Thursday, 25 June 2015

House Of The Rising Sun.

I set impossible standards for myself because I’m afraid of failing. I’m terrified of disappointing my parents. I feel like a mouse in a laboratory, testing pills, different combinations and doses, monitoring effects, progression.

I was thinking about how I always get up in the morning, I apply makeup, I get dressed and I walk to work regardless of how slow my legs move, regardless of how much my hands shake, regardless of how much my tongue refuses to cooperate. That, that is strength. It is one’s willingness to persevere through the acknowledgement of pain. It is the understanding of the notion that wallowing in suffering does not enforce change. It is the driving force that continues to sustain movements. I exist within a war between myself and my body, but I fight, I keep going. I interact, I work, I do a damn good job, and I don’t give myself enough credit for the amount that I continue to achieve because I am confined within a void of my own infinite digression.

I’ve been advised to take some time off work, however all I can think about is not wanting to bombard others with all of my projects. I’m worried about other people, I’m worried about who will get the work done, I’m worried about my job, I’m worried about the consequences, I’m worried about how it will affect my career, I’m worried about how it will make my parents feel, but I’m not worried about myself. I’m not thinking about how this is affecting me, how the depression has taken over my limbs, extracted all meaning from my movements and left behind an animated carcass, programmed to a default vacant setting. I'm not thinking about my own health.

I wish mental illness was an acceptable justification to take time off; I wish I could be honest and open. I just don’t know how to heal, so I’m a subdued version of myself until further notice. I can’t give everything I have, I can’t be Qurratulain, I don’t know how to be. How am I supposed to be anything else but this when I live inside the spiralling absence of contentment?

I’m so tired, of pretending. Existing. Withdrawing. Pretending again. It goes around in a circle, I’m lost in its wake.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Looking For Headspace.

I can’t sleep, or read, or watch anything. I can't remember or forget. 

But I am alive and I don’t want to be.

I’m tired, exhausted. My eyes barely remain open for long enough to register my surroundings, yet I cannot force my body into a daydream.

I’m not myself, even to those that have seen nothing else.

I’m running out of things to do, struggling to find ways to cope. It comes in waves that surpass flesh, attack bones, wound organs.  

I’m sick of having to filter every thought because of the consequences. Bottling everything up is how I got here.

I just want my thoughts to have a voice, so I can read them on the screen and recognise them as my own. So I can feel connected to something, so I can feel connected to myself.

Vacant, staring blankly at things, objects, walls. Nothing means anything, nothing matters. They keep saying ‘it’s only up from here.

But madam, my dear, my darling, when you’re trapped in an abyss, tell me where else there is left to go. 

Tell me.

Please tell me.

Thursday, 11 June 2015

Don't Put Dirt On My Grave Just Yet.

Today, I stood in the kitchen with a box full of grapes. I carefully pulled each grape off the stem and placed them into a bowl. This gave me something to focus on, it provided me with a purpose, it extracted all of my emotions from my veins until I felt whole.

This, itself, demonstrates our willingness to find anything to grasp in the midst of our anguish.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Stars Stitch Routes For The Dying Sun.

I don't talk through my issues because I kind of don't know what they are.

Medication numbs everything.

I can’t write and therefore I cannot express myself. I don’t know how I feel about anything because I can’t access my thoughts. I can’t see them in a tangible form, so I don’t know what they are. I’ve lost my essence. I don't know who I want to be. I've lost my creativity and therefore I've lost myself.

And thus I am trapped inside myself.

Sometimes it’s like my brain has been dropped back into my body and I can hear the faint reverberation of my heartbeat. But then there’s so much to filter through, it’s almost a race against the blood in my veins until everything shuts down again. Everyday is a mental war. It's exhausting. Frustrating. Draining. And then frustrating all over again.

I don't know where I'm at with religion and spirituality. People always say that religion gives them direction, but mine made me feel anxious, terrified. It just instilled my veins with more questions, more compulsions. Why was my life predestined into sadness? Was I even an entity before this?

I can't do ordinary things like read books or concentrate on TV shows. I can't remember anything. I’m not even present in my body most days. Everything takes ten times as long, I have to mentally prepare myself to breathe. I've been trying to write this blog post for an entire week and I've only just managed to give it some life.

My mind ricochets all over the spectrum. It makes existing quite difficult. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Heartlines On Your Hand.

Humans are conditioned to focus on the future, to look forward, to always keep moving. At primary school, we are prepared for secondary school, college, and university. Then our careers, marriage, children. Even death. Our lives are all about envisioning a future, but how present are we right now? This is our life, this moment, this second, this breath.

There is substance in everything; there is hope and reason and truth and depth. Stopping to perceive things for what they really are allows us to comprehend their dimension and the way they contribute to the many facets of our living. We need to understand different species and their ways of existing, recognise cultures and their inherent customs, and the way their languages echo against war-torn walls. As we look forward, we fail to see the silhouettes of our own footprints. We cannot see the movement of our feet; we cannot recognise the distance that we are walking, we cannot comprehend the transient nature of the ground that sustains us.

We’re absent from the moments that we exist in. We are taught that life is a journey, but we don’t stop to breathe in everything that is happening in this present moment. What are our lives if not lived, enjoyed, indulged?

Stop. Stop right now. Take a breath. Feel the rhythm of your heartbeat. Watch the movement of your chest. It’s happening, it’s happening right now.

'Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land. There is no other life but this.'

— Walden by Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

“You don’t ask people with knives in their stomachs what would make them happy; happiness is no longer the point. It’s all about survival; it’s all about whether you pull the knife out and bleed to death or keep it in…”

— Nick Hornby

Sunday, 31 May 2015

Playing The Depression Game.

I needed to write because my head feels full and there’s no way to empty it or access my thoughts. I don’t know what I’m really thinking until I read my own words; they give me the best access to myself. Although my posts seem raw and honest, please note that they are still a condensed and filtered version of what goes on inside my head.

I feel exhausted. I think I’m starting to run out of mental and physical capacity. Some days, the depression is overwhelming and takes over my limbs until they refuse to co-operate. My hands just stop following the commands of my brain. The only way through is to surrender, to permit the depression to drain me of substance, to allow it to take its predestined path. After all, there is nowhere left to go from the abyss. Everything rises eventually, or so they say.

I’ve become so good at blocking everything out but I think my medication has been masking a lot of anger. I’m so sick of psychiatrists and doctors and medications and trying to be ‘fixed.’ I just want to be able to wake up tomorrow and not have to fight my own mind and nervous system.
It seems like I only have two options; to live with wanting to die or live with feeling nothing at all. The medication replaces sadness with deadness; it extracts any substance from life.

Depression is a form of paralysis. My head feels like it’s in a permanent state of being too full. Sometimes it seems like my life has suddenly snapped back into focus and I’m not really sure how I reached my house. It’s difficult to think, to derive ideas, to be creative; sometimes there’s nothing inside. It slows down the process between the mind and the tongue. I struggle to construct sentences, to speak coherently, to share or communicate my thoughts. Sometimes I say words back to front or have to pause to rearrange them in my head, to say something differently. Concentration and focus are also non-existent. I zoom in and out of life. Everything is overwhelming, even the sound of my own heart beating.

I pretend, and I try, because it’s the only way that I’ve taught myself to get by. Watch me smile, and then watch it fall. That’s where the truth is, in between that moment. I don’t want sympathy or people asking if I’m okay so I just get on with it because what else is there to do? If you watch closely, you’ll be able to analyse my speech and find that my facial expressions communicate my thoughts quicker than my mouth does. Or notice when I breathe heavily in an attempt to calm down my body. Or when I leave the room for a few minutes to gather myself. You’ll see when I begin organising or clearing things away to relax my mind. You’ll see when I suddenly put in my headphones when the room goes quiet in an attempt to silence my thoughts. You’ll look and see that I avoid eye contact because more than a glance at my eyes will give away my secret. Once you provide these things with a backdrop, they all start to make sense.

On the rare occasions that I discuss my depression in person, I generally have a way of making the situation/my feelings sound amusing. Most people don’t know how to react, so I try to save them from this by giving them a reason to laugh. That’s my problem, I’m always thinking about how it affects everyone else, but in doing so, I’ve just stopped talking about it. I’ve stopped giving it a voice, and it’s almost like I’m no longer acknowledging it as its own entity. This seems to be magnifying it. There are days where it controls my body. Sometimes I can’t even distinguish the difference between the depression and myself. They’ve been intertwined for as long as I can remember.

I’m trying, god that’s all I do. My existence has to count for something.

Even The Young Ones Become Irrelevant.

'How can she describe emptiness? Acres of vacancy, which she filled with whatever she could, with knowledge, with dates and facts, more and more of them, pouring them into her head to silence the echoes.'

Margaret Atwood, The Robber Bride.

'They call me observant. That’s not particularly true. People are so easy to read - we bleed emotions even in the way we drink our coffee. No one seems to notice though. They’re all too busy drinking their own damn coffee.'


'No one is finally dead until the ripples they cause in the world die away—until the clock he wound up winds down, until the wine she made has finished its ferment, until the crop they planted is harvested. The span of someone’s life, they say, is only the core of their actual existence.'

Terry Pratchett, Reaper Man.

'You must be ready to burn yourself in your own flame. How could you become new if you haven’t first become ashes?'

Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra.

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Chasing Our Own Shadows.

It’s so easy to write down our fears and recognise how irrational they are. It’s easy to take a pen and draw a line through them, to show that we are in control of our own movements. But then comes the more difficult part of recognising our own capacity, and then coherently, the willingness to feed its digression.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Beats Like a Drum To The Same Rhythm.

How often do you feel like the world has left you behind?

Everything is moving, changing, progressing, developing. Nothing is the same as it was the day before, and yet the minute details of our lives make us feel like everything is stationary, static, immobile.

But we grow, we change, we adapt, we are reactive. It’s interesting to stop and perceive our own evolution whilst trapped in this sense of fabricated stillness. It’s almost like standing in the ocean, watching the current and not realising that your own body is moving along with it.

We have more than a ‘default’ setting. We acclimatise. We are several different people, we can travel through our own spectrum on a daily basis.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

The Devil Took Your Memory.

Standing in front of a corpse, eyes frozen; closed. 

My family, my blood. 

Cold suffocating air.

Closing the coffin; weight of carved wood, fingertips ache. 

Where are my emotions? Where are my insides? Can she sense the heartbreak that I want my bones to feel?

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Sweet Tea & God's Graces.

Some miscellaneous tweets from my drafts:

Writers emulate what they have read, language is regurgitated and is a translation of itself.

Sometimes we have to cut off our own limbs to survive.

She wondered what sadness felt like as she stood on the peak of the mountain, tied with silk strings of euphoria.

Whenever I think I'm starting to feel better, it's like my own organs conspire with gravity to bury me alive.

The veins on my shoulders look like faded tattoos of the globe.

You've got to learn the rhythm of your own heartbeat.

And once we drank Skinny Water and talked about our dreams.

I can hear the angels whispering in my dreams; they tell me to keep going.

You're seeing the shadow, not the thing that creates it.

Writing is a source of sustenance (people that don't handwrite aren't real writers).

Books are just portals to other worlds.

I think we spend too much time trying to align ourselves with how we should feel in a situation as opposed to how we actually feel.

And then there's the heartburn. It feels like Mordor inside my chest.

We write each other into the people we want them to be.

I think we're all lost; some just hold up maps as pretence (they don't really know where they're going).

I paid for What'sapp for the next 5 years, I think that's what they meant when they said 'plan your future.'

And we were all just afraid of showing others that we were human.

I can't help but wonder whether we're born with voids inside us, whether we just become more aware of it as we age.

I think our souls change colour.

It's strange that we offer people balloons, when really they're just bags full of our breath. 

And they kept reiterating that pain was just sin leaving the body.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

In The Edges of Your Spine.

I miss handwriting; I miss the way the mind pulsates against skin, pen guided by the movement of the hand. Words flowing; secrets already preserved.

I don’t acknowledge or talk about my pain. The suffering is intrinsic; rooted in my veins. I forget that it isn’t normal to feel like this.

There are so many things that I can’t talk about, memories, experiences, mistakes that are repressed in the storage vault that is my body. I am trapped inside them and so coherently I am trapped inside myself. Sometimes I touch things, just so I know that they are there, that I am there, that I am here, that I still exist.

Sometimes my body refuses to register sound. I see lips moving and stare blankly at animated gestures inside my brain. My own narrative is so loud; I can’t absorb anyone else’s. Sometimes I can’t even hear myself. Everything is muffled, with memories, miscellaneous details, and voices of people I don’t think about anymore.

It comes in waves. The difficult part is trying to look beyond the darkness to find my own light. It’s almost like acknowledging a moment of happiness pushes it out of this present moment.

I always thought that strength was the absence of pain, but it isn’t, it’s the acceptance and willingness to power through it. What other choice do I have?

It’s sad that we rush to support the terminally ill but abandon those that are trapped inside their own skulls.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Living a Double Life.

In my post about Serial, I mentioned that most people of South Asian descent can relate to living a dual life. We know how to be two different people. We live the life that we want, along with the life that our parents want for us. We become masters of pretence. We know how to cover our tracks and we do so until our two worlds collide.

I have written a lot about my alienation from my Pakistani heritage, but Serial pushed me to think about the kind of person that our culture wants us to be.

Our parents and grandparents were raised in an environment where a woman was unable to leave the house until a male was present. They are now living in a Western country, conveying these same customs to their children. But how do they prevent their children from succumbing to the customs of the space that they are now living in?

There are two conflicting cultures; our lives are battles between them. One culture teaches us to be open and the other silences our pain. One shelters us from existence and the other overexposes us to its reality. We inherently gravitate towards the one that is unfamiliar to us, and thus we end up living two lives.

I guess what I am saying is that we are a part of two cultures that cannot co-exist. This drives us to be two different people. We come from a community that forces us to hide fragments of ourselves to protect the honour of our family. We are not allowed to reach the full capacity of who we are because there is already a predetermined path that is paved for us. We repress everything, we internalise everything. Even the sound of our own heartbeat is a secret.

When we eventually discover a new way of living, it realigns everything that we once knew. It’s almost like when you’ve been staring at the same picture for years and you suddenly come to realise that there is a shadow in the background. There is something that you didn’t see before. There is a new perspective, which changes the entire meaning of the photograph. There is a different way to live.

We want to live our own lives; we want to explore our own avenues. But when our parents want something else entirely, we become another person in the dark. We exist coherently in one form, recognising each other, a part of two worlds but always guarded. It is an intrinsic part of our existence.

In the end, I think that the culture that corresponds with who you want to be is going to take precedence. 

Sunday, 29 March 2015

And Then, Just Like Everything, It's Gone.

There are profound moments when I feel alive. I feel open, I feel everything.

This is when I am the closest to myself.

I am inspired, 
motivated, I am determined, ambitious, I am hopeful.

I am Qurratulain. Driven. Passionate. I can feel my breath, hear my thoughts, I can feel the command of my own brain.

My limbs are in my control. I hear God. I hear the angels on my shoulders singing words of grandeur.

Everything is right.

My body is aligned with my mind. My organs are co-operating. I can hear the sound of my heart beating, feel memories at the surface. I hear myself.

I create. I am.

And then, just like everything, it's gone.

Sentimental Slaves on Broken Knees.

I'm so sick of hearing my own narrative.

I feel like my soul is treating my bloodstream like an empty hallway, using the echo as a means of strength.

My own voice travels through the centre, moving organs, disorienting self.

My body is so exhausted from this perpetual self-exorcism.

Sad, Beautiful, Tragic.

Recognising something makes it real. It forces you to acknowledge and find a means of coping. Like looking in a mirror, where you see the reflection but acknowledge that you are in control of the visible movements.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Serial; A True Story.

I’ve been listening to a podcast called Serial recently. It may sound familiar, because about a month ago, it was all anyone could talk about. Having never really been a fan of podcasts, I deemed this another social media trend. However, I finally gave in and listened to the podcast and now it is all I can think about.

Serial isn’t an ordinary podcast. It is a real story. A true crime.  Over the course of twelve episodes, with each one varying in length, each episode looks at a different facet of a murder case. The podcast is hosted by Sarah Koenig and her method of story-telling captivates all of your attention.

Serial looks at a murder that was committed in 1999 in Baltimore County, Maryland. Hae Min Lee was strangled to death, and shortly after, her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to lifetime imprisonment. The state’s case against Adnan was mainly based on the account of a witness that claimed to help Adnan bury the body. This is where it gets interesting; Adnan denies everything and continues to declare that he had absolutely nothing to do with the murder.

Sarah Koenig looks at the case, through boxes of evidence, interviews with people in Adnan’s life, through letters and even conversations with Adnan himself. She allows you to live inside her mind, doubting Adnan, believing him, and then doubting him again.

The thing that is so intriguing about this case is the fact that Adnan Syed is a Pakistani Muslim boy. He lived a double-life as most South-Asian children do. He was living in a Western country with cultural expectations from another. Regardless of upbringing, teenagers will be teenagers and Adnan was no different. This allows everyone to relate to him. He was a boy that was deceiving his parents. It could have been any one of us, and yet the state used this deceit as his ‘motive.’ He supposedly killed Hae because she had caused him to “stray” from his religion. Having said that, his behaviour before and after his relationship with Hae did not change at all. He continued to smoke marijuana, party and everything else that a teenager does. He did not have a motive.

I have not been able to stop thinking about him since I began listening to the podcast. About the dreams he lost, about the time that he will not be able to re-live. With each episode, I feel certain of his innocence and the weakened case. He is a victim of prejudice, and hearing his own voice adds a whole new dimension to the story.

It’s difficult to listen to the podcast and remember that it is not a television show, they have not caught the real killer, good has not taken precedence. You have to constantly remind yourself that this is real, and that’s when it really pierces your soul. Knowing that Adnan is still in jail, that it has been 15 years and he is still away from his family, his friends. His entire life has been taken from him. Although he has now been granted an appeal for his conviction, he is still being imprisoned. I keep wondering whether he can hear the whisper of a thousand voices praying for him to be released.

You can listen to the podcast here: 

I promise that after the first 5 minutes, you will not be able to think of anything else. 

And We Only Steal Souls On Friday's.

Our own narratives cannot be trusted, they are most often obscured by self-interest.

We remember events the way that we want to, to work in our favour, to give us something to experience a sense of nostalgia for. Our memories didn’t transpire in the way that we see them now. The person’s scent didn’t enrich the situation; neither did their rhythmic attempt at tapping their fingers against the table. The humming to fill an awkward silence was not poetic. The air was not filled with melancholy.

Our minds rearrange memories to make us nostalgic for moments that didn’t mean anything. It’s almost like memories marinate in our mind for so long that they become something else entirely.

We are responsible for the facets that we choose to remember. We are responsible for forming our own identity and although our own narratives are trusted as an account of our time, they are frail. 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Count The Hours, Darling.

We have the ability to wake up one day and change our minds about everything. That's what makes humans so unreliable, our frailty.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

3 Apps To Change Your Life.

Throughout this digital era, I am always terrified that I will forget how to physically write or hold a pen. I handwrite as much as possible, whether this is by making daily to-do lists or taking notes in meetings. Having said that, there are some phone applications that I use on a daily basis that I want to recommend.

Wunderlist – This is an app that allows you to make to do lists. It has a nice interface and is simple to navigate. I also very much enjoy the satisfying sound it makes when you check a box on your to-do list. Wunderlist allows you to sync your lists so you can access them from your desktop or tablet, and it is genuinely just a nice way of making lists. I tend to use it for shopping lists or for reminding myself of something that I need to do. There are lots of options available such as being able to attach files to items on the list and setting reminders.  

Evernote – This is a note-taking app which is where my blog posts are given life. I use Evernote to write down thoughts I have during the day that I think may eventually be worthy of being developed into a blog post. Sometimes I may be waiting in line and will remember or witness something that I want to later acknowledge. This app allows me to quickly note the thought down and sync it to my laptop. It sits on the home screen of my phone and is certainly one of my most used. 

Pocket – This app is a bookmarking tool that will retain websites for you. I often see articles that I immediately want to read but have no time to do so. I add these to my ‘Pocket’ and can later access them either on my desktop or phone. You can even install a Chrome extension which will allow you to add to your pocket whilst browsing on your desktop. It’s very useful and I now use it as a means of saving things that I want to read over and over.

This is all for today. If you have any app recommendations, please leave them in the comments.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

3 Misconceptions About Having Dyed Hair.

If you know me in person or follow me on any of my social media platforms, the first thing that you will notice is that I have brightly coloured hair. I am renowned for my ever-changing mane and sometimes faced with negativity because of this. There are a lot of misconceptions about having dyed hair and I wanted to address these:

1. If you have bright hair, it means you are outgoing.
I understand why having bright hair makes it appear that one is a confident person, but there is a difference between feeling confident about oneself and being outgoing. Although I may be daring enough to opt for bright colours, it doesn’t change the fact that I am a very quiet person. I still feel intimidated or shy. I still withdraw myself. I still get nervous and anxious; my hair colour has no effect on the way that I interact with people.

2. Dyeing your hair damages it.
Adding unnatural chemicals to your hair isn’t the best source of nourishment for it. However, it doesn’t mean that it will cause any damage. Using a box dye, and subjecting your hair to several rounds of bleach are on two different sides of the spectrum. Whilst the latter is going to strip your hair of nutrients, the former isn’t going to harm it at all. My mother is the perfect example. She has been dyeing her hair (and is still doing so) for 20 years and alhamdulillah, she has the healthiest hair that I’ve ever seen. Adding bleach to your hair is completely different; it requires more maintenance because it is actually removing the pigment. So if you avoid using bleach, your hair is going to be fine.

 3. You won’t get a job with bright hair.
I have been to several interviews with different hair colours and it has never been an issue. In fact, during the last interview for my current job, my hair was purple. Hair colour doesn't affect your ability to work, and if an employer can't see past that, it isn't something that you should have to change. For me personally, my hair colour is a demonstration of my creativity, it is a form of expression. It has never hindered my employment.

Remember that bright hair is temporary; it can be dyed over at any given time. It doesn’t change anything about a person or their levels of confidence. I dye my hair because of the way it makes me feel. It gives me something to be excited about; it’s a quick way of modifying my appearance. It’s not causing any harm to anyone, so let me have it.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Insomniac's Lullaby.

I’m trying to be more present in my moments. 

I’m trying to pull my ligaments out of different time periods. 

I’m trying to coalesce my organs. 

I’m trying to unite my mind and tongue. 

I’m trying to remember what it was like to exist. 

I’m trying to be present in my own body.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

14 Facts About Me.

I love reading random facts about people. It’s the quirky things that make us human and I find it fascinating. I thought I would compile my own list of things that you may not know about me.

  1. I still cut my sandwiches into four small squares like I did at primary school.
  2. I add cinnamon to my cappuccinos instead of chocolate.
  3. The last time I went on a plane was in 2005 and the insane turbulence was traumatic enough for me to never want to fly again.
  4. I don’t like when my food touches.
  5. I keep a spare set of socks beneath my pillow in case I get cold at night.
  6. I paint my nails every Sunday.
  7. If I know I’m not going out in the evening, I put on my PJs as soon as I get home from work.
  8. I can read Arabic but can’t understand it.
  9. I like to eat in silence.
  10. When people invite me to their house, the first question that I ask is whether they own any cats.
  11. I have the handwriting of an 8-year-old boy.
  12. I’m not a big jewellery wearer.
  13. If my life were made into a movie, I would ask for Rashida Jones to play me.
  14. I secretly dream of becoming a coffee barista.      

Saturday, 24 January 2015

The Death of Someone We Did Not Know.

When a celebrity passes away, it dominates both the media and our timelines. Everybody wants to share their experience and influence of the deceased. They all want to feel like they were a part of something, they want to connect, to belong. I generally refrain from joining in with this pandemonium because I always believe that you don’t have to announce something for it to be real. The deceased have left their mark, but they are no longer here to defend their own memory.

The death of celebrities is an odd thing, they are people that we did not know, and yet we cannot help but feel a sense of sadness upon hearing of their passing. It is a sign of the intrinsic emotion that connects us, the unity of feeling sadness for a stranger. One of the most prominent occasions of when I experienced the intensity of this was upon the death of Princess Diana. I was 7 years old and I remember watching the news coverage from morning until night. I watched them take the coffin on the television and it was my first real experience of death. After this, the next real celebrity death was that of Michael Jackson.

His voice had filled our house since childhood and for me, his eccentricity was always intriguing. He was just a young man, trapped inside his own fame. His death upset me, and I recently watched a documentary regarding his autopsy and it felt as if it was someone that I personally knew. We feel the pain of strangers, because we have an intrinsic connection to all humans.

Upon awakening, my father notified me that Robin Williams had died. It felt like another celebrity death caused by drugs, but I then heard the words ‘depression’ and ‘suicide’ and they caught my attention. For the rest of the day, I listened to people talk about depression with ignorance. But all I could think of in my head was that a man had killed himself, a man had been driven to death by his own mind. People die everyday and we have become immune to it. Hearing about death no longer breaks us, and it was only the mention of suicide that made the news, not the cause of his depression.

However for a brief period, his death brought depression to the surface of our minds, and it felt like an opportunity to create awareness. It was almost like this was the moment that people would come to realise and accept the severity of mental illness. There was an opportunity of hope, and everyone suffering felt for the brevity of a moment, that their voices would be heard.

And then it passed.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

The De-Hijabing Experience.

Before I begin with this post, I would like to clarify that this is my personal journey and I am in no way advocating that you should follow my lead. You can read my previous two posts about this before you proceed: I Cover Thee and Love Thy Neighbour.

Removing one’s hijab is perceived as a form of blasphemy within the Muslim community, and yet it is becoming more common. One only has to look around to identify what the driving force is. Religion is being moulded into a means of suffocating individuals. This is not what Islam is about. There are too many people critiquing and dictating, repressing others with rules and regulations that have no premise in Islam. We’re constantly being told about the things that we shouldn’t be doing, shouldn’t be eating, shouldn’t be saying. That’s where the problem lies. We don’t know what we should be doing. We’re so focused on the haram that we forget the halal. Not everything is forbidden in Islam, we are allowed to breathe and express ourselves; we are allowed to live.

Sometimes I would draft tweets or blog posts and then delete them because I felt that they would not be appropriate for a Muslim to say. In real life situations, I often found myself holding back due to a fear of not appearing ‘modest’ enough. My outward appearance became controlled. My online persona was devoted and pure, even when I was not. Everything was guarded. People would send me messages telling me that I had inspired them to be better, that I had helped them. But beneath that cloth, I was miserable.

There is only so much that the human body can endure. When I finally came to remove my hijab, it was as if this whole fa├žade was over, I was able to breathe again. I was allowed to be myself again. I regained my confidence, and this is why everything changed for me when I removed the hijab. I remembered who I was, who I wanted to be. 

When I finally plucked up the courage to stop covering, there were three reactions:

  1. You’re not thinking straight.
  2. It’s completely up to you, whatever you feel is right.”
  3. You’re an idiot. I no longer want to be friends with you.”
These were all from Muslims. It was disgraceful to see just how many people placed the weight of our friendship on the fact that I covered my hair. Social media was one of the worst culprits of this; I received a lot of negativity from people that I did not even know. But social media itself has its own criteria and rules.  Everything is split into the category of ‘hijabi’ and ‘non-hijabi’ and anything that the former does is perceived as a million times worse because she is tarnishing the name of Islam. Ironically, the only people that will look twice at the ‘hijabi’ are fellow Muslims. Nobody else cares what a ‘hijabi’ is doing, and that speaks volumes. Everyone is the ‘haram police’ but nobody can see their own flesh burning from sin.

I have not lost my faith, I have just stopped pretending. I still dyed my hair whilst wearing the hijab, I still sinned. The only thing that has changed is the fact that I don't need to hide who I am anymore. I now do things out of choice rather compulsion. Looking at myself in the mirror without the hijab made me feel as if I was looking at an old photograph of myself. It was almost as if I had taken a sip of nostalgia from a glass bottle and it was slowly seeping back into my system. Everything was back in focus; and there is nothing more empowering than feeling like yourself.

Your outward behaviour can speak magnitudes, but your commitment to God is within you, and there is no way that anybody else can measure that. We place too much focus on one’s level of piety instead of our own.

My openness is what’s going to be my voice when I’m no longer able to speak. 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

How I Got Into Writing.

People always ask when I first started writing and how I was able to reach the stage of feeling comfortable enough to share my work with others. This is an overview of my writing journey and where it all began.

My fascination with words began at a very young age. My first real memory of this is being in Year 2 (second grade) at school and having weekly spelling tests. I was always infatuated with words, writing them, spelling them correctly, using them in sentences, moving them around to create new meanings. I was fixated by the possibility of them, and the ability to use them to make anything happen. It was a way of playing God, of being in control. As a child, this was definitive.

My father always surrounded me with text and encouraged me to read.  I remember collecting Disney books and reading stories to myself in the dark. I often felt distant from people, so reading always gave me something to connect to. It gave me something to live for.

Although my handwriting was terrible, I enjoyed filling pages with fabricated events and creating my own space. I had something to call my own, I had a way to feel. My father then bought me a computer and I began to spend all of my time typing away stories. This is when I was the most content, when I was making things happen inside my own head, when my fingertips took control and wrote lines for me. Writing was a form of escapism. It was a means of connecting. Sometimes I would just sit and think about all of the stories that I could write and excite myself into a daydream. Sometimes I would pretend to sleep, just so I could dream up scenarios and exist in another dimension. In year 5, I showed my teacher a story that I had written. She was amazed and asked for it to be hung on the wall outside the school reception. I think that was the first recognition of my talent. That’s when it became real.

When I entered secondary school, I found myself being consumed by a story that I was writing. I committed myself to it entirely, creating characters, feeding them until they developed into a fragment of their own dreams. I wrote for hours, for days; writing was my way of existing. It was all that I ever wanted to do. The characters became extensions of my personality and this new world became my sanctuary. However education inevitably took over and caused me to stop writing the 1,804 page story that I had compiled.

At the age of 15, I went through a difficult period of my life, and without realising, I found myself writing thoughts into a notebook and turning them into poetry. I remember showing my writing to a friend and him saying that he could feel the entirety of sorrow through my words. I realised that I could use writing to heal myself; it became a form of therapy.

During this stage, I was keeping an MSN blog. Although the posts were brief, I sometimes wrote about my day or how I was feeling. I then migrated to MySpace which is where the real exploration began, I began to experiment with different types of writing. Eventually there were a lot of strangers leaving comments, telling me that my writing was poetic and beautiful. I was surprised; I didn’t think anyone would read what I had to say. But I began to find my voice. When MySpace began to lose its appeal, I moved over to Blogger and started posting creative pieces. I dabbled in fashion, skincare but this; my own recollections began to overrule everything else. I wanted to write for the sake of my own self, to preserve who I was in a world that continued to change me.

When it came to the process of applying for university, the only thing that had always been a constant was writing. I made the decision to pursue this at university. A teacher read my poetry and told me that I was gifted. She pushed me to apply for writing courses. However during an interview for a Creative Writing course, the interviewer told me that my writing wasn’t good enough and that I should pursue something else. I was heartbroken and discouraged. I applied to study Journalism as a last resort, but decided during the interview that it wasn’t the type of writing that I wanted to partake in. I was able to transfer my choice to an English course which included creative writing elements.

By this stage, the only people reading my writing were complete strangers across the globe. I never spoke about my blog with anyone from my real life, and it was still very much a secret. I was posting regularly but I was still finding my way, still attempting to decipher the type of writing that I wanted to pursue. When I began my university course, we were asked to write a poem about our bedroom and share it with others. When it came to sharing, I can wholeheartedly say that it was one of the most terrifying moments of my life.

There are two types of writing; one that is like pouring your blood into words, and the other like shedding dead skin cells. For me, writing is the former, and my words are a fragment of me. I grow inside them, and so to critique my writing would be a critique of my emotions, of my thoughts, of myself. I spent years writing and not showing anyone, so when I passed my poem along to my peers, I was petrified.

When other people began to read their poems, I realised that nobody wrote like me, nobody carried the vein of darkness through their writing. This made me think that my work wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t good enough. However my lecturer read the poem and sent it back with the words “can I publish?” She loved it and wanted to use it for the university newspaper. After that, several of my pieces were published in the university newspaper and it slowly began to make me realise that this was something that I could do. I didn’t know what I wanted a career in, all I knew was that I wanted to write, I needed to write. When I graduated, I decided to do a Masters in Creative Writing. I was accepted without an interview; they had read my work and decided that I was good enough. This is where things began to change.

I was surrounded by some of the most talented writers; their words blew my mind and left me entirely astounded. I was not good enough; I was not in the same league as these people but they inspired me to write differently, to think differently. I began to post more creative pieces on this blog as a means of exploration. My Masters introduced me to a whole new genre of writing and this is where I was introduced to Frederico Garcia Lorca. His writing wholeheartedly revolutionised my entire world. It was dark, painful and poetic. It was then that I truly realised that my writing did not need to conform, that my style was an individual trait and that it was okay to write the way that I did. After that, I began to search for other writers. I came across Pablo Neruda and Virginia Woolf; these writers demonstrated that I could use my raw feelings and pour them into ink. Finally, I delved into the world of Sylvia Plath and my world just hasn’t been the same since. This period of my life was truly life-changing. It reaffirmed everything that I had ever known and I think I finally came to truly accept who I was, and what I wanted to do. This is when I began to believe in myself and my work.

I then went on to start my own proofreading company which further exposed me to work that I would have never looked at. I then began copywriting, I was being paid to write on behalf of companies and it demonstrated just how far I had come.

I’m good at writing, and I’ve never ever spoken those words or written them until having constructed this sentence. But I am good at it, and it has taken me a long time to accept that. I write for the sake of my own self, I write to free my mind, I write to breathe, to live, to exist, to preserve moments and thoughts. But words are words and regardless of what I write, there is something of me left in the spaces between them. 

Friday, 26 December 2014

The Red Notebook.

I picked up The Red Notebook by Paul Auster in a charity shop because the Literary Review said that it ‘bears testimony to Auster’s sense of the metaphysical elegance of life and art.’ This was enough for me. I bought the book and completed it within a few hours. I found myself wanting to go back to re-read passages; a sign that this was going to be a favourite. My version includes short essays and an interview with Paul Auster which I would wholeheartedly recommend reading.

Here are a few short extracts from the book:

“What is so startling to me, is that you don’t begin to understand your connection to others until you are alone. And the more intensely you are alone, the more deeply you plunge into a state of solitude, the more deeply you feel that connection. It isn’t possible for a person to isolate himself from other people. No matter how apart you might find yourself in a physical sense – whether you’ve been marooned on a desert island or locked up in solitary confinement – you discover that you are inhabited by others. Your language, your memories, even your sense of isolation – every thought in your head has been born from your connection with others.”

“For here we find a language of immediate contact, a syntax of abrupt, lighting shifts that still manages to maintain a sense, and in their brevity, the sparse presence of their words, we are given a rare and early example of isolated words able to span the enormous mental spaces that lie between them – as if intelligible links could be created by the brute force of each word or phrase, so densely changed that these tiny particles of language could somehow leap out of themselves and catch hold of the succeeding cliff-edge of thought.”

“Becoming a parent connects you to a world beyond yourself, to the continuum of generations, to the inevitability of your own death. You understand that you exist in time, and after that you can no longer look at yourself in the same way.”

“The greatest influence on my work has been fairy tales, the oral tradition of storytelling. The Brothers Grimm, the Thousand and One Nights – the kinds of stories you read out loud to children. These are bare-bones narratives, narratives largely devoid of details, yet enormous amounts of information are communicated in a very short space, with very few words. What fairy tales prove, I think, is that it’s the reader – or the listener – who actually tells the story to himself. The text is no more than a springboard for the imagination. ‘Once upon a time there was a girl who lived with her mother in a house at the edge of a large wood.’ You don’t know what the girl looks like; you don’t know what colour the house is, you know next to nothing. But the mind won’t allow these things to remain blank; it fills in the details itself, it creates images based on its own memories and experiences – which is why these stories resonate so deeply inside us. The listener becomes an active participant in the story.”

“There’s a way in which a writer can do too much, over-whelming the reader with so many details that he no longer has any air to breathe. Think of a typical passage in a novel. A character walks into a room. As a writer, how much of that room do you want to talk about? The possibilities are infinite. You can give the colour of the curtains, the wallpaper pattern, the objects on the coffee table, the reflection of the light in the mirror. But how much of this is really necessary? Is the novelist’s job simply to reproduce physical sensations for their own sake? When I write, the story must be sacrificed to it. All the elegant passages, all the curious details, all the so-called beautiful writing – if they are not truly relevant to what I am trying to say, then they have to go. It’s all in the voice. You’re telling a story after all, and your job is to make people want to go on listening to your tale. The slightest distraction or wandering leads to boredom, and if there’s one thing we all hate in books, it’s losing interest, feeling bored, not caring about the next sentence. In the end, you don’t only write the book you need to write, but you write the books you would like to read yourself.”

Sunday, 21 December 2014

(You're Not The Only One).

A screenshot from my 2008 MySpace profile. Oh how things change, & then sometimes they don't.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

“True solitude is found in the wild places, where one is without human obligation. 
One’s inner voices become audible… In consequence, one responds more clearly to other lives.”
(Wendell Berry)

Friday, 5 December 2014

And In a Heartbeat, I Knew You.

Sometimes I look at the analytics of my blog and am astounded by diversity. There are people reading this from each end of the world. Reading my words, reading my thoughts. This. Here. Now. You’re sitting beneath the same sky but in a whole other continent. We’re separated by oceans but connected by words. This continues to bewilder me.

I want to learn more about you and your lives. I want to know what you do and who you aspire to be. This space should be interactive. Let us be united.

I came across this idea on another blog and thought it was wonderful. I have posted some questions which you can answer about yourself in the comments section. You can be as vague or as detailed as you like and you don’t have to answer them all.

Tell me who you are:
- What is your name?
- How old are you?
- Where do you live?
- What is your job?

What have you done this year that has made you proud?

Tell me what you dream about:
- What do you want to learn?
- What do you hope to achieve?
- Where do you want to go in life?

What is your definition of success?

Tell me what you think of this blog:
- How long have you been reading?
- What do you like and dislike?
- What do you want more or less of?
- Is there anything you want to ask?

What is one book everyone should read?

I look forward to reading and learning more about you.

Friday, 28 November 2014

10 Signs That You Are in a Toxic Relationship.

I recently watched a video about toxic relationships and how we are generally unaware that we are in one. I found my memories beginning to realign themselves with the points of this video which encouraged me to create a resource that could potentially help others.

Acceptance is always stated as the first step of dealing with problems. If any of these points resonate with you, it may be time to re-evaluate your relationships with the people in your lives.

If someone is:

1. Demanding all of your time. You should never be in a situation where you have to account for all of your time. If this person becomes angry because you have not replied to a text or responded to their phone call immediately, and you find yourself having to justify where you have been, there is a problem. You should also not be required to spend all of your conscious time with them.

2. Not allowing you to be your own person. Our hobbies and interests are what make us who we are. When these are taken away, we lose the entirety of who we are. If someone in your life is only allowing you to spend time doing things that they like, but preventing you from taking part in your own activities, something is wrong. Independence is what makes us stronger; having our own interests is what allows us to learn and grow as people. Giving up these things strip away layers of our flesh.

3. Constantly picking at things they don’t like about you. If someone is constantly pointing out things that they don’t like about you or telling you to change aspects of who you are, this is slowly going to seep into your head and mess with your own self-image. Think of it like your mind instructing your blood to stop circulating your body. Your blood will continue circulating because it is aware that this has only ever been its purpose, but it will eventually recognise the message from the mind and stop. Your body will slowly shut down and you won’t know who you are anymore. Remember that with persistence comes defeat. Relationships should be all about breeding positivity and while it is perfectly acceptable to joke about things, you should never be made to feel that you should change who you are. This is what destroys self-confidence.

4. Comparing you to others. If you are constantly being likened to others and told about the qualities that you are lacking, this is slowly going to eat away at your flesh. You are an individual with your own special qualities. A good person will always focus on your positive traits. They will never justify their actions by informing you that they just want you to be better, or that they are saying these things to help you, because malicious negativity is not permissible in any form.

5. Controlling who you speak to. If this person is preventing you from talking to people that they don’t like or forcing you to keep secrets from people, alarm bells should be going off inside your head. They should not be controlling who you can speak to or what you can tell people. If you are feeling restricted in any form, always question it. Always.

6. Requiring you to ask for permission to do things. If you feel like you must ask for permission before doing something, or even be told that you must ask, something is wrong. Remember that there is a difference between checking with a partner before making plans, and feeling like you can’t go out until you seek their permission. 

7. Being possessive. This one is probably the most common and whilst it is acceptable in smaller dosages, it should never feel suffocating. If someone believes that you belong to them, that all of your time and effort should be dedicated to them, this is unhealthy. They should not be requesting that you devote your entire life to them, they are not a deity.

Not allowing you to say or do things. If they are applying certain restrictions to your way of living, for example by preventing you from watching a television show or from eating something, you should be concerned. If you are afraid of saying certain things in fear of angering them, or because you have been told that you should not, again it is not a good sign. Any form of feeling controlled should be a warning. 

Stopping you from dressing the way you want. On the subject of control, they should not make you feel as if you cannot wear something. There is a difference in commenting about your skirt being short and informing you that they don’t want you to wear something. You as a woman should feel entitled to wear what you want. You shouldn't have to change your entire wardrobe for someone.

10. Making you feel guilty to get you to do something. This is one of the strongest forms of emotional blackmail; it preys on human vulnerability. We genuinely want other people to be happy, so when we do something wrong, we recognise that it has upset them and make an attempt to stop. Manipulative people use this to get what they want; they will guilt-trip you to achieve their goals, and you will play into their hands because you want to please them.

Humans like comfortable and familiar situations, sometimes long enough for them to become trapped in their own predicament. It's easy to stay in these relationships, to live in denial, but it's important that you recognise the unhealthy aspects and never validate other people’s actions as a means of acceptance. 

When you are in a relationship or friendship, you feel as if you owe the other person something. As if it’s your duty to stay and withstand the struggles. But it’s not. They are not your responsibility and whilst they will try everything they can to emotionally blackmail you into staying, you need to get yourself out for the sake of your own sanity and being.

Remember that all friendships and relationships in your life should encourage you to be better.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Magic, Madness, Heaven, Sin.

Most of my memories are repressed inside my veins; sometimes they come to the surface, affecting the functionality of my organs, coercing the mind to remember.

I think of cats strolling along hospital corridors in Pakistan, being terrified each time the doctor opened the door. I remember injections, the permanent headache, riding on the back of a motorbike at midnight through dim-lit streets and the calls of elderly gentlemen alone in the dark.

I remember climbing up steep steps, over stone walls into the seat of a hair stylist. I looked through her glass cabinet, the necklace from the Titanic sat inside a silver box. I remembered Leonardo, whether Rose could have saved him.

I remember the beaches, submersion into water until I forgot about existence. Thinking of Cat Stevens and his story of reasoning with God whilst being dragged by the current. It always made me go back, just in case.
I remember being sat under a tree eating pizza from cardboard boxes and making plans for the glorious summer. Smiles of strangers in the library, the familiarity of humour, Fantasmas.

I remember the green apple tree, being told not to eat the berries (suspected poison). The ginger cat in glasses, librarian losing her spectacles. The fox with no teeth, the large wooden gate shielding me from it all.

I remember the attic, the scent of books, holding the green bear (the safety, the home). I remember the bushes, the nettles. I can still feel my skin stinging, flesh against nature, burned, grazed. The lines against my tissue; patterns, drawing out veins.

I remember the rules, god so many rules.

I remember the barber shop, watching my grandfather cut the hair of gentlemen with smiles and ardour. His friend, the man that gave me a pound each time he visited. His piercing green eyes. Is he in heaven? (I hope so).

I remember the Wendy house, drawing floral curtains, the sound of the door bell, and the crack in the window looking out into the washing line.

I remember taking bites out of the sponge headboard, tongue against my grandmother’s velvet curtains. A half-eaten headboard later. Hospital. Doctors.

I remember the pond, the dead goldfish. Throwing it back into the canal as a means of resuscitation.

I remember driving cars with our fingers, lines in carpets as roads. Bunk beds, hanging blankets from the top, our own little world.

The marble slope in the hospital; I slipped. Awaking, hearing the stories of unnamed babies belonging to organs inside glass jars. The whispers of Pakistani doctors in corridors.

Hearing pour que tu m'aimes encore each time we travelled, Celine Dion singing me back into my childhood.

Sometimes I stop and the memories amalgamate into one. The unity of dreams and reality. (
I don’t know what’s real). 

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Blank Space.

(Source: here

I’ve mentioned this before but I have this thing about keyboards, some are allies of my fingertips making me feel like I can give my life to them. Others become contenders, starting a war with my fingers. It’s been months since my laptop died, but I’m still distraught over not being able to use the keyboard. There was something about the keys that made each word easier to write, each sentiment heightened and magnified. I’m currently using a laptop with a stiff keyboard, it doesn’t really feel like I'm tapping the keys at all. My fingers are struggling to adjust to it, to build a relationship of trust.

I wanted to write for the sake of writing.

I recently bumped into a few of my old lecturers and speaking to them about my progress made me realise just how far I’ve come. I now work alongside the photographer that once took my picture for the creative writing magazine I contributed to, when I attended the university. Today, I dressed up in a graduation gown and he took my picture again. It was odd, dreamlike. It amazes me how providence bought me back to a place that I promised never to return to. 

I’m currently listening to Taylor Swift’s new album and it’s motivating me to keep writing. Sometimes I rely on music to write; finding the right rhythm to tap the keys extracts soul onto screen. Sometimes I listen to a song that just makes me feel something; it realigns my organs, making me feel connected to myself again. Sometimes there’s just music that sounds like you’ve heard it before in a dream. Something that stirs your thoughts; creates meaning.

This post has no coherence and I think that’s okay. I need to stop editing, I need to write and let the words take their route, live their lives. I need to keep going.

I came to a realisation about myself earlier this week. When I make a decision to dedicate myself to something, I’m an ‘all or nothing’ person. I don’t believe in taking small steps and I think that’s where I’ve been going wrong all of my life. I immerse myself in things entirely instead of slowly changing things. It's too intense, and it fails.

I’ve been dyeing my hair again recently. I feel like each hair colour makes me a different person, but it's almost an act of desperation to remind me of who I am. This week alone I’ve gone from blonde, to purple, to orange. Tomorrow I will go back to red, because it will make me feel like myself again.
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