It’s not as easy as willing it all to be right

"What are you doing?" asked my friend, after I had finished praying and was still kneeling on the floor.
Originally uploaded by yaznotjaz.

I’m so tired of constantly feeling so tired – I don’t sleep enough, I fall asleep holding books I once could have finished reading in a single day, I sleep crookedly, and my neck has been aching for over a week. Also, there’s that drama that enters my head once in a while: “Am I doing constructive things with my life? Let’s switch it up again!” Clearly, I am my father’s daughter, bored too easily and always wanting change. And yet, too much standing still while questioning my next step, mired once again in indecisiveness and lack of direction.

It’s too easy to get lost in progress, or lack thereof, so here are three beautiful things to remember from last week:


Poetry reading by Mohja Kahf at the Arab Cultural & Community Center in San Francisco last Monday. It was a wonderful evening, not in the least because I got to see the beautiful ladies, Momo and Baraka, again. And also because Mohja Kahf is hilarious, and that must have been the first time I laughed so much at a poetry reading. She writes candidly about topics such as sexuality and motherhood in a way that’s quite refreshing, as is her take on historical figures that become more approachable and human through her poetry – Asiya, the Pharaoh’s wife, sitting with her husband at a table of Neo-Cons; Asiya written up in the tabloids, dismissed as “crazy.” I picked up copies of Mohja’s poetry collection, E-Mails from Scheherazad, as well as her new novel, The Girl in the Tangerine Scarf, and asked if she could sign my sister’s copy of E-Mails from Scheherazad: “I’ve been specifically instructed to tell you that you’re her favorite poet.”

“Ooh, instructed,” she laughed. “Should I add some exclamation points to my signature?” And so, she did.

While I was waiting in line for the books, one of the women on the ACCC staff asked, “Do you write poetry?”

“No,” I said hurriedly, thinking she had confused me for RC, one of our rockstar Muslimah spoken word poets here in the Bay. (It wouldn’t be the first time; I think it’s the headwrap that confuses people.)

“You should,” she said. “We’re trying to organize some more poetry events here at the ACCC, and we’d love for more young people to participate.” She wrote down her name and email address for me.

I remembered how, the week before at the Poetry for the People reading at UC Berkeley, D had asked the same question, “Do you write poetry, too?”

“Ehh, no,” I said. “I only write maybe one poem a year, when I’m forced to.”

“But they’re always such good poems!” interjected my sister.

The day after the Mohja Kahf reading, my buddy A harassed me about my refusal to participate in the open mic at Blue Monkey, too: “Only losers don’t do poetry readings at an open mic.”

So now, apparently, I need to write more often.


Writing travels the world: Maliha’s beautiful essay, Necessary silence of being made its way to me not only via Blogistan, but also through an email listserve I’m subscribed to. I emailed her to let her know, and received the following reply:

I’ve been lurking around your site and wish you, missy, will take a break from all the messy and beautiful chaos around you, to write a bit more. But with spring weather finally here, and the greys and storms dissipated, I totally don’t blame you for sweeping specks of sun rays rather than blog.

So, there we go, another reminder to write more often, from the beautiful lady who excels at it. It’s too bad that, as I explained to Maliha, writing these days means, for me, too many incomplete posts saved as drafts, and too many scribbled bullet-points in my little moleskine notebook that need to be turned into real posts. And, yet, my buddy Z exclaims: “How did you blog so soon after the last one? How do you have enough material?” It’s not for lack of stories, clearly.


Explanation of the photo that accompanies this post: Ayesha my love and I canceled our dinner plans last Thursday, so I was left with a free evening, and was actually rather looking forward to being able to go straight home from work.

But then: “Come over to my place for dinner!” said R.

“Who else is going to be there?” I asked warily. I was not in the mood to socialize with people.

“Me!” said the co-worker-in-crime, B.


“Just us,” assured R.

“It’s not some fancy-schmancy thing, is it?” I asked. ” ‘Cause I won’t be able to stand it.”

“Not at all!”

So, I went over to her apartment in Fremont after work. We had dinner, and then it was time for maghrib, the evening prayer. There was no awkward questioning: Will you be praying? Will you not? Should we wait for you? Instead, it was all so matter-of-fact: Here’s a rug; the bathroom’s at the end of the hall; I have an extra scarf, if you need it. I appreciated the straightforwardness – needed it, in fact.

R pulled out a prayer rug for me to use – it was short and narrow and golden-yellow, the perfect size for my frame, and something about the beauty of it moved me nearly to tears as I was praying. When I sat cross-legged afterward, hands raised in supplication, my knees jutted over the sides of the slender rug. It had been so long since I had prayed (much less, regularly), and there was something bittersweet – ridiculous and yet so fitting – about the fact that a yellow sunshine-colored rug made me want to pray more often.

“What are you doing?” asked R, after I had finished praying and was still kneeling on the floor.

“Taking pictures of your rug,” I said.


“Because it’s so pretty!”

“And what are you going to do with the pictures?” she asked, puzzled.

I almost replied, Put them up on flickr for the world to see, but said instead, “I’ll look at them!”

She rolled her eyes, picked up the prayer rug off the floor, folded it swiftly, and placed it on top of my purse. “Here. You can have it. Now you can look at it all the time.”

I hadn’t expected this, but I was too giddy with quiet delight to politely question her decision with, Are you SURE?

We sat around afterward, drinking mint tea (okay, I just experimentally sipped a little bit of it; “Will you be offended if I don’t drink this?” I asked R and her roommate L, but they assured me they would not be). “That’s fresh mint from Zaytuna,” L said proudly.

I nearly choked on laughter. “Were you skulking around Zaytuna, picking mint leaves in the dark?” Indeed, she had been. She also shared stories of living in Kuwait and Los Angeles. B and I were fascinated by her Kuwaiti/Lebanese/Hungarian heritage, so L brought out her laptop and began showing us photos.

“Dude,” I said, “these are beautiful pictures. You really need to get a flickr account and upload these.”

“I do have flickr!” she said. Oh, internet, how I love you. L went back to her room, and returned with her camera. She and I sat there scrolling through her photos, while R and B just shook their heads – especially when I started taking photos of the tea-glasses again.

B made fun of us: “Yasmine’s going to come to work one day and say, ‘I quit! I’m leaving to become a professional photographer!’ ”

She needs to stop giving me ideas.

58 thoughts on “It’s not as easy as willing it all to be right

  1. Salaam & thank you for sharing the beauty, most lovely of Yasmines.

    And for always bringing a smile to my face!

    We sat around afterward, drinking mint tea…“That’s fresh mint from Zaytuna,” L said proudly.

    I nearly choked on laughter. “Were you skulking around Zaytuna, picking mint leaves in the dark?”

    Indeed she had been.


  2. my dream job? travel photographer. only of course I’d have to be (really) good at it, instead of only kind of decent at it. but who cares, it’s a dream. ;)

    i love the backstory on the yellow sunshiney prayer rug. love it.

  3. Zman,
    always tired?! now you know what its like to be z!

    Shut up, yaar. You get to your work later than I do, leave earlier than I do, and have evenings and weekends free. I didn’t even get MLK Day off, dammit. You’d better have a good reason for being tired, buddy boy, because I have no sympathy.
    PS: I still lowve you, though, MUTHA FUCKLE.

    Dude, the rest of you were commenting as I was editing this post!

    You are so very welcome, lovely lady! That mint-from-Zaytuna story just makes me giggle every time I think of it. I should have asked her for the specific area, so I can scout it out next time I’m there and laugh some more. =)

    I dunno, yaar, judging by your photos, I think you’d be hella awesome at it. But, seriously, wouldn’t that be a rocking job? Traveling the world and taking pictures and getting paid for it.
    I’m glad you loved the backstory! I saw R today and forgot to thank her again for the prayer rug. Judging by her nonchalance the evening we had dinner together, she thinks nothing of it, but it was a lovely thing for her to do, nonetheless.

  4. but i mean, if the trade-off for not being as tired is not having as many stories to tell, then, regardless of whether not those stories are told, i don’t know about you, but i’d prefer to stay tired.
    (god, such a convoluted sentence.)
    (speaking of tired, it is close to 3 and i have work tomorrow. but whattodo.)

    oh, and what’s your friend’s flickr?

  5. You like it cause its… sunshiney with a tad bit of grey poupon mustard!

    And, consider outsourcing some of the crap you have to do to some virtual admins in India. That will free up some time for you to think about THE NEXT STEP.

    Now that I’m going back to school– possibly as early as JUNE, ive decided that I will not have the time nor energy to do some of the stuff around my house. What, with all the projects I have in my head, the school, the work, the biz…Therefore, I have decided to OUTSOURCE.

    But to the point: You must come to the east coast ASAP, before I start attending school on SATURDAYS for the next TWO YEARS. Generally speaking. YOU MUST COME TO THE EAST COAST. The end.*

    *This announcement is part of the Bring Yazzo to the East Campaign originally conceived of and executed by icubaji and hijabman.

  6. I can’t see these photos because I am at work (sort of – working from home, which means doing nothing while logged on my laptop) and work blocks Flickr for some reason. Anywho, I am simply here to be a reference explainer: Enya – Return to Innocence. Download that song. Everyonee knows it! Inca/Inca pable – from the motorcycle diaries about Mr. Ernesto Guevera and his travels through South America when he was young. Great movie. He plays soccer with lepers. I want to do that and be that unfettered by health concerns.

  7. And leper’s reminds me of another movie -Papillon – the guy smokes a cigar that a leper was smoking so he can get a boat from him. Another great movie!

  8. fathima,
    I’m mainly tired because of work these days, and I bet you if I worked less, I’d have more of a social life and thus even MORE stories – even if they’re stories of random people on BART. I do have another one of those, too. (But this one’s not about annoying boys. Stay tuned.)

    You like it cause its… sunshiney with a tad bit of grey poupon mustard!

    What a ruiner you are. A total RUINER. My new mustard-colored prayer rug and I thank you for the kind words. Actually, it’s yellower than it looks in the pic (I was working with some funky lighting), so shut up. I’m glad you’re going back to suckool – I told you to, didn’t I? And I talked about it myself, and you called me a sellout, damn you. Nice to see you taking the plunge first!
    PS: I’m liking this East Coast Campaign so far. You know what this means? Two days of you working with Baji has managed to do what four years of you yourself trying to convince me to go east could never do.
    {Note to HMan: Collaborate with Baji more often.}

    Enya annoys the hell out of me. The end.
    (Okay, okay, not annoys. But still. Not really my kinda music. I need more lively stuff.)
    The Motorcycle Diaries was AWESOME. I want my own copy. Great music, too. (Didn’t catch the INCA/INCAPABLE reference, though, or don’t remember it now. Shall have to re-watch.) Thanks for being such a great reference-explainer, you slacker. (Oh, remember ‘joke explanation’? Such good times!)

    Anjum me love,
    I would have told you if she had told me. But when I asked, she said, “Oh, I can never remember it!” (I think she has one of those flickrIDs that’s a string of numbers, and hasn’t set up a real url yet), so she took down mine instead and said she would add me as a contact. She hasn’t done so yet, but once she does, I’ll let you know. =)

  9. free prayer rugs just by showing interest? next time, try eyeing her jewelry or car or even slurpee and see what you can get out of it!

    also, its only $164 from SF to NY on jet blue and i’m sure there is an equally cheapo flight from SF to DC! otherwise, maybe anju can pick you up from NY and spend a day with you, then drop you off in Philly to spend a day with hijabman, then hjb can drive you both to DC! Mu-ha-ha-ha!

    *evil laughter brought to you courtesy of the bring yasminay to the east coast campaign originally conceived of and executed by icubaji and hijabman*

  10. i believe that 007 plan either (a) never settled on a location or (b) settled on canada, whereas this one is specifically geared to the east coast of the US, so i WILL even and you can’t stop me. also, if you don’t play nice, you won’t be invited and then NOBODY will believe you exist.

  11. you know i love driving so i am ALL FOR a road trip between NY and Philly or even NY and DC!

    no non-existent non-bloggers will be allowed.

  12. Irving,
    With such encouragement coming from you, Mr. Amazing Writer (mashaAllah!), I shall indeed have to write more poetry now. And I love the prayer rug, too! Unfortunately, I have not used it again since that evening. *sigh* I need to work on this.

    I’ll ogle the good things next time, too – car and slurpees sounds like a rocking idea. ;) Thanks for looking up ticket prices for me already. haha. Right now, I’m tentatively thinking July 5-9. Vat you tink?

    The Rockstar Blogistan Meetup of 007 is SO happening, and you’d best be there, if you know what’s good for you! Otherwise, I’m just going to invite your wife, and leave you out of it. She likes me because I like gelato; therefore, we are now buddies by default.

    Ayan MUST be there. But he just wants to be difficult.

    Anjum me love,
    Roadtrip! We are SO on, yaar! Man, I’m really looking forward to this now.

    Wow, you guys are so rocking with the details. I think we’re really going to make this happen, inshaAllah!

  13. Baraka!
    PERFECT post to link that on, thank you! =) I’m glad the journalist didn’t quote me in the article, because he asked me a few questions and I don’t feel I came off as very articulate at all, so I was hoping I wouldn’t make it in. So instead, it’s just me and my rockstar glasses, laughing with Mohja and the other beautiful ladies, and that was rocking enough. =) Great evening.

  14. amna,
    Awesome! I’ve been carrying it around in my bag for the last couple of weeks, too, but unfortunately haven’t been able to make much progress aside from reading a poem here and there. I need to just sit down and READ, like I used to back in the good ol’ days.

    Dude, stop with that drama. So nice to see you back, yaar! I do miss it when you were called pantshirtshoes, though. =) Now, stop pulling disappearing acts, and keep rockin’ on with those awesome photos.

  15. I’m down for July 5-9 roadtrip along the east coast. Whoever has everyone’s email addresses (I don’t), please start a gmail thread so we can all take the time off. :)

  16. Don’t you just hate work. My list of books to read is growing and I cannot finish the current one.

    Pro photographer would suit you :D Some people just do not get why our kind likes to take pics of objects haha… I guess we look annoying to them. I still have a feeling that someday I would be taking pics in the park and some guy would come and snatch the camera and throw it in the pond or bin!

  17. muhahahahaha!!!! one down, one to go! come on, yazoo! all the cool kids are doin’ it. yes, july 5th is groovy. see you soon, i’A!

  18. I’ve officially moved now! Come visit! (It’s still top secret but I’m so excited I wanted to tell you!)

  19. omg you met kahf! she’s like, awesome. and one of my best moslem friends at college, who’s really into poetry, totally loves her!

  20. so i’m walking to the metro this morning listening to ‘hands open’ when i realize (a) that’s where this post title came from and (b) he’s talking about sufjan stevens not, as i misheard, cat stephens. heh. DID YOU GET YOUR TIX YET?! (interro-travelocity!)

  21. I always love to read your posts. They’re like a breath of fresh air, really. I keep coming back to see whether there’s a new one ever so often, and comlpetely agree with most of your commenters – that you ought to write more often. It’s always a pleasure hearing from you.

  22. so i up and traveled around the world, came back, and still no update. isn’t your life still on display for all the world to see? what gives?

  23. We just launched a mega event with the name “I Still Love Pakistan Do You !” at, and would love if

    you join up and spread the word around. we are inviting all the bloggers of Pakistan so hurry join up!

    PS: this is not spam i visited your website personally to leave the message.

  24. Okie you, even I updated before you did. And I was AWOL and lost in outerspace!!!! Come on, your turn now. Give us some sunshine ;)

  25. dudes, i’m still around. and i know it’s kind of ridiculous, the lack of updates ’round here. thank you for continuing to stop by. i’m almost back, almost! miss you all, and have many stories to share. much lowve and beautiful days to you all, meanwhile.

  26. this post is dated may 7th. it’s now august 20th. come on, man! throw us a bone! or a joke. or a sesquipedalian word. anything!

  27. thank you, baji, for that gem.

    according to WordWeb, the noun means:
    “A very long word (a foot and a half long).”
    which makes me wonder how one measures words. and why using the imperial system?

  28. fathima, glad ye liked it! it’s one of my favorite words. :)

    oy, bloggers and blurkers, it is clear that yasminay has abandoned us and i suggest we take over her style of posting via the comment box. who’s with me?! (interro-overthrow!). here, i’ll start:

    last night, someone insulted my sense of justice and i was THISCLOSE to flicking out my daggarchappals and expressing my moral outrage with a few swift jabs. this morning as i witnessed the spectacle of the lunar eclipse, i was overwhelmed with how insignificant our day-to-day goings on were, our fears, our desires, in the face of such amazing heavenly visual delights. so while it didn’t make me toss my daggarchappals away completely, it helped me to sheath them. for now. thanks, moon!

  29. Baji, i lowve you. You’re CRAZY! =)
    I missed the eclipse; sounds like it was hella awesome.
    PS: If you’re not using ’em, send me the dagger-chappals. I’ve got plenty of people to use ’em on, and no qualms about doing so.

  30. Don’t you just hate work. My list of books to read is growing and I cannot finish the current one.

    Pro photographer would suit you :D Some people just do not get why our kind likes to take pics of objects haha… I guess we look annoying to them. I still have a feeling that someday I would be taking pics in the park and some guy would come and snatch the camera and throw it in the pond or bin!

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