Ramadan Day 9: One small step for acceptance, One giant leap toward the moon

Hiya Moon Lover,

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I’m tired today. So tired, in fact, that when Diya called, to chat and check-in, I confessed to her that I wasn’t planning on writing my blog. “Oh, that’s too bad,” she said, “I usually get your post into my inbox in the middle of the night, and I enjoy reading it as part of my morning reads, along with the rest of my routine.”

 

I explained that I couldn’t do it because I was going to meet my brother-in-law to have a con-fron-ta-tion or a con-fla-gra-tion, and I knew I wouldn’t have any energy left, either way.

 

I knew this in part because I had no energy to even be upset or angry or even that worried about a conversation that I’d been feeling anxiety and hopelessness and frustration around for the past 6 months. I was so grateful for this fast because it basically incapacitated a part of me over which I tend to have very little control: my speedy reaction time. You kick me, and I forget the battle, the war, the everything – I just go berserker.

 

As you can imagine, this is not a quality that works well pretty much anywhere. My ability to tap into it and control it, ruthlessly, made me a great advocate. But, in my personal life, when I’m at my most anxious or if I’m scared, I can’t totally control it. I get tripped up when people poke at me. It’s easy to get a rise out of me, as they say, sometimes. Too easy. Other times, I’m like the sword in the stone. Pretty much only somebody with the secret magical familial inheritance can set me loose.

 

My brother-in-law doesn’t know me well enough to shake me loose from the stupor of fasting. But still I chose to meet him at 5:30 because late in the day, I knew that I would have the least reaction time.

 

So I met up with my brother-in-law, he of the stony glare and the crossed elbows. I was late because I couldn’t quite bring myself to rush out the door. We both wore baseball caps. The first part of the game was ugly, like I felt I was going to lose it when he started asking me unrelated questions, poking at sore spots for what seemed like no reason. At one point, seemingly out of nowhere, when he asked if I was jealous that my brother and sister were closer than me to either of them, I thought I might truly lose it.

 

Instead, I realized that the painting above his head was not placed parallel to the painting next to it. I contemplated this. I heard the Doctor, as if from another room, say, “It’s probable that he’s going to try to sabotage you, whether or not he knows it. Don’t let him trigger you.” I mentally patted myself on the back, and went into the stretch.

 

Listen, Listen. My brother in law also made many acknowledgments and good points, including pointing out how stressed out he felt when my sister and me fight. Once we were deep into the count, we both got loose, and we relaxed. The conversation went into extra innings. We were supposed to talk from 4-6, but it was already 7:50pm, and I needed to break my fast.

 

Somehow, we ended up no longer talking about our issue: we started enjoying each other’s company and talking about sexism and whether the world was getting better and how public schools in the Bay Area are like private schools and why people want to be in relationships or have kids, anyway.

 

I remember a friend of mine, Le Bossa Nova, used to tell me how important it was in relationships to just enjoy your time with each other. Even when you’re fighting or there’s an unresolved disagreement. It’s a good idea sometimes to stop dealing directly with the fight and to spend time enjoying each other’s company. She said this about romantic partnerships, but I’ve come to apply it to all my relationships.

 

I looked at my watch and freaked out. It was 8:18, and I was running into Iftar. I got some water. We talked for twenty more minutes. I thought I was going to pass out, but then we ended the talk, and I ran to my car. My mom had left many messages, and I felt terrible because she’d told me she was going to buy dinner. She picked up after the first ring, and her voice anxious and worried, was, “Are you okay?”

 

“Yes, Yes,” I explained.

“I have to go drop off a security blanket for Phin. I’ll be back when you’re home.”

 

My mom has become quite a partner in crime. When I got home at 8:50pm, she still hadn’t eaten. She’d brought home the works from a Southern Chinese restaurant: lamb, beef, and vegetable dumplings. Fresh pickled seaweed and a side of cold garlic eggplant. Together, even while I protested that she’d waited for me to eat, we broke my fast and gobbled down the dumplings.

 

I’m going to go upstairs and sleep, I told her, as soon as the meal was over. And I was about to, but then I remembered that I’m not fasting only for myself (to the extent that can be true of any human behavior). I’m fasting for God, for all the people that I love for whom I get to deliver next level prayers, for my family especially, and to help me have a baby. I also said I’d write as much as I could this Ramadan, and if you can fast for a day, you can certainly summon the inner power to do other things, besides sleep.

(Caution, do not try to do this last admonition at home, while in bed.)

 

Then, I remembered why I’d asked all of y’all to consider writing me with prompts/advice. Because when I’m too tired to give a damn anymore about anything or anyone, even God, I can still eke out an hour or so to give unsolicited advice to a friend. I mean it’s just me running at the mouth. Right?

 

So thanks Diya for telling me you read this blog as part of a routine. Writing it is part of MY routine. And for telling me that maybe you have a question too. I think that when I answer a question from a friend, even though the questions that are asked may not be totally relevant to your life, I feel like I’m getting an opportunity to talk to all of you. About the world we live in.

 


 

Dear Galumph – be forewarned that, save the first one, they are not about someone eating my leftovers. ie kinda heart-deep, so no worries if you don’t feel like delving that deeply! ❤

 

– the Upstairs Neighbor Who Chronically Wears Stiletto Platform Combat Boots at All Hours…and also snores…and slams everything…and is white and under thirty and loud AF and doesn’t pick up their dog shit or respond to requests to be a courteous, non-ogre human being. Le Sigh.

 

– How to survive your late thirties amid relationship transitions / how to navigate going from deeply booed up to that liminal space in between friends and exes (wheee!)

 

– My elder, recently ailing cat who is the longest relationship of my life, and bracing for/preparing/being totally unwilling to learn to let go because we all know cats/pets are way better than people

 

<3,

Anwaar


 

Dear Anwaar,

 

I’m going to answer these in order, flash style, if that’s okay. Truthfully, I would like to answer all the questions at once. There’s an odd symmetry to them regarding acceptance, but since I’m not good at accepting things, I’ll try to address the questions separately, best as I can.

 


the Upstairs Neighbor Who Chronically Wears Stiletto Platform Combat Boots at All Hours…and also snores…and slams everything…and is white and under thirty and loud AF and doesn’t pick up their dog shit or respond to requests to be a courteous, non-ogre human being. Le Sigh.


 

This is the hardest one for me because I’ve had so little success with this issue over the years. In fact, I would like to crowd-source the hive/dear readers to give advice because so many of my friends have dealt with this particular issue over the years.

 

My friend Courtru, for example, had a neighbor who once, and I’m not kidding, played Lil Wayne’s “Back that Ass Up” on repeat loudly, and another who was into techno music and lived on the floor above and danced like a hyena in heat. Then, there was elephant feet family. Even, once, when we lived together, the family of 5-6 squeezed into the apartment next door with the unbearably thin walls would play music that swelled into an indistinguishable crescendo of rap, and occasionally, a live mariachi band. As such, Courtru has developed many strategies, which she can parse out as having had limited success.

 

I even remember, at one point, when an ex of mine and I lived together and late at night all we could hear was a mobile that wouldn’t stop playing jingle bells, that I started googling strategies for how to deal a blow to the sound queens. Mostly, I think, it was an excuse for her to snuggle. The fact that it was driving her bonkers was also true.

 

I know, from your description, that you, like most of my friends are pretty sensitive to whether the noise is coming from somebody who’s a gentrifier, and so I’m proceeding with an understanding that this is legit a noisy neighbor who has gone beyond the pale and not a situation of cultural competency.

 

Other than looking up the sound ordinance and seeing if you have any recourse there, let’s look at the real issue. Most jurisdictions you can’t do squat and that means all we can do is talk. In some situations, you can go into full-battle mode like complaining to the landlord, I think all you can achieve there is a battle of attrition. It’s basically the sic the landlord on the problem situation. And, that is only as effective as your landlord. You can definitely ask in your next lease that you have a silent enjoyment clause, but sometimes people won’t give them. Those are enforceable in court against the landlord, making it that person’s problem. But, this (like everything in this paragraph) is a hard road option.

 

I can, however, cheerlead and root for you to continue to be polite and firm and repeat your asks that they not calm the fuck down. I mean, if you get an opportunity to strike up a non-noise oriented conversation with somebody, and you can stomach being nice to this person, I would try. But, it seems that his problems (I mean, he’s not picking up dog poop? Ugh. Gross.), go beyond the conversational.

 

Here’s two blogs by a friend of mine, Annabelle, that truck with this issue, albeit I don’t think anybody has a solution — it can give you a sense of the rampant nature of this problem.

“Knock Three Times On the Ceiling If You Want Me”

and “A little white noise for my listening pleasure”

I found the latter blog quite moving for its quiet ending:

Now it’s time to fall asleep to the sound of the rain.  Delicious.

Raindrops keep falling on my head.
But that doesn’t mean my eyes will soon be turning red.
Crying’s not for me,
’cause I’m never gonna stop the rain by complaining.
Because I’m free.
Nothing’s worrying me.

*

That’s just what I pray for you. Raindrops and relief. I’m sorry that I don’t have better advice than to hope that the situation changes (perhaps in ways that will surprise you?) because I don’t really know what I’d do except for make a few asks, try to put up with it, go for white noise machines / ear plugs, and eventually, complain to the landlord. Much of this is out of your control.


 

– How to survive your late thirties amid relationship transitions / how to navigate going from deeply booed up to that liminal space in between friends and exes (wheee!)

 


 

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nayyirah waheed


 

Okay, this one I’m going to keep short and only answer the friends/exes aspect — because I don’t know much, but I DO know that many of my exes would turn over in their bitter coffins to hear me try to explain this. The very thought of waking them so rudely up from their graves is enough to make me laugh AND give me the shivers. Sorry former boos – but we gave me enough bad experiences that Stephen King ain’t got nothing on us. And, ya know I still love you and hope that you’re not reading this blog.

 

Anyhoo, once, during my first really, really bad breakup (not my first breakup), this random football player who was my exes roommate was talking to me about how terrible it was that my ex was not speaking to me at all and acting like nothing had happened. He was totally on my side. I think it was in his genes to take sides, and I both appreciated this and kind of hated it. “Dude, it’s like you guys caught the ball at the end zone and then you made it down 90 yards, but then there was a fumble, and instead of her remembering the 90 yards, all she can remember is what happened during the last ten.” That’s some truth, right there.

 

I’ve learned the hard way that, too often, after a breakup – whether the relationship was good or bad – the liminal space, as you so eloquently put it, is characterized by how you ended the relationship. That’s why people can have a relatively loving relationship for years, but if there’s a bad act at the end, one or both partners, decide that they can never speak to each other again. So, while breakups ALWAYS suck, and there’s no easy way that when two people are losing a relationship that they’ve prioritized and to which they’ve habituated (the romantic one) they can easily shift gears to prioritizing a relationship that they’ve always thought as secondary (the friendship one).

 

Oh, sure, there are couples that make this look easy. But, as Anne Lamott said about writers that write beautiful, complete first drafts – they exist, they’re rare, but nobody likes them very much. Maybe you and your ex are in this unlikeable grouping, but if not, then I can’t say anything about survival. I mean I’ve literally molted my feathers and then fried to a crisp and risen from the ashes at least four times in my life. I do think that what you can do is more than survive, you can intentionally do the hard work of building with your former boo.

 

If part of the break-up is that process of committing to being kind and respectful to each other then you will have a higher likelihood of emerging from that liminal space as friends. Again, that probably doesn’t mean the kind of friends that talk everyday (not that you’d want that anyway), but certainly a lasting affection is possible? No.

 

And, the best thing I always like to say is, Sometimes, you have to close one door to open another.

 


 

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by Nayyirah Waheed

 


 

– My elder, recently ailing cat who is the longest relationship of my life, and bracing for/preparing/being totally unwilling to learn to let go because we all know cats/pets are way better than people


 

I think anyone reading this question can guess that there’s sadness in the content, which is why I’m leaving it for last – so it’s easy to skip if you prefer.

 

When I was still in maybe kindergarten, a stray cat that my mom and dad found came to live with us. She had a litter, and my dad made us give away all the babies. One of the babies, a little yellow tabby, simply would hide, and even though I remember weird people coming to our backyard with boxes and chasing the kittens around, nobody could catch her. Eventually, the mother left, but the little tabby stayed. I named her Christina. I was allergic, even then, to Christina, but she was my first cat, even though many more were to come to my family and mine over the years. When she died, I was in my final year of high school. I carved her name and her picture into the tree in the backyard where my sister, brother, and I, buried her. Even my dad came to the ceremony, and he had a difficult relationship with Christina.

 

Cats, the saying goes, want to die alone, and they like to die somewhere away from home. Christina was no exception. We knew she was getting older and sick, and I think we did take her to the vet who explained that she was just getting old. I’m still feeling a little choked up about what happened next. I was worried about her, so I remember I followed her around a little bit the next few days, preparing special food for her and giving her lots of love.

 

We lived on a hill. One morning, I found her at the bottom of the hill, and when I went to go get her, I saw that her hind legs weren’t moving, but she was dragging herself toward the neighbor’s house. I couldn’t let her go, even though I was calling her. (Christina came when called and recognized her name). I picked her up and carried her up the hill, and she did seem to look at me, with reproach, for a moment, but she had no energy.

 

As I walked up the hill, she died in my arms. I felt her body change in my arms. I sobbed so hard that I couldn’t see the stairs in front of me. My grandmother who had raised me alongside my parents had died in my arms only some months ago. Thinking of that death is so painful that even all these years later, I can’t bear to recount it here.

 

I will say that after my grandmother’s death, I’d become numb. The loss was so devastating to my mother, who cried every day, it felt, for a year, that I think, in response, I really didn’t cry much. But Christina’s death changed all of that, it unlocked all my grief. The loss, the two together, intertwined, were too much for me. I was overcome, and from the outside, one might think that I cried harder for my cat than I did for my grandmother. But that’s not true.

 

So when I think of the death of my cats over the years, I think of the death of the people I love over those same years. And really, I think of what it means to face loss. There is absolutely nothing I can say about letting go that will make it easier. The truth is that I don’t know how to walk anymore. Especially on that line that seems finer and finer every year. You know the one where we balance our presence, the very fact that life is for the living with the equally unyielding fear that someone we care about is going to die.

 

Grief is a human ritual. It cannot be escaped. Don’t try. Don’t bother.

 

I can say one thing regarding this: we all know cats/pets are way better than people. When I read that line, I feel so many things. I don’t necessarily agree with that sentiment (though of course I’ve thought it in moments of despair). I think what’s more important is that I do understand it and so many people understand it. What’s not to understand? Love, they remind us, doesn’t have to be complicated or messed up. Love can be simple. This is true, and it’s too bad that human beings don’t get it. Pets are our cosmic teachers, in this way. I also understand that a person’s love for a pet can make that pet more important to them than any human being. Pets can be with us and we can be with them in a way that we can’t with humans.

 

For me, losing a pet is like losing a part of myself, a being upon which I’ve imbued what I most needed, and because my pets have such distinct personalities that are so different from me, and from each other – when I lose a pet, it really is like a part of me dying. I may still be alive, but I’m not the same.

 

I see this huge love you have. I’ve met your cat through photos. They’re a cosmic being. You deserve the great love you have for each other. I don’t know if you can ever truly prepare to lose a being that you love. I don’t know if you have to be ready to let go.

 

I only know that I trust you to cherish all the moments of the good life that the two of you share. Be present, even if you’re filled with sadness or fear. Cherish this lifetime you get to spend together and be in gratitude for it. When your cat passes, you will know how well you loved each other.


 

The Long Trajectory of Grief

By Laura Villareal

A squeal cracks bright like hot metal in water. Before
the sun has licked across the fields, I wonder how to save myself

before guilt sets like a stain. I wonder
if the constellations above me can lift guilt or if they’re only

a temporary solution for what I feel. In the morning
I find three wild boars in the street, dead. A red

bumper lying near one of their carcasses.
Is the nature of a crash to always leave something behind?

Fog glimmers up from the road forsaken
by first light. I pretend not to notice

your absence— how my car isn’t spiced with your oakmoss
& mint anymore. But I pray the vultures pick me

clean like a Tibetan sky
burial before anyone smells grief on me.

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