your best strength – the strength that can carry you through uncomfortable situations and leads you back to gratitude or faith or anything that you decide to call it. The core that says it is okay to be either, to be both, or to be everything all at once.

Fast Food Shame

I recently had McDonald’s again. Oh the horror!!! The shame!!! I was on such a good streak with the coke guzzling too; I hadn’t had any for 3 and a half days. Don’t laugh, that’s like 84 hours of me fantasizing about coke without giving in. I even passed by three coolers filled with deliciously cold bottles and didn’t slide open any doors to grab one or six. My willpower was strong this week!
Then old habits knocked on the door. And I stress the word habit because that’s what was so sad about it; it was pure reflex to enter that drive thru and order my usual meal. I didn’t want it. I did not want it, I swear!

Usually even when I’m falling off the wagon, there is some part of me that really enjoys it. I still look forward to the exhilarating taste of salty fries, the creamy tartar sauce on the burger, the bubbly mouthful of cola, mm mm mmm! (Yup the filet-o-fish is our halal go-to!) This time though, I was just sad while eating it. It did nothing for me. I was hungry again 20 minutes later. I didn’t enjoy the taste. Don’t get me wrong, I was and am so grateful for the food! But it just wasn’t right.
I stared at the bag of food and felt that it wouldn’t have made a difference if it wasn’t there. There was no excitement this time. And what’s the point of fast food if there ain’t no love??

I don’t know if it’s a fluke; it quite possibly could be! I might love fast food again in a few days. Right now though, I’m craving real food. I’m spending time looking up extremely simple recipes to try (because I cannot cook for the life of me) and it all seems more appetizing than fast food, which is usually never the case for me (duh!). Seriously, there’s pizza sauce running in my veins. I don’t do healthy but it looks like my body’s finally yearning for it.

The other night I had a nice homemade meal and it tasted pretty good; it kept me at the right amount of calories, and I didn’t overeat. It took forever to make though! How do people have time to cook?? Hats off to moms and dads everywhere who cook every single day and don’t run off with a circus (because ya know, it’d be less work and a lot more fun). I know meal prepping is an option but I’m lazy and I give up after a couple days of it. I don’t get bored with eating the same foods all the time luckily but I do need the food to be warm and hearty. I want to focus on soups right now!! So I would like to try and find a menu that will work for my time and tastebuds, with enough variations that I don’t get bored, because even a person who doesn’t get bored easily still gets bored oneday!

Now, seeing as how pizza is my true love and soulmate, I will not abandon it. Ever. I will visit it once a week, maybe once every week and a half. I will keep its number on speed dial. It will be my emergency contact. I will not give up on it. I will bring it the same joy that it brings me. Pizza: we’re in this together. XOXO

I’m including a picture of that tasty homemade meal that took me 12 years and my youth to make. I had eaten half of it before I remembered to take a picture to share with all the people who don’t really give a flying fettuccine 🙂 It’s okay though, I love food pictures enough for everyone.

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