A Black Thumb.

I have a black thumb.

I remember ripe tomatoes, okra, and bitter melon taking over our backyard garden patch every summer. My Abbu would plant each seed with the kind of love a first-born child knows too well. He prayed over every seed, weeded without delay, and watched out for any intruders trying to weasel their way in. What started out as a hobby became a full-time job. I would see him setting up elaborate traps and coming home with child-safety gates to prevent the notorious deer from devouring his precious vegetation. Turns out child-safety gates are just as effective for tiny humans as they are for baby deer. He knew his plants and their temperaments better than I knew any phase of photosynthesis despite studying it for years. The best part was seeing his exuberance as he harvested two of the largest squash he found hiding behind deep bushes and bringing them to our local masjid for families to take home. Gardening was a joy to watch from afar, but I was never one to enjoy getting my hands in the dirt. Making mud pies was not a part of my childhood memory box as I was mostly raised in apartments with balconies, which my mother reserved for storing refrigerator essentials in the winter. I recall spending most of my downtime organizing stationery, writing in my closet, and trying to grow up as fast as possible.

I was sitting in my backyard overhearing my daughter playing in her mud kitchen last week when I asked her to bring me the green weeding tool my husband ordered from Amazon. I made it a personal goal to fill in my natural learning gaps through my daughter by repurposing an old IKEA table as her mud kitchen. She makes all sorts of pies and cupcakes and stews and perfumes with her friends and it brings me so much joy to see her doing what I missed out on. I took the weeder from her and stabbed the ground, lifting each weed until I heard the roots crack upwards, leaving me with unexpected satisfaction. I went on to weed out dozen and then a dozen more. “This feels good,” I thought to myself. Sure, I may not be able to sustain a tomato plant without frequent reminders about its finicky needs for regular water and sunlight. I may not even be able to keep a store-bought orchid alive for more than a week, but I can weed, and weed, and weed without complaint.

I’ve wondered for part of this year if I lean more towards pessimism. I know logically it’s better to always see the glass as half full but I somehow manage to notice areas for improvement as a first response, fuelled by my daydreams for how “things could be so much better”. I further developed this kind of thinking pattern as a social worker when I would hear story after story (at times more than 10 a day) about my clients’ deepest darkest struggles and traumatic life events. I looked for glimmers of hope in their storyline while honouring their very real and heavy hardships – the hardships they wished they could remove from their roots before they became overgrown weeds. Five years out from my work in the field and I too have weeds growing within my life, that in hindsight, I wish I tended to much sooner.

These two pots are my own glimmers of hope. I made the intention to take care of these babies and started out by picking up pots that spoke to me at the only dollar store open for business in my city. I got my hands in the dirt, made my du’as upon them as I would see my Abbu do, and let them soak in the sun. I am hoping writing about them will serve as a reminder to care for them again tomorrow and again the next day.

On NPD and how it shows up in families

I’ve always found Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD) to be one of the most fascinating disorders, especially how it plays out in family systems. I was digging through some of my old trainings from the DV work I did years ago and wanted to share some findings.

– In most families, people are viewed as individual people with unique traits, likes, dislikes, quirks, and habits. In families run by narcissists, children and anyone in the family system are viewed by their role. Only when they fulfill that role as is expected do they receive approval and love.

– The main purpose of everyone in the family system is to feed the narcissist’s need for adoration. This often leads to heightened levels of enmeshment and codependence in the family.

– Among siblings, each one also takes on a specific role. Because each child has experienced their own unique level of abuse at different ages, they each react differently as adults. You have the neutral child who will see the chaos and confusion but will choose to remain silent for fear of being further abused or shamed. They will pretend they don’t see what they see in order to play the role of “peacemaker.”

– The needy child will rely heavily on the parent who will further enable the dependency, continuing to feed the narcissists’ need for being adored. Whether based on real or manufactured needs, this creates a noticeable imbalance between siblings, causing jealousy and resentment.

– The flying monkey in a narcissistic family dynamic serves as the carrier pigeon. They report back everything they see among the siblings and stay loyal to the narcissistic parents even when it damages them well into adulthood.

– The scapegoat child will be the sounding board for most of the abuse as they will be seen as the one to blame for nearly any mishap in the family system. If they choose to be vocal about the toxicity within the family, they are berated, belittled, and love is withheld.

– Most people will view differences as just that – differences. But for narcissists, anyone being different from how they think or perceive the world will be viewed as an immediate threat. Conformity is rewarded and any other version of “being” is shamed. Children will often live alternate lives and show a certain face to parents who they know will disapprove of them if they are open about who they are. This creates a lack of safety for anyone in the system.

– Because the narcissist views their particular worldview as the gold standard, they consider themselves as the source of all that is good and correct. Anyone outside of themselves is not considered an authority on any matter. They view themselves as special and unique, which is used to support their sense of entitlement.

– This also leads to a pseudo-mutuality, where there is an appearance of closeness within the family, but when you look a bit closer, you see the manipulation and toxic patterns that are ingrained in how everyone relates to each other. You will often see unhealthy levels of hierarchy and titles used to promote the narcissists’ power structure.

– People with NPD are generally hyper-critical and cynical. Nothing will ever be good enough for them and they will avoid giving compliments or showing appreciation, curiosity or empathy towards others who are not like them.

– Narcissists within the larger family system may take ownership over an adult-childs’ personal space by coming over unannounced, inserting their opinions in order to get a reaction, excessive messaging, over-involvement, and overall neglect for boundaries (refer back to codependence and enmeshment, which leads to a shaky self-concept).

– When boundaries are being set, the narcissist will shun and shame. They may go to the extreme of cutting off relationships because boundaries feel like an affront to their sense of entitlement. This is because they have great difficulty accepting other perspectives, or validating another’s needs.

– Denial is a common tactic for narcissists such that they will deny any personal mistakes, become the victim if confronted, and invalidate any hardship. Their view of the world often falls within black and white thinking. Nuances are not considered.

– In most families, loved ones do things out of love but in these family systems, guilt-tripping is a common way to encourage an action. Unspoken norms are used as leverage for shaming and creating expectations without proper communication.

– They will feel threatened with any new change or shift and often respond in a disappointing way if a “big deal” is announced such as a move, a larger purchase, job, etc. They have a need for being the center of attention, even when it is not appropriate. This creates a lack of safety for those within the system to share their personal joys, knowing it can back-fire at any time.

– Add in unresolved traumas, patriarchy, misogyny, and other problematic world-views, and you have a serious set of problems that can impact a narcissists’ deen and dunya. The way to manage within such a system is to first seek Allahs’ help because He sees all, set boundaries, and be firm, neutral and kind.

Privilege.

I smell the soft ginger saffron scent wafting from my candle in a safe home, free of fear, while Palestinian children and families take cover under rubble, gasping for relief from toxic gas, wondering when the next missile will strike. Their homes stood standing just 8 days ago as they prayed in Masjid Al-Aqsa, on one of the holiest nights of Ramadan when the atrocities began (this year). Israel strong-arms and rains missiles on civilian homes in Gaza, year after year, killing none other than children and families, only for the worlds’ leaders to watch silently with zero moral grounding to call out wrong for wrong, because its not good for business, status, and politics. Egregious and shameless war crimes continue as I type this but I know I must write.

I was a senior in High School when Gaza was under attack in 2009. I remember sitting in my AP Government class, feeling the rage come over my face when my teacher asked us to write about the benefits of democracy and relate it to current events. His privilege, detachment, and utter lack of concern for the loss of Palestinian life was enraging but not surprising. He came over and noticed I wasn’t well and asked if I needed to see my counselor. I said no and explained what was upsetting me. He offered no consolation and instead, provided a nicely packaged neutral diplomatic response. I couldn’t believe we were expected to be neutral on a subject such as the Palestinian struggle in a class that touted its focus on human rights and Americas’ gift of democracy to the world. My anger was not packaged properly for him and therefore, it was dismissed. By the following week, it seemed as though I should have been able to do my assignment as expected since my trauma after seeing Palestinian children being shot at should have an expiration date.

While U.S. politicians on the left will gladly stand for dignity, equality, and all levels of racial justice and LGBTQ rights, they selectively remain callous and indifferent towards Palestinians (perhaps because every missile that strikes Palestinian women and children is made in the U.S., killing 64 children and 38 women in just the last week!). It feels cheap and performative based on wherever the money pours in from, as opposed to standing for justice and an honest stance for human rights. Yet again, I feel the deafening silence from high school friends, networks, and groups I am a part of who turn a blind eye to the Palestinian struggle for freedom because of gaslighting from years of inaccurate reporting on this topic. But I cannot neglect those who are now speaking up and choosing to be on the side of justice. I’ve personally reached out to bloggers, business owners, writers, and influencers I admire who have been vocal on their platforms to recognize and commend their solidarity.

I recently began a geography lesson with my 4 year old daughter by picking up several books with colourful maps and continent studies from our library. Not a single world atlas book I picked up had any image or reference to Makka or any of the Islamic Holy sites (I mean, we’re only 1.8 billion people and 24% of the world population). Needless to say, Palestine was also nowhere to be found. I immediately drafted messages to the publishers with serious concerns about their total neglect of the Muslim // Islamic narrative! This is how racism, ignorance, and a collective consciousness against an entire group of people begins to grow among children. When families pick up books and only see images that reflect their narrative, “the other” is subconsciously demoted as less than. And that’s why anyone who is BPOC has to do the exhaustive work of explaining their humanity and existence. Hats off to colonialism and imperialism, which Cathy Park Hong points out brilliantly in her book, Minor Feelings.

I took the good from the Atlas books and made a quick note in my planner to create my own map for my daughter. Even when I purchase geography books, I’ll be going in with a permanent marker to add in all the missing components that seem to be a deliberate removal of the Muslim story within books and media. I want her to see herself in books, which is not something I saw as a child. There were never any books about Muslims at the Scholastic book fair I’d go to in 2nd grade or any visits from Muslim authors or leaders.

When I was reading Jane Eyre last December, I wished within myself to be able to write a book one day with incredible prose, focus, and beauty. I quickly snapped out of the thought as I realized, “Oh wait, I’m brown and I have so many levels of explaining to do about my personhood and so much micro trauma to write about .. how could I possibly just write a story that isn’t related to minority topics!” This thought weighed on be me heavily and continues to push upon my shoulders. I wanted to sit down tonight to write just about my life, motherhood, marriage, nature, homeschooling, adventures but there are constant pain points as a brown person and a Muslim woman that require one to speak and write about identity, race, and painful struggles for existence for the Muslim community and communities of colour.

We don’t have the privilege to simply write.

At the same time, I pray that Allah (swa) sees me as someone who stood for justice at a time when the world was silent. I too have privileges that many around the world do not have, and I am waking up to the reality that my voice should be used to lift the curtain from oppression that is funded by my U.S. tax dollars. I will be questioned by Allah with how I used the privileges He blessed me with.

Writing about my own life can wait for just a while.

Palestinians leave a UN-run school on Friday where they took refuge during the Israeli attack on Gaza [Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]
Jerusalem's Al-Aqsa Mosque to reopen on Sunday for public | Times of India  Travel

With and without.

Not too long ago, I found myself walking through the isles at Michaels’ circling around the store looking for the woodburning tool I was eyeing for months. I picked it up with hesitation, questioning if I this would be just another tool collecting dust at the back of my craft closet after a few tries.

I put it back on the shelf and circled the store again to find myself right back at the same isle, but this time with a firm resolve to get said woodburning tool. I didn’t suddenly have the extra funds to get it, but rather, my gut was telling me this tool would help me create the art I’ve wanted to try my hand at, and that enough was worth it. And there went the best $26.70 I spent that month.

My daughter loves when I open a new package, especially when I remember to include a treat for her in my shopping trips. This time, she got a stamp to play with while I plugged in my new tool. I collected scraps of wood from our unfinished basement and itty-bitty keychains to practice woodburning (otherwise known as pyrography, which sounds way cooler). Instinctively, my first attempt led me to burning my daughters’ name into a slice of wood, just as the memory of her home-birth will always be burned in my heart and mind. I practiced pressing the tip with varying pressure until I got the curves and etching just right. The smell of burning wood made me feel warm even though the room was cold. There, in that space, I was the kind of Asma I love being. When I am with my creativity…

I am open.

I am trusting.

I let my intuition guide me.

I am generous and giving, as I think of ways to share my new art with those I love.

I see the good.

I see possibilities.

I struggle, go back, persist, pour myself in, and try again.

I am hopeful.

I can imagine a new reality before it’s real.

I stay open to a sense of wonder and amazement.

I get to feel proud of myself and excited to make what wasn’t there before.

I feel most human.

Without my creativity, I’m missing a piece of my core. I am searching, at odds, or stuck consuming. It’s only after a few days in this space when I realize I must create to feel alive.

My Artists’ Date

I walked through the quietest isle in the entire Walmart in our small town as I pursued a selection of mini fabric bundles and rolls of muslin. My daughter Waliya was home and as strange as it felt, I was not pressed for time. I walked slowly, deliberating prints and complementary patterns. I felt the fabric, not knowing what I was feeling for since my only use for sewing machine in previous years was for hemming extra long abayas to fit my petite height. What I planned to make from striped and dotted cotton in lovely neutral colours, I wasn’t sure, but I simply new I wanted to sew something.

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On the drive home, I remembered my sister Ayesha taking sewing lessons from a local aunty in our neighborhood when we were growing up. She attended the classes begrudgingly but it was a practical activity and my mom loved the idea of her daughters’ learning to sew. I, on the other hand spent far too much time after school worried about projects and club meetings and AP exams, so I never had the privilege of learning to sew at a young age.

Only now in my 30s am I getting to experience the joy of sewing. From mini zip pouches to wall calendars to a DIY dress made out of a pattern I traced on $ store kraft paper, each project gives me a sense of utility I can’t find through other means. Had it not been for a long and soulful winter, I wouldn’t have found myself in the self-help isle at my library reading books by Julia Cameron. I spent most every evening after Maghrib in December, sitting cross-legged on my living room floor atop the red Persian rug my father gifted us, reading and trying to find my interests again. On one of these cold nights, I came across the concept of the “Artists’ Date”.

“The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly “artistic”– think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well of images and inspiration.”

— Julia Cameron

This idea made me feel instantly in contact with my intuition. I thought about the places my soul feels most happy on a creative level. Our local farmers’ market came to mind, bustling with families, children wearing sunglasses, fresh produce, and an assortment of goodies like beeswax candles from our mennonite communities up north. I thought about my favourite isles at local shops and boutiques, and small towns with hole-in-the wall apothecaries. For me, these places sparked the idea of an “Artists Date”. I hadn’t thought of Walmart at all, but in the thick of winter, I didn’t have as many options, so there I was, picking out fabric bundles that brought me more joy than I can explain as I sewed each zip pouch for my daughter in hopes she’d never lose a hair-tie again (who am I kidding?).

My Artists’ dates have included going to book stores to smell candles I don’t intend on buying but love seeing. There’s something about the lighting and placement of everything at Indigo that makes me smile. I’ve also gone to Bulk Barn on a whim, to randomly sample various spices and blends I’ve never tried before. Turns out, I love caraway seeds on everything, and Nori Furikaki is my favourite topping on fried eggs. I also can’t help but pop into my local marketplace attached to the most Canadian farm I’ve ever seen, just so to smell the baked goods and take in the lovely decor and cookbooks up for display. Doing this simple practice helps me see and experience new ways of expressing creativity, even if I only manage to squeeze them in every now and then. The idea is to go in with the intention to be open and ready to feel inspired.

Garage visits and holding on.

With a warm tumbler brimming with coffee in my hand each time, I’ve looked forward to every meetup with my two closest friends. I am never not available when I get the text, “Meetup at (insert location) at 11?” from either of my twin friends.

I’ve always shied away from making friends too quickly. There’s a part of me that wants to keep myself hidden and a part that wants to be deeply known. The former often makes me feel most protected. Perhaps its because I have a subconscious fear of not being all that I want to appear I am (ugh, imposter syndrome). Or, I could just pin it on my introversion. Either way, I’ve noticed certain elements that make my friendship with my twin sisters so special.

Our friendship unfolded in a rhythmic way over several experiences. Since the pandemic began, we’d meet in local parks, overhearing teenage chatter, going on about motherhood and speculating about when our children will feel a sense of normal again. They listened, and I listened. We’ve laughed and sighed, and cried together through our monthly meetups, keeping ourselves hopeful in the ultimate plans we don’t understand.

Through the months, we’d hike through conservation parks, forcing ourselves to forget housework for a few hours, taking in the view from the highest cliffs around us. We’d grab burritos and eat on a patch of grass like we were in high school.

On warmer days, we made it out to Toronto for a beachside picnic with our families. We gathered around, a few feet apart, sharing snacks and stories trying to fill the voids we knew were awaiting as soon as the experience was over.

Autumn invited us to to the trails where we’d walk between lunch, contemplating work-life balance, taking care of elderly parents, and hopes for our children.

Even in frigid weather, we met up on local benches to chat about our favourite books, what we’re missing, watching, baking, and struggling with. With these two special friends, I felt myself willing to share the harder parts of myself and my life. With a full heart, I noticed they were still there.

We’d meet in our garages with mini-space heaters in -12 degrees. The conversations blanketed us with the warmth and connection we so deeply craved. With bubbling excitement for having company, I’d set up a warm tea kettle and my favourite chocolate-covered pretzals, chatting and munching together, wishing for time to stop.

These few hours of friendship every month have sustained so much of my (limited) social life during this pandemic and I can say unequivocally, I would not have developed such deep friendships after so long, had it not been for these past 14 months.

Alhumdulillah, for honest friendship.

Warm stuffies.

“Mama, I’m gwateful for you,” she says, holding my arms as she looks up at me with her big brown eyes. If only I remembered this moment and how it filled my heart before snapping at her for losing my keepsake earring the next day. Of course, the thoughts that help me make better choices always come at night, when she’s fast asleep and when I’m feeling the kind of guilt that keeps me awake till 2 in the morning. I sigh as I pull down my eye mask, putting it over my eyes as a comforting insulation between me and all things difficult. I pray and ask Allah to help me do better tomorrow. I commit to doing better tomorrow, even if it means sticking post-it notes in places where I tend to lose my patience.

“Create a relaxed environment.” This one will be in our homeschool room. “Slow down the morning routine.” This needs to be right next to my bed. “Let her eat without commenting.” Put this right next to the dinner table.

Even if we still have friction tomorrow, I feel armed and ready with my post-it note plan to help us have a better day.

As I was praying dhuhr a few days ago, I felt myself sinking into thoughts about whether I was doing “enough”. Am I teaching my little daughter everything I need to? Will she thrive as she grows or will she have a lot of unlearning to do because of my mistakes? Will her childhood memories be overwhelmingly positive or less so? Will she know enough about her Creator to turn to Him out of love and awe in any stage of her life?

As I stood in salah, wondering what “enough” looks like, I overheard her playing gently with her stuffies, putting them in one-by-one into her cardboard “car”, asking each stuffy if he/she felt comfortable in their pretend carseats. She prayed and read the travel du’a for her stuffies just as we always recite when we’re buckling up in the car. She even went upstairs to grab an extra blanket to keep her stuffies warm as she got ready to pull them through the living room on her pretend drive to school.

In this simple moment of play, I felt her her concern for others’ well-being, even if they were stuffies. I felt her spiritual self-guided connection with her Creator. I heard her mimic the habits I’ve wanted to instil in her. I saw how she adds warmth and love in everything she does.

It was as if Allah was showing me the glowing rays of my broken efforts in this moment. All I can do is put in my honest effort, and leave the rest to the One who created her and guides her just as He guides me. In this moment, I was seeing what enough looks like and perhaps this view appears when least expect it.

Even on days when my sense of “being enough” is shaken, I want to cling to this feeling and remind myself to look for the rays that pour through the clouds, showing me the glow emanating from pieces of my struggle, sustained by His help.

I knew.

I knew it the moment you asked to hold my hand on our wedding day, that my heart would be safe and honoured inside yours.

I knew when you wrote me a love letter, the kind with hand-dyed paper, rolled into a scroll and tied with a bow, that you understood my deepest love language.

I knew when you reassured me we’d visit my parents and family the second this is all over, that you could sense my struggling heart aching to be here and there.

I knew when you started turning off the heating on my side of the car, that you could anticipate my aggravation and love me for my (many) quirks.

I knew when you began reading a hadith with us after Maghrib as a family, that you were striving to bring the best of Prophetic guidance into our home.

I knew when you indulged me every time I started talking about personality types and enneagrams, that I could share my interests with excitement.

I knew when you cheered me on as I launched my first business, that my goals mattered to you as much as they did to me.

I knew when you supported me with your love and confidence when I felt at my weakest in my 3rd trimester, that I could trust every ounce of your love.

I knew when you consoled me on a low day, quietly praying and crying in my closet, that my feelings were not a burden for you.

I knew when you reminded me of Allahs’ words, His mercy, His tests, and His reward, that nothing would be too difficult to face with my hand in yours.

__

For my loving husband, Mehdi.

One-sided.

You were always a priority for me. Your blossoming blooms welcomed me every time I saw you. I even went out of my way to see you between clients because you were my escape.

You gave me the gift of exploring without even leaving my city – I could go from India to Italy within just a few steps in your frozen isle, and treat myself to a mini-coffee sample as a soothing balm for my all my woes. You knew just what I needed. In return, I made sure everyone I loved got a chance to taste your maple walnut blondies when they came around in September. You made me believe in the impossible – You made me start to love pumpkin-flavoured just-about-everything. You introduced me to cheeses I never knew I was missing out on. You showed me healthy alternatives for the crunchy snacks I relied on after a long day of social-working. I thought you did all this because you cared about me. I really fell for you harder than you’ll ever know.

After moving to Canada, I was almost certain you’d be there waiting for me. How could you not, after all we’d been through? I was sure you were coming with me. I had packed all of my favourites you’d introduced me to over the years into a handy snack bag to my share with my husband on our first road trip after marriage. It was only after I finished my last bar of your 30% Whole Hazelnut Swiss Chocolate with the orange packaging when I realized you didn’t make it up here with me to Canada. In fact, you were nowhere near my vicinity in the entire country. How could it be?!

Frantically, I opened my laptop, searching for answers, an address, a phone number, anyone who could help.

I found nothing.

At least, not in Canada.

I didn’t give up. I knew there had to be a way. Having been 6 weeks into my first pregnancy and in dire need of my cherished goodies, I searched every corner of your website until my eyes felt weary.

And that’s when I saw it.

“Request a TJs in my City”

With renewed confidence, I started emailing you.

“Hi, I’m a huge fan and I just can’t believe there is no Trader Joe’s in Ontario, Canada. Could you kindly consider bringing a TJs up here? Thanks!!!”

“Phew, that was easy,” I thought.

I waited for anything other than an automated response. I sent you an email every week for almost a third of my pregnancy. Did I mention you were a priority for me?

I lost hope after I realized this entire bond was one-sided. I dreamed about our next reunion to cheer myself up, knowing you’d be there across the border even if you couldn’t come along with me. I never thought I could be angry with you even after this realization, until…

I saw the unthinkable.

I was looking at my old TJ packages I had in my pantry one afternoon, when I noticed something peculiar on my keepsake peppermint tin.

“PRODUCT OF CANADA” ?!?

How could you come from here and not be here? I was all the more confused, and hurt! It almost felt like a joke! Talk about salt in the wounds.

And that’s when I had to give up all most of my hope. Reality struck me hard. Perhaps, I would never have a friendly neighbourhood TJ in my new Canadian city.

I wouldn’t experience the genuine customer service skills only TJ cashiers had, with their cheery Hawaiian shirts.

I wouldn’t be welcomed into my favourite store with a fresh Fearless Flyer or an array of blooms, matching perfectly with my taste.

I wouldn’t get to sip the mini-coffee samples, or try the TJ brand of frozen [insert international dish] or walk out of the store with an extra skip in my step to take on my day.

Instead, I’d wait to be reunited only once or twice a year,

Because it was always one-sided.

This was fun to write! I don’t consider myself a “fun” writer but I really enjoyed trying something new!

Mixed.

“Melange” – a French word I see every week when I pull out my colossal bag of frozen mixed berries to make a smoothie. It’s amazing how many French words you can pick up just by reading labels in Canada. I scoop out a spoon of blue and red berries with bits of frozen ice and layer them into my blender with yogurt, OJ, and honey. The sudden buzz swirls the mix into a medley of purple hues and I see my favourite colour emerge as I pour the smoothie in my daughters’ favourite glass.

I pause as I look at the colour. There I am.

When motherhood shook my world, I was almost sure I was completely changed forever. But my love for purple has never changed. From the lavender essence always by my bedside, the eggplant-coloured hijab I wear on special occasions, to the hints of purple peppered throughout my wardrobe and planner doodles, I manage to add a little purple wherever I go.

Purple is as mixed up as I often feel – jumping between languages, roles, and hobbies. As much as I love wearing multiple hats for the novelty it brings into my life, I sometimes wonder how far deep my own voice is buried.

Growing up, I’d speak Urdu at home and English at school. I became proficient at becoming who I needed to be for the setting I was in. Class presentation? Perfect English or Spanish, just as was expected to get the A. At a family dinner? Enough Urdu to say the right things. Qur’an class? Arabic pronunciation that made other parents ask if I could help their younger kids learn to read. But which language, which persona, is truly mine? I wonder.

I know my voice is there. I don’t need to search anywhere but inward to find it. It has always been a part of me and although I feel like I’m losing grip of a rope connecting me to my core, I feel the spark in me to pull myself up with greater resolve than even before my precious daughter entered my world. The purple part of me has its own beauty, and I am convinced that writing with my heart again is the only way to bring out the hues and shades in my story that no one else can write except me, inshaAllah.