Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Goodbye 2008...


Today, I find myself at the end of 2008. As I look back at what I have been through for the past year, the emotions that come with the memories are as fresh and raw as they first occurred. Although I've been told that as I journey through this life, as I reach the end of it, I should be like a swimmer that had just swam through an ocean. As I come out of the water, at most, my body should only be wet by the briny water. But I shouldn't be trying to carry the whole ocean with me. Life is like the ocean. You go through it. Some swim through life, others crawl, walk, fly or run. However the mode of travel, no matter how beautiful some sceneries may be, its not humanly possible to collect and amass the wonders and woes that you've encountered.

As I write this entry, my mind tells me to be optimistic and hopeful that the best is yet to come in the future. But somehow, my heart is weeping and my eyes are wet, as salty as the ocean waters I had just dog-paddled through this year. Will I ever stop hurting over the lost of you, Mad? Will I ever learn to heal and be whole again? Will I ever be the same again? I know this is not how you would wish me to live my life. I'd like to consider myself as logical and practical. I may be somewhat an idealist but I have gone through enough to know that in order for me to learn through this life, I need to remain realistic as well. To some, being realistic means being pessimistic. But for me, being realistic means looking at the reality of life and dealing with it.

As a counselor that professes the benefits of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, I am well aware of the unhappiness experienced by people whose basic needs for survival, love and belonging, power, freedom and fun are not met. In my Quality World, Mad is my soul brother who will always be there for me with his unconditional love and sincere friendship. But in reality, he's gone. I know that in order for me to move on with my life, I need to let go of my ideal; that Mad is gone and will never come back. He's gone to a place beyond my reach.

I find certain aspects of myself pretty puzzling. Just as I thought I was already okay, laughing and enjoying life as it amuses me with funny quirks and turns, suddenly a tidal wave comes crashing over me and I find myself swept ashore on the sands of depression, all spent and barely alive. I can't go on like this. I feel like a walking time-bomb, not knowing when I'm gonna have the next melt-down.

One thing I know for sure is that your heart can only feel what it does. You can change your mind and behavior. But you can never tell your heart to feel anything it doesn't. And you cannot tell your heart to not feel what it does. It will keep on feeling what it does until it's done.

As the new year opens it's door for me, I shall continue to make my journey one step at a time. Life is life. But I am me. I know what I am today. I'll just have to wait and see who I become tomorrow.

"Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - Henry David Thoreau.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Don't Forget to Talk...


Over the last few weeks, I have busy trying to locate some respondents for my qualitative research. I needed to interview at least 6 respondents. They would have to be female above the age of 60 years old, widowed or divorced but have remained single by choice. This task was harder than I thought it would be.

Among the respondents I had the honor and the pleasure of interviewing, the last one stuck in my head for many many days and now has turned out to be my muse for this blog entry. She is about 62 years old and has been widowed for 20 years. She told me how her late mother use to keep reminding her to keep talking to her husband. My respondent went on to elaborate in great detail what her mother had meant by saying, "Jangan lupa bercakap..." or "Don't forget to talk.."

As I sat next to my husband in the car ride back home after the interview, I discussed what was said by my respondent during the interview, especially about the "Don't forget to talk" bit. My respondent felt the absence of her husband whenever she had something she wanted to share with him, even after he has passed a few months already (this is during the time when only 2 months had passed since his demise.)

I realize how important talking to each other has been for my relationship with my husband. This is also true with regards to my relationships with my two teenage daughters. I believe that when one of us is gone, the ones left behind would really miss all the talks we've had with each other and the laughter that entails.

With the advent of technology that's initially meant to improve communication methods, we would think that we would find improvement also in the quality of our communication. But can we sincerely regard sending text messages and chats on messengers as true communication when there's no eye contact and seeing facial expressions? Won't we be prone to miscommunications when we misconstrue a chat message because it lacked the human touch and gestures?

I would be lying if I were to say that my husband and I talk ALL the time. We do talk to each other a lot, discussing current issues, common interests etc. But when we're both orally tired, we do have that comforting silence between us that exudes the feeling of understanding and acceptance. A sense of belonging that needs no announcements or forced talking. Our availability to ourselves and each other radiates through the air surrounding us like the fragrant aroma of comforting coffee. We are home with each other. Whenever we are apart, we are in each others' minds and hearts. Its one of those given things.

Having said that, I still believe that talking is healthy. My profession as a counseling psychologist as proven multiple times over of how important it is to talk. Keeping things bottled up inside and yet feeling depressed when others misunderstand or don't understand us is our own undoing.

Talk. Keep on talking. Don't forget to talk. Talk while you can. Say what's on your mind. Speak of feelings felt in your heart. Love is not for keeps. Love is for giving. Love is forgiving. Its the same thing... different; but the same.

18 years have passed by and we are still talking, Yang. Go on... Keep talking, my love. I'm listening...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Along the Way...



Its almost the end of the year and I'm already all spent. 2008 began with me losing Mad, my soul brother. As much as I have tried to get over his passing, grieving is not something I can just shrug off and leave on the floor and kick under my bed. I plodded through the months half alive, trying not to think or feel. Just functioning and working on my career and Masters study.

Eidil Fitri came and went without much happy memory. Dad was hospitalized and we had no real reason to celebrate. Eidil Adha had just passed recently and another disaster had struck me. My laptop's hard drive died on me. I lost almost all my data, except for my Masters assignments folder. And then it hit me like a bulldozer. In life, along the journey, we lose things. Some things can be retrieved. But there are some losses that we may never see again. Suddenly, I am mourning the loss of Mad again. Funny how losing my data from my hard drive connects to Mad's death. I can never see him again. I can never see him again.

You'd think that a woman who is about to hit 44 in age would have the emotional maturity to accept the given facts of life. But this isn't about understanding the way life works or accepting the laws of nature. Neither is this about others. Its about ME!

Given all the things that had happened to me this year, I think I've earned the right to grieve and mourn. My emotional and psychological fatigue is justifiable. I can be strong when I have the resources to be so. But at this moment, I'm all spent. I'm all spent. I have nothing more to give. And I can't take it anymore. I'm done. For now.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In The Name Of Love And Marriage? Bull Shit!!



Happily ever after. The popular ending to most romance stories. Unfortunately, the reality of life and marriage is not always a bed of roses. Don't get me wrong. I am not saying that I am not happily married. I am. Very much so. But I would be lying if I say it has been a trouble free 18 years of marriage. Somehow, I truly believe that all the challenges my husband and I had experienced only strengthened the bond between us. Which brings me to the true muse for this blog entry.

Over the past few months, I can't help but notice how far people would go to stay married to their spouses. Throughout my years of giving counseling to married couples since 1994, I consider seeking therapy as a healthy alternative to mending deteriorating relationships between couples. Regardless of what the symptoms are, the true source of unhappiness in relationships is actually needs that are not being fulfilled.

However, recently I have noticed a new trend. Spouses (mostly wives) resorting to witch doctors to use mojos to control their partners. I assume they are doing all this crap out of sheer desperation. But I always believe that external control is the biggest marriage killer of all times... and this includes spells and voodoos.

There are many who want to remain in a marriage out of habit. There are also those who stay due to financial reasons. Very few stay for the right reasons. I mean, if you are no longer happy with each other or neither of you are meeting each others needs, but if you still love each other, then stay and work things through. Re-negotiate any disagreements or dissatisfactions. If your partner is toxic, abusive, addicted to some form of substance or rather, then pack your bags and leave immediately. Your children will thank you for it when they're adults.

But there are those whom I call the adventurers who like to eat their cakes and have it too. You know what I mean? They have no control over their own desires and allow their lust to drive them to doing things which are harmful to themselves, their families as well as their relationships with their spouses. Infidelity is usually associated with extra-marital affairs. But there are many kinds of infidelity. Emotional infidelity is equally dangerous as the sexual counterpart.

Its undeniable that humans have needs and these needs have to be fulfilled. That is a non-negotiable thing. However, the way people go about fulfilling those needs, must not hurt or harm anyone else. Otherwise, a sleazy reputation will shadow you wherever you go.

Ask yourself what it is that you truly want. You wanna stay married to your husband? Or do you want the freedom to be with the one you're in lust with. Just don't forget that there will come a time that you will be old, grey and saggy and no one will lust after you anymore. Who will be with you then? Who will wipe your butt when you are not able to do it yourself? Look around you, Missy.... You are alone. You've cheated on your husband countless times with several men over the past decade. None of your children condone to your awful decisions and misbehavior. Your thick make-up may hide your flaws but your character stinks to high heaven. Take a good look at yourself and your life. This is a result of your own choices. Live with it. Don't blame it on others. You are not a child anymore. Grow up!

As for my husband and I, my brothers and their wives, we are still happy together. Stop pretending to be sweet and polite with us. We know your true colors from the first time we laid our eyes on you. No more fools here for you to play around with, Missy. Sorry to say the reality is my family and I are stronger than ever. Which is more than I can say for you. May Allah's wrath bring about great balls of fire upon you and your wicked mother. May both of you burn in Hell!!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pausing To Breathe...



Unraveling my yarn, I pulled slowly at the end of my day today which began with my last blog entry. Ramadhan is now just a memory of a beautiful holiday. Syawal was no joyous celebration this time around. With dad hospitalized, the ketupat and rendang, the Raya cookies... all bland and ordinary to my numbed senses. I longed to escape. My head full of cotton balls. Absorbingly dry. My heart wept a tearless cry. My person shattered like a broken mirror, with tiny reflections of myself looking back at me and not knowing who I want to be anymore. Where is my peace of mind? Where has my soul gone to? Why do I yearn to escape me?

As I tugged at the piece of string that leads to the knotted mesh of misery, I can see the ball tightening. I know that if I keep on at this, I will end up with a bigger mess than before. I know I need to take a break. I need to escape. I need to stop thinking. I need to stop feeling. I need to piece myself together. I need to breathe.

I've come to a realization that I am not as complicated as I thought. But I have allowed my circumstances and surroundings to complicate me. I am a simple person with simple needs. Therefore, I believe that although my knotted ball of yarn may look impossible to unravel, I am able to untangle this dilemma I am facing when I have the space to sit quietly and analyze the whole scenario. And most important of all, I need to remind myself to keep breathing.

I know now that most of the issues surrounding me is of little significance. I chose to make it important. I chose to espouse a cause that was not mine to begin with. To put it crudely, this is NOT my monkey to carry. I believe that how I choose to behave toward my parents will reflect my values and predict my future appreciation of my spouse. I am grateful for the strict upbringing that was given to my brothers and I, for our present conduct and decisions are more refined and polished. We are not rude nor uncouth. My mother has successfully brought us up polite and respectful. I can't say the same of others. The difference between us and the others are starkly overt.

The moment I saw that my plate was over-flowing with matters beyond my capacity to handle, I decided to be more careful with my choices. I decided to simplify my life. There's no more room for burdens that are not mine. Others will just have to learn to be less a burden and more responsible. I shall not make anymore excuses for them. As difficult as it was for me to do it, I learned to let go.

So, here I am now.... Sitting quietly and breathing. Why have I not been blogging for so long? Because I was too busy with the problems of others. Why I am able to sit and compose an entry now? Because I paused, evaluated and prioritized, and simplified my thoughts. Now I am simply me again. And it feels good. I am me again. For as long as I keep breathing....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My 43rd Ramadhan

What a difference to the last few ones! Its already the 11th day of Ramadhan and I feel great (except for the migraine I am having at the time this entry is being composed). Maybe Allah has spared me the trials and punishments this time around because I have paid my dues over the past few Ramadhans. I don't know. He knows best.

If the previous Ramadhans resembled roller-coaster rides of sort, this time around I feel more calm, grounded and cleansed. My thoughts and emotions are purer (except the heightened sexual attraction towards my husband of 18 years. Go figure!) and I seem to be gliding through the days without food, drink nor sex quite easily.

Although I miss Mekkah very much and wish that Mad was around for me to break fast with him, whenever I am at a mosque here in KL (my favourite mosque nearest to my home is Masjid Wilayah), I can close my eyes and imagine myself being transported mentally to Mekkah and seeing the Kaabah within my shut eyes.

Inner calmness and peace washes over me like the water of ablution and I feel refreshed, renewed and reborn. All impure thoughts are gone without leaving any trace of it ever being there in my heart and mind. I sincerely hope that this is a sign from Allah that all my past transgressions have been forgiven and I have been blessed with a clean slate to begin again. Attunement between my husband and I seems effortless and pleasurable.

As much as I value the lessons I have learnt from the previous Ramadhans, I pray to Allah that I never have to experience that ordeal ever again. I almost lost myself and that was not a pretty sight. Even thinking back on what I had gone through gives me the shakes and shivers similar to those while watching a scary Korean, Japanese or Siamese horror movies. Nightmare indeed.

Hence, I turn my palms upwards to Allah and pray for His forgiveness and for Him to bless my life with my family and friends. Syukur, Alhamdulillah. Praise be to Allah, The All MIghty, The Most Loving and The Most Merciful. Ameen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

To My Precious Daughters - Jazelia & Jelissa



IF I COULD

If I could
I’d protect you from the sadness in your eyes
Give you courage in a world of compromise
Yes, I would

If I could
I would teach you all the things I’ve never learned
And I’d help you cross the bridges that I’ve burned
Yes, I would

If I could
I would try to shield your innocence from time
But the part of life I gave you isn’t mine
I’ll watch you grow, so I can let you go

If I could
I would help you make it through the hungry years
But I know that I can never cry your tears, babe
But I would If I could

If I could
In a time and place where you don’t wanna be
You don’t have to walk along this road with me
My yesterday won’t have to be your way

If I knew
I’d try to change the world I brought you to
Now there isn’t much more that I can do
But I would If I could

If I could
I would try to shield your innocence from time
But the part of life I gave you isn’t mine
I’ll watch you grow, so I can let you go

If I could
I’d help you make it through the hungry years
But I know that I can never cry your tears
But I would If I could



"Always remember that my love will follow you wherever you go, in whatever you do, praying for all the happiness and joy, peace and serenity, love and safety, success and abundance... even long after I can no longer be seen or heard. Be brave, my precious babies. You are the best of my achievements. Loving you more than you'll ever comprehend. - Mama."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Love, The Great Adventure

Recently, I picked up an outdated but nevertheless precious issue of Oprah magazine. After reading several articles, I couldn't suppress the urge to blog a summary of them in order to share the valuable wisdom contained in them, namely the one that begins with the following paragraph:

"The fantasy: Love's a river of bliss. The reality: Love is missteps, silences, and how-could-yous. The two of you will not always swing blissfully on the same vine. Contrary to popular opinion, this is okay... and we've got the latest research, and real-life stories, to prove it. Mark Epstein starts things off with a fight and a major realization..."


"What's wrong with being angry?"
"Here is a new model of successful marriage, one in which a reliance on a state of attunement gives way to an appreciation of a cyclic process of rupture and repair. This is a model gaining traction in the therapy world, one based on a change in how the most successful intimate human relationships are now understood. The ability to take differences in stride, to return after disruption to an appreciation of connection, to laugh together about differences, was a reflection of this shift to a more process based model of success. The difficulty in allowing anger to be a natural emotion within marriage reflected the older model that values attunement above all else.

A woman abandons all self-respect in a futile attempt to preserve her rapport with her husband. A man weathers his wife's anxious and angry tirades but never quite forgives her. He is waiting for her to change, to take responsibility for the pain she is causing him, to grow. He punitively withholds kindness during the times they are not fighting, avoiding her when they could be getting along. In these marriages, nobody is surviving destruction. Rupture is never repaired. Failures multiply and partners drift apart.

Attunement is not the problem, nor is it a myth. It is an incredible thing, as invaluable between parents and children as it is in adult intimate relationships. But an over-reliance on attunement leads to disappointment and depression and division. Attunement should not have to be constant. Disruption, failure, and disagreement are healthy and normal. Learning to transition between connection and separateness without losing faith is a great challenge.

In meditation, which has been essential in helping me be more accepting of the entire range of my emotional responses, I have learned to keep bring the mind back to the central object - the breath, a prayer or a visualization - when I get distracted. But it is considered a sign of maturity in meditation when the distractions are no longer viewed as problems but can instead become objects of meditative interest in themselves.

In similar way, in intimate relationships, it is easy to view a rupture as a problem to be eliminated, to see attunement as the only thing that matters: the central object, as it were. To shift one's perspective so that failures become part of the process, so that survival of destruction becomes something to celebrate, is as incredible, in its own way, as attunement.

Attunement is capricious; the insistence on 100% understanding leads only to resentment of one's partner. Marriages, like mothers, can be "good enough" while still being miracles worthy of celebration"

- Summarized from February 2008 issue of Oprah Magazine.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Intellectual Idiots.



Its been a while since my last blog. My silence has been caused by a very hectic work schedule. Among all the activities that I had to be involved in, the one that lingers on my mind is the Asian Psychological Association's 2nd convention held in Malaya University at the end of June.

I had the pleasure of learning a lot from the many research findings presented by established peers in the psychological field. I even had the pleasure of catching up with some old colleagues and meeting with fellow psychologists from Canada, America and Australia. However, a few papers that were presented during the two day event made me fume with rage.

Consider this: One so called Ph.D holder in Psychology from a local university actually concluded that if muslim mothers were to educate their daughters to the muslim way of life, discipline them to never miss their daily prayers and cover themselves modestly, the daughters will never fall victim of rape!! How absurd is that?!!

I'm not going to go into detail as to the other ridiculous conclusions this so called expert has arrived at. Its just garbage disguised as intellectual findings. I suspect this researcher has lots of issues of her own that she's projecting into her research projects.

Dr. William Glasser, the founder of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory had said that for as long as the parents are in the Quality World of the children, these youths will make the right choices in their lives and will not engage in any activities that may jeopardize what they hold as valuable and important to them.

My elder daughter, Jazelia, made her own decision to wear the hijab at the tender age of 12 because she felt shy whenever boys looked her way. However, as she matured and began to gain self-confidence and a sense of identity, she no longer felt sincere to continue donning the hijab. Her decision to do away with her hijab was more than acceptable to me because I have always emphasized the importance of sincerity in everything that is done in the name of Allah. I am confident that she behaves better than most other teenage girls her age who do wear the hijab out of conformity and societal expectations.

I regret to say that my naked eyes have bared witness to many teenage girls who wear the hijab necking away in the dark corners of shopping malls and public parks with their male friends. Its sad to see how many parents fail to instill integrity and authentic sense of self respect. They can't tell the difference between what is sinful and what is harmful for their well-being. In behaving in such manner, they tarnish the reputation of muslim girls as a whole.

I do realize that since Jazelia is just 16 and it may be premature of me to presume that she'll continue to be fine and turn out to be the respectful and respectable woman I hope she will become. For as long as my opinions and advice are of great importance and value to her, I am quite sure her conscience will continue to be her best ally in protecting her from the real dangers lurking in every corner of the future.

My unsolicited advice to that expert are as follows: If you are feeling guilty for not having enough authentic quality time with your family, do something about it. Put your children and family on top of your priority list. Don't lecture people to do something you are suffering guilt from. And please stay away from ever counseling anyone because you are judgmental, a social bigot and conservative in your way of thinking. I am sure you possess none of the qualities that make up an effective counselor. As Carl Rogers said: Counseling is not an act of doing. It is an art of being.

Now, judge this:

Friday, June 6, 2008

Dato' Johari Salleh - My Father.

Lee Eliot Berk (right), with Lawrence Berk, student Johari Salleh, and Charlie Mariano. (Circa 1967)
Dato' Johari Salleh

While I was away on a short vacation in Cherating with my husband and teenage daughters, my father was ruthlessly "attacked" by ignorant and arrogant individuals. I was only made aware of this tonight, by my very upset brothers and family. Even my mother, who has been divorced from my dad since 1978, voiced out her opinions in defense of the truth.

We are all appalled with the way the media had twisted his words around just to sell their newspaper. We are also equally disgusted by the abysmal way certain quarters had tried to justify THEIR mistake!

Let's put things in proper perspective. My dad graduated from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, America in 1968 and went on to become one of the most prominent maestros in Malaysia. All during that time, the insecure nobody who has been trying so hard to compensate his own inadequacies, was probably still exploring his own genitals! And now, that little nitwit is claiming that he knows more about music than my dad does!! How pompous can you get?!

I pity the fool who twisted my father's words to start a scandal just to draw attention to an insignificant talent show that does not yield real talent as their so called graduates of it's 'academy' or champions! I find it distasteful and inhumane to criticize the talent of others when most of the judges themselves have talents that are questionable. Unfortunately, the Malaysian audience represents narrow-minded and shallow people who prefer good looks to real talents. This is why my father never bothered to follow such so-called 'reality tv shows'. There's nothing real about it at all.

The younger generation of musicians must wake up and smell the coffee. Without the likes of P.Ramlee, Johar Bahar, Alfonso Soliano and my dad paving the musical way for them, they would have nothing today. No idea whatsoever! The young musicians of today don't have the right attitude towards learning. They think they know everything just because they can play a musical instrument and read a few notes. With this mindset, they learn nothing. Their skills are so technical and soulless. They chase fame and glamour. They want to be respected but they don't know how to show and give respect!

Some may say that my dad may already be a 'has-been', together with the others of his time and those who came before him. But they will never be forgotten because their names have gone down in history, etched in stone, forever. As for these wannabes, all I know for sure is that they will be forgotten like yesterday's breakfast. Yeah... old musicians of yore may be has beens now. But at least they have been here. As for the wannabes, that's all they will ever be...

Poor insignificant fools!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Golden Nuggets - Food for the Soul

"If you avoid certain situations because you're worried about the outcome, you never get to learn what would have happened if you had faced those situations. You deprive yourself of the chance to see how you would have coped. When you decide to avoid, you experience a temporary state of relief, but you're also left feeling powerless and deflated, as if you can't control your own behavior. Eventually you become discouraged and disheartened as a vague sense of feeling paralyzed sets in. This is how avoidance slowly eats away your self-confidence over time... Push yourself to feel vulnerable - this allows you to learn that you can handle whatever happens, and that even the most difficult of emotions can't destroy you. We're all capable of feeling intense fear so we can escape life-threatening situations... But usually people avoid things that simply make them feel uncomfortable."

- From Women Who Worry Too Much, by Holly Hazlett-Stevens, PhD

"Telling the truth when we feel vulnerable is one of the hardest things to do. We might fear rejection, abandonment, disapproval, disappointment, rage, hurt, or just the raw exposure that's an unavoidable part of the process. Yet almost every time we're willing to tell a hard truth, we grow and deepen in presence, no matter the response. The energy that we previously locked up to maintain a false front is now freed to uplift and enliven us."

- From How Now: 100 Ways to Celebrate the Present Moment, by Raphael Cushnir.

Happy 43rd Birthday, Mad.

Dearest Mad,

I won't ask how you are because I already know that you are better than where I am now. I have no more questions for you. I only have wishes and hopes. I wish for Allah to keep you safely in His Most Loving arms and that you are at peace. I hope you know how much I still miss you. I hope you know how hard I have been trying to go on living without you. I hope you don't know that whenever I miss you, I will tell myself that you're too busy repairing someone's car. And that you will call me once you're done under the car.

I can still hear your voice. I can still see your face. Your laughter still peals in my ears. My heart still feels your loving and sincere friendship. All these things about you still makes me smile... and tears to roll down my cheeks.

I still remember the last time we celebrated your birthday together. Your mother had just passed away a few weeks before your birthday and you were not feeling up to welcoming your birthday. It was mid 2006. Jasmene and I had driven up to Penang to spend a few days with you because Jee, your beautiful wife, was healing from chicken pox in her parent's home in Kelantan. We had dinner eating "celor-celor" for 2 nights in a row just because I loved it so much. I remember how you would patiently peel the shell of the prawns we were eating while telling us how you enjoyed doing that for Jee.

Your last holiday with your whole family was in Cherating, end of 2007. Your sister, Fairuz, showed us the videos and photos that were taken during that trip. It was very obvious that you made everyone felt happy and loved. You always had the talent to make people laugh.... or at least bring a smile to even the saddest heart.

Just so you know, Mad, Jasmene, the girls and I had just returned from a trip to Cherating. we stopped at the R & R you and your family stopped at, looking for that old lady you convinced that your whole family was selling camel oil. And we took the same route you took 7 months earlier. And throughout the journey, every car that had a Penang number plate would remind me of you.

This is all that I can do to celebrate your birthday this year, Mad. Here's your birthday present from Jasmene, JC, Lissa and me. And yes... I still love and miss you.

Al-Fatihah for Mohammad Abdul Rahman Zubaidi
2nd June 1965



**Please play this video till the end. Thank you.

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Step Back, A Leap Forward.


It took me more than a month to muster the courage to blog again. I have been having trouble trusting my internal dialogues. Intermittent with cackling of sarcastic laughter and tirades of self-defeating thoughts, my brain has been kept busy night and day.

The past few weeks have been filled with trying moments. I finally experienced the 'fight or flight' rush first hand for the first time. I have always considered myself brave. However, these last few weeks had reduced me to a shriveling blob of emotions. I just wanted to crawl into a cave and stay there until all my troubles had dissipated into thin air. I didn't care about the lessons to be learnt. I didn't give two hoots about the wisdom awaiting beyond the silver lining cloud. I just wanted to be left alone with my own insecurities and fears. I was afraid to let them go.

However, my caring lecturer and new friend, Dr. Wan Kader, didn't urge me to simply snap out of it. Neither did he try to coax me to leave my fears in the cave and come out alone. He just waited for me to take my time deciding what to do with my fears. He listened quietly and attentively when I found my voice again among the chaotic emotional and cognitive mess I was in.

How did I get to be that way? I don't know. What kept me awake at nights and restless during the days? I don't know. All I know was that I needed help. I need to be rescued but I needed someone I trust that can help me. I waited for the right person to show up before I extended my hand to ask for help. Please save me. I'm drowning in my own thoughts and emotions.

The marathon group counseling retreat was both daunting and exciting at the same time. I allowed myself to regress because I know that I needed to do that in order to progress. And so I did. I came away from the retreat feeling tired from the lack of sleep but I felt brand new. I have found myself again. I didn't die from the drowning experience. Instead, I learned to swim.

When I arrived for the retreat, my biggest issue was trusting again. Somehow, there was a link between how badly I took the betrayal of two old friends and the passing of my soul brother, Mad. My cathartic moment revealed that my trust in Mad didn't die with him. I can still continue to trust him. He's still trustworthy.

I also realized that during my drowning period, I had disconnected myself from people around me... those that I can still trust. Those who still care and love me. I'm grateful to Allah for the timely intervention I received from Dr Wan Kader. I almost lost everything while mourning what I thought I had lost.

Now, I am determined to be the beacon of light to those who are lost at their torrential sea. I will make sure they won't crash their ships and that they make it safely home to where they belong. I will continue to share my trials and tribulations with others, even as a small lesson to be learnt. Everything has value and meaning. Everything....

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Trust Me... If You Can...



George MacDonald said, "To be trusted is a greater compliment than to be loved."

Over the past few months, I have been feeling so overjoyed at being reunited with many of the people I consider as friends, that have, at some point or rather, been a fellow traveller along this journey I call my life. Most of them I have known even before I entered adolescence. After more than 25 years have passed by between us, fate has arranged our steps to lead to a crossing of paths again. Those close to me will vouch how much I treasure old friends. I believe that friendship is like a well aged cheese. The taste get better and stronger with time.

Ralph Waldo Emerson also said, "The glory of friendship is not the outstretched hand, nor the kindly smile, nor the joy of companionship; it is the spiritual inspiration that comes to one when you discover that someone else believes in you and is willing to trust you with a friendship."

It is in my nature to trust and think well of people. The longer I've known them, the deeper the trust I have in them. This is because, to my reasoning, if I have known someone for the majority of my years on earth, they are as good as my brother or sister. I should honor and cherish that friendship as I would my blood ties with my own siblings. I would rather be proven wrong for trusting and thinking well of someone than to be proven wrong for distrusting someone and thinking badly of them.

Frank Crane said, "You may be deceived if you trust too much, but you will live in torment if you don't trust enough."

But in a span of a few weeks, two of my old and treasured friends have betrayed me. One, abused my trust. The other, didn't trust me. I can't begin to describe how much that hurt my confidence in the goodness of mankind. Now my nights are filled with tiresome and disturbing dreams that echoes these betrayals. Is it a coincidence that they both went to school together? That they were of the same skin color? Has the breakdown in their marriages caused them to be so hurt and hence hurtful? Am I being a bigot or a racist for having these thoughts cross my mind and contaminating my reveries?

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "Our distrust is very expensive." "Self-trust is the first secret of success."

I've intertwined this blog entry with quotes about trust. This is my way of healing myself from this pain of betrayal. However, in reading what Cardinal De Retz said, "A man who doesn't trust himself can never really trust anyone else", I've come to a realization that it's not my problem if people have trouble trusting themselves and in doing so, they cannot bring themselves to trust others. They are the ones with trust issues. But, why does this burden my heart so terribly?

Samuel Johnson said, "It is better to suffer wrong than to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated than not to trust."

Is this enough to heal a wounded heart that has been speared by the lance of distrust? Is it worth my while to keep on trusting people? How much is too much trust? How little is too little? Is there any way we can guard ourselves from betrayal without cutting ourselves out and depriving our spirits from the nourishment of a refreshing friendship?

From this experience, I've come to understand that the quality of the friendship cannot be measured by the length of it. Because the years spent apart may have a role to play in changing the person we once called a friend and turning them into perfectly familiar strangers. I don't know those two friends anymore. Their appearances may have aged through time. But they are no longer the friends that I grew up with. The friends I knew have ceased to exist in these two people. I don't know them anymore. And I don't talk to strangers.

"Trust only movement. Life happens at the level of events, not of words. Trust movement." - Alfred Adler

Monday, April 14, 2008

Yada-Yada Sisterhood Part 2


I'm being politically correct when I use the term Yada-Yada Sisterhood. Actually, our meetings are called Perjumpaan Vagina Monologue by its members. But somehow, when some members of the opposite sex hear this, they cringe as if its a dirty word! Why is penis not a dirty word? Isn't the vagina a part of the woman's anatomy as penis is for man? Even Oprah had to improvise by calling it "Ve Jay Jay."

Well, as far as I am concerned, these men can cringe all they want. Because the honest to goodness fact is that the vagina is their entry passage into this world. And here is the latest edition to MANkind.


Ahmad Shahiman Bin Ahmad Fairuz.

This time around, our meeting did not have tea and scones. It was in the labour room of a hospital. Wa, my soul sister, had just given birth to her second son. Laton and I joined Wa to celebrate the wonders of motherhood. Now, the score is 2 all between the three of us. Two miracles each. And we agreed that the one who will deliver their third child will preside as the president over our meetings. The first meeting was held on 01.01.08 and the second one was on 08.04.08. Both dates fell on a Tuesday. One was to celebrate a new year. The other was to celebrate a new birth.

Women carry within them the miracle of kinship. Silaturrahim. A connection via the womb. This connection makes an unbreakable link. For this reason alone, women deserve respect. We are the mothers of human race.

Friday, April 4, 2008

On Becoming a Person: Carl Rogers


Carl Rogers (1902-1987)

THIS IS ME.
What is most personal is most general:
I have almost invariably found that the very feeling which has seemed to me most private, most personal, and hence most incomprehensible by others, has turned out to be an expression for which there is a resonance in many other people. What is most personal and unique is the very element which would, if it were shared or expressed, speak mostly to others.

Life, at its best, is a flowing, changing process in which nothing is fixed:
In my clients and in myself I find that when life is richest and most rewarding it is a flowing process.
To experience this is both fascinating and frightening.
Life is guided by a changing understanding and interpretation of my experience.
It is a process of becoming.
I can only try to live by my interpretation of the current meaning of my experience, and try to give others the permission and freedom to develop their own inward freedom and thus their own meaningful interpretation of their own experience.

- by Carl Roger, written in 1961.

Wisdom of Fritz Perls


Frederick 'Fritz' Perls (1893-1970)

"The Prayer"
I do my thing and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations,
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you, and I am I, and if by chance we find each other, it's beautiful.
If not, it can't be helped.

Friday, February 29, 2008

An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love

I always enjoy book stores. Somehow, a sense of peace and serenity always wash over me with a secret hush whenever I'm surrounded by rows and rows of books. My paradise of tranquility.

Today, as usual, I stole a moment to walk into a quaint little bookshop right in the hustle and bustle of city life. The cool air-conditioning in the shop slowly dried the mild afternoon sweat off my forehead. My eyes began to wander hungrily over the many titles of magazines and books galore. My head tilted left and right, scanning the covers for topics that might peak my interest or steal my attention.

And then suddenly, there it was... a little, thin book, propped quietly on a high shelf, with a very interesting title. I couldn't resist picking it up immediately. My fingers yearning to feel the touch of its beautiful jacket. I ran them over the embossed lettering. "An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love" by Richard Carlson and Kristine Carlson.

I gasped. I quickly turned the book over to read the many reviews listed on the back cover. And then my heart stopped beating for a moment. A stillness descended upon me. I felt the nearness of truth. Of love. My eyes fell upon these words...

"On their 18th wedding anniversary, in 2003, Richard Carlson (author of the bestselling Don't Sweat the Small Stuff) presented his wife, Kristine, with a short manuscript called An Hour to Live. He imagines he has an hour to live and poses questions originally asked by spiritual guide and author Stephen Levine: whom would you call? what would you say? and why are you waiting? Uncannily, the text foreshadowed Carlson's death three years later, at age 45, of a pulmonary embolism. Though he had no chance to make that last phone call, his wife (and the reader) already knows his feelings for her and their children. We also know what was important to him, which boils down to the old chestnut: no one, on their deathbed, ever wishes they'd spent more time at the office. Included in the book is Kristine's tribute to Richard, called An Hour to Love. Both pieces (only 50 pages and padded with Richard's favorite poem and blank pages for the reader's own answer to the key question) are heartfelt—and oddly unengaging. They tell the reader how wonderful the Carlsons' marriage was, but don't show why. We are left with a lovely ideal—too ideal for readers to relate to. (Jan. 15) - by Publishers Weekly."

"Richard Carlson, so beloved to many of us, writes to his own true love from a place somewhere between life and death. The love with which he writes to her, and the love with which she answers, provide a teaching for all of us: on life, on death, and on the existence of a spirit that transcends them both. - by Marianne Williamson, author of A Return to Love and The Age of Miracles."

I felt my eyes well up with tears, my throat tightened and my heart crying again. The remembrance of Mad. He was so loved by many, too. A very wise old man once asked me the same question. "If you only have 24 hours left to live, what would you do?"

I couldn't afford to purchase that book just now. I forced myself to return it in its place on the high shelf whilst promising to myself that I will be returning to that quaint little shop to make that precious treasure mine. My girls have already negotiated their turns at reading it. I end this writing for now. I shall make my next entry after I have savored the deliciousness of reading "An Hour to Live, an Hour to Love".

Friday, February 15, 2008

My Bucket List




"Edward Perman Cole died in May, it was a Sunday afternoon and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. It's difficult to understand the sum of a persons life, some people would tell you it's measured by the ones left behind, some believe it can be measured in faith, some say by love, other folks say life has no meaning at all......Me, I believe you measure yourself by the people who measure themselves by you. What I can tell you for sure is that by any measure, Edward Cole lived more in his last days on earth than most people manage to wring out of a lifetime. I know that when he died his eyes were closed and his heart was opened......"

This was the opening line to this movie. To say that watching this flick had a profound affect on me and my attitude towards life is a great understatement.

I have one such list. Except that I didn't call it my Bucket List. I simply refer to it as "The things I wanna do before I die."
1. Perform my Haj.
2. Go to Mekkah with my family.
3. Repay all my debts.
4. See God's earth with my family.
5. See the 7 wonders of the world.
6. Learn to speak fluent Arabic and French.
7. Have a fantastic relationship with my daughters.
8. Live a simple but fulfilling life.
9. Learn psychology to the highest level.

And the list goes on. I believe more things will be added and some will be stricken out or checked off from the list.

Some may see the morbidity of it all. But I believe when we know how we want to die, we will discover how we want to live. Some people feel that this movie is simply about a list; a list of all the good things in life: places to be visited, people worth cherishing, values to which to cleave... and friendship. Well, everyone is entitled to their own interpretation of the meaning of this film. The Bucket List is about the importance of living life as if each moment might be your last.

Live everyday of your life as if it's your last and one day you'll be right.

Rose is Gold on Valentine's Day.


There are many ways of looking at the much celebrated and overrated Valentine's Day.
"It's a marketing strategy for greeting card companies."
"It's a Christian celebration. You're a muslim. You shouldn't celebrate it."
"Rose is like gold on Valentine's Day."

However, I choose to look at Valentine's Day in another way. To understand my point of view, consider this:
How often do you tell the ones you love how much you love them?

We go about our everyday life, busy with commitments, things we have to do and haven't done, planning things to do over the next few days, weeks and many other normal distractions dished out by life and daily living. Our minds are often not in the present, the here and now. Most often, we are thinking about the past or considering our future. And then we wonder how time flies by sonic speed. And most of us go about feeling lonely in a crowd and unloved by those near and dear to us.

A wise old man once told me that if the ones you love do not feel loved by you, then the love you feel for them in your heart is redundant. It means nothing to those we love because that love is not relayed to them.

We need to learn to express the love we feel for people we love. We need to learn to live in the here and now. We need to seize every opportunity to give and receive love whenever and wherever we can. Because love is important in our lives.

There was this one Iraqi professor in my faculty who, as a response to my saying that Islam is about loving Allah, had said that my way of thinking is very Christian like. This was my reply, "Before we begin any form of prayer, we recite 'Bismillahhir rahmaannir rahiim.' which means 'In the name of Allah the Most Loving and the Most Forgiving.' Allah is Love. We, as human beings, simply cannot flourish or sustain ourselves without love. Many clinical research has been done that has proven this fact. A newborn baby that is simply fed with milk but not nourished with loving care will simply wither away and die."

Funny how most people like to look for differences between themselves and others simply to satisfy their inner desire to be different and unique. We are all unique and special. But looking for differences in mankind is not healthy for society as a whole. It's a fertile ground for social bigotry.

Embracing the spirit of Valentine's Day is not harmful to muslims. In fact, I believe we can learn something from this. If we are indeed always too busy to give and show love to those we feel love for, then why not allow this one day in the whole of the calendar year to give you the opportunity to do just that? I don't see any harm in that at all. After all, Valentine's Day is NOT about roses, chocolates or even a romantic dinner. It is also NOT about whether you have a boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife to celebrate it with. Its about appreciating the love you feel for those you do and showing it in the most memorable way.

Bottom line: If you don't wanna celebrate Valentine's Day, then show your love to those you love everyday. That's the muslim way of living and loving.

Peace be upon us all...

Friday, February 1, 2008

The Birthday Gift

With Fairoz and Hanim.

Two families merge.

A birthday wish for my soul brother. May Allah forgive all his sins.

Zubair a.k.a Bear. The nearest person I have next to Mad.

I was dreading my birthday. Everyone knew that. But no one could really fathom the degree of dread I was feeling. Although consciously I know I will no longer be receiving any birthday calls from Mad, deep inside I was hoping that I would wake up from this nightmare and Mad would call, warbling a birthday song with Jee, his wife, laughing happily in the background.

My much loved and very understanding husband, Jasmene, to my agreement, made plans to hold a small gathering of people who knew and loved Mad. We wanted to hold a Tahlil for Mad and a Doa Selamat for me on the eve of my birthday. My loving Mom and brother plus his beautiful family obliged us to hold this gathering in their home.

We were sharing wonderful memories of Mad and the funny things he use to say and do. Bear did a fantastic job at distracting my attention from looking at the clock. My most feared time was 12 midnight. On the dot, the lights in the house went out and everyone broke into singing Happy Birthday, while my sweet sister-in-law, Fazlina, brought out the cake. I was so shocked that I was trembling. Just before I blew the candle, everyone urged me to make a wish. I whispered to God's ears, "Ya Allah, ampunkanlah semua dosa-dosa sahabatku Mohammad. Amiin."

Mad, you have given me more than what you did while you were alive. I now have your family to call my own too. When I embrace them, I feel you in their hearts. I can still feel your friendship and love for me, Mad. I hope my prayers and love reaches you, wherever you are.

The next morning, a steady flow of calls and smses came in from your siblings and families. Your sweet wife, Jee, called me and we spoke for almost an hour. We all miss you, Mad. And we always will.

Today, is the fourth Friday since your return to The Most Loving. Although I know you're in a much better place than here, I still miss you, soul brother. I hope you felt loved by me while you were here. I hope you still feel loved now. Because I still love you.

Rest in peace, Mad. I will always hold your love and friendship in my heart. But for your sake, I have to let you go.

"When you see my funeral, don't say, 'What a separation!'
It is time for me to visit and meet the Beloved,
Since you have seen my descent, then do see my rising.
Why complain about the setting of the moon and the sun?
Which seed that went under the earth failed to grow up again?"

- by Rumi from Essential Sufism.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Life After a Death

A Sufi teaching says, "Die before you die." One interpretation is that you should strive to learn what you would be shown at death while you still have the time to make use of this knowledge, that is, while still alive in a body. The wisdom we achieve on death reveals the true value of what is important and what is not. How much richer life becomes if we are able to gain this perspective beforehand.

- An excerpt of Essential Sufism by James Fadiman & Robert Frager.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

"To Where You Are"


Who can say for certain
Maybe you're still here
I feel you all around me
Your memory's so clear

Deep in the stillness
I can hear you speak
You're still an inspiration
Can it be...

That you are my forever love
And you are watching over me from up above

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight
To see you smile
If only for awhile to know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are

Are you gently sleeping
Here inside my dream
And isn't faith believing
All power can't be seen

As my heart holds you
Just one beat away
I cherish all you gave me
Everyday...

'Cause you are my forever love
Watching me from up above

And I believe
That angels breathe
And that love will live on and never leave

Fly me up to where you are
Beyond the distant star
I wish upon tonight to see you smile
If only for awhile to know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are

I know you're there
A breath away's not far
To where you are

Sunday, January 6, 2008

A Letter To My Soul Brother.


Dearest Mad,

I remember clearly when we first met. I was upset after breaking off with my boyfriend at the time. You and I were both 18 and studying at KDU. Right from the beginning, you were distinctly different from the rest of the guys in the college. While others were judging me by my reputation, you were sincere in your friendship and never questioned why I was the way I was. You really saw me as who I am.

Throughout the years, our friendship deepened to a new level. We became soul siblings. Our living arrangements, you living and working in Penang and me in KL, made our hearts more fond of one another. We kept in touch with each other and never allowed the geographical distance to be an obstacle to our friendship. We wrote letters back and forth while I was studying in Swansea. When I returned to KL, you thought nothing of making an effort to look for me just so that we could catch up and update each other with what was going on in each of our lives.

You would drive down to KL from Penang at a drop of a hat, just to come to my Hari Raya open house. You would, without fail, call me on my birthday to sing to me "Happy Birthday" followed by words of appreciation of our long lasting friendship. You would always wrap it all up with a prayer for me, that I'd be happy and loved. You always made sure I felt happy and loved. Whenever the world seemed hostile and ugly to me, I knew for certain that you were always in my corner. You never left any room for my doubts or insecurities to creep in. You made sure I believe that we were always gonna be there for each other.

Our marriages to our respective spouses only magnified and enlarged the love shared between us. We even absorbed each other into the lives of our respective siblings and their families. Our friendship had produced a huge extended family unit. You became a part of my family, and I yours.

On the morning of 4th of January 2008, I received a call from your sister's phone. It was her husband, Dzuhari. He asked if it was me on the phone. I confirmed it, although my head was still foggy from just 2 hours of sleep. He mumbled something and mentioned your name. I couldn't make out what he was saying. My head was still blurry. And then his words hit me. "Mad dah tak dak. He passed away an hour ago." I was shocked to silence. And then I felt the tightness in my chest progress up to a lump in my throat and then I heard myself screaming, "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Not Mad!! No! No!! This is not true!!" I refused to believe this atrociousness. After he filled me in with the family's plans to drive up to Penang, I quietly thanked him for informing me and I ended the call.

The things that I did immediately following that call is still a pandemonium of recollections. My denial was the only thing that kept me from collapsing. I steely called Jasmene who was sending Jc and Lissa to school. I heard myself telling him about your death. And that was when I broke into pieces. I am broken. When he returned, Jasmene immediately came to hold me. But at that moment, what I needed most was another call. A call from you telling me that it was all a mistake. But that call never came. I am still waiting.

Jasmene, being the strong one, made all the necessary arrangements for us to make our way to Penang as soon as possible. I called my mom and asked her to handle Jc and Lissa who were in school. We handed her the keys to our house, packed an overnight bag and sped to KLIA to buy a flight ticket.

As I stood at your doorstep, I could see Fairoz, your sister, sitting there crying. She looked at me, as if in a daze. In a flash, she was hugging me and we were both crying in each other's arms. She invited me into your house and there you were, on a bed in the middle of the living room, covered in kain batik and your face covered with a white cloth. Za, your eldest sister said to me, "Come see Mad, Ana. Come give him a kiss..." The moment she lifted the white cloth that veiled your face, my knees gave way. I broke into an inconsolable bawl. I literally felt my heart shatter to smithereens.

I braved myself to really look at your face. You looked as if you were sleeping. You had a smile on your face. I was half expecting you to sit and say, " Awat? Terkejut kaa..? Hahahahhahahaa..." I was expecting you to be the joker and prankster that you're known to be and loved for. I lowered my face to kiss your forehead. Your forehead felt cold to my lips.

Your siblings made sure Jasmene and I were included in all the preparations for your funeral. Jasmene was asked to participate in giving you your last bath. I was asked to lay some flowers and camphor mix inside your burial cloth. There was not a single dry eye in the house that day. Everything went very well, right from the beginning till the end.

I felt a wreaking pain in my chest as I heard your Talqin being recited to you. I opened my palms skyward, pleading and praying to Allah that He'll bless your soul, forgive your sins, widen your grave, spare you from torture and punishment of barzakh and hell fire. And when the crowd began to slowly leave the cemetary, I sat by your grave and said my goodbyes.

Mad, I'm sorry I never got to say how much you really mean to me. I never got to really thank you for all the wonderful things you have said and done. I never got to apologize for any wrong doings I may have unintentionally done onto you. There's so much more that I never got to say to you, although deep down I know you already know it. I can still hear you talking to me in my head. I can still see your smiling cheeky face in my eyes. I told myself that I know for sure that your death has changed me forever. But soon after, I heard your voice in my head saying, " Ana, janganlah berubah banyak sangat. Sat gi Mad tak kenai.."

Don't worry about your beloved wife, Jee. Jasmene and I promise to shower her with your portion of our love, friendship and loyalty. We will take care of her. Same goes for your whole family. Zah, Khalid, Latif, Bod, Zee, Bear, Fairoz, Hanim and all the other members of your family have embraced my family and I into their wonderful and loving arms. We will continue to maintain everything beautiful that you have created during your lifetime.

I am hopeful that there will come a day when my grief is replaced by something beautiful. I don't know if the dead can return to this earth and move about unseen by those who loved them, but if they can, then I know that you will always be with us. You are not gone forever. You are standing with Allah, alongside my soul, helping to guide me toward a future I cannot predict.

This is not a goodbye, Mad. This is a thank you. Thank you for coming into my life and giving me joy, thank you for loving me and receiving my love in return. Thank you for the memories I will cherish forever. But most of all, thank you for letting your death show me how to really live. To live good and well.

My birthdays will no longer be the same without your calls and birthday songs. I shall always miss you.

I love you, Mad. My soul brother, my friend.

Al Fatihah for Mohammad Abdul Rahman Zubaidi
2nd June 1965 - 4th January 2008.



A preamble to the beauty my soul brother had brought into my life
Please feel free to leave a comment in honor of his memory and let us all celebrate his life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Yada-Yada Sisterhood


On the first day of the new year, my soul sister, and I decided to invite our much loved baby soul sister, Laton, to our very first Perjumpaan Vagina Monologue. The purpose of this gathering is mainly to celebrate and give full support to the wonderfulness of being women, wives and mothers while successfully (and most of the time, painfully) juggling our personal and professional lives.

We started chattering upon arrival at Wa's place, while beautifully setting the table for a wonderful "english weather" tea party, aptly furnished with scones, jam and butter. We laughed at each other's discovery of how similar (and dissimilar) we are to our mothers in the way we go about being wives and mothers in our own right.

Although the spread was hardly world class cuisine, the company made the treats extra special. It was laced with laughter and interspersed with wisdom shared. The cool rainy weather failed to dampen our spirits to rejoice and enjoy each other's love. Truly, the love of a sisterhood is beyond words and comparison.

We realize that the road to happiness is sometimes bumpy with challenges, misty with the tears of frustration, and scary with the unknown and unexpected. We also realize that we are women: the gender that Allah has chosen to bestow the gift of birth. Through our wombs, He brings forth His creations. Indeed, we are the blessed ones. For we are the ones with Rahiim.