We’ve crossed the one-year anniversary of my blog, Brain Knows Better, and it’s pretty incredible to think how much my life has changed over this last year. It’s been a ton of fun to explore the psychology of sci-fi, but more than anything, this blog has helped me be honest about who I am – a big geek.
I didn’t like who I was in middle school and tried everything I could to blend in.I wasn’t always this open about being a geek. For most of my life, I tried to hide it. In middle school, I knew some kids who wore Starfleet uniforms to class. When they were bullied for it, I stood by silently. Back then, I probably watched as much Star Trek: The Next Generation after school as they did, but I wanted nothing to do with them. They weren’t cool and more than anything else, I wanted to fit in.
You’ve got to meet my brother, my friend Mina tells me as we wander the streets of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter while our husbands attend a conference nearby. He’s a drummer. His band’s toured quite a bit, some of their songs are used as television theme songs, and one of their tracks is in Django Unchained! Next time he’s in town we’ll all get together. You’ll like him. He’s an artist, like you.
I wanted to protest this comparison. Yes, I write. I’ve written for several print publications and at my site for almost a decade. I’m a contributing author to the Love Inshallah anthology and a monthly columnist for this website. And I’ve poured my heart and soul into two completed YA novels. I have an agent who believes in my writing and I have edits I’m working on when I have a moment to breathe and yet, when Mina referred to me as a writer- an artist like her brother- I had to do a double take because an artist?
An artist is whimsical and freewheeling. An artist wears faded jeans and grows a butterfly garden with wind chimes in the front yard of their lovely Tudor brick home. An artist has a villa off the coast of Italy to ruminate properly, or sips coffee while scribbling in a black notebook overlooking the river Seine.
An artist is not running after children while coated in flour from a cookie dough experiment gone awry, or propping up weary feet at day’s end when dishes are loaded and kids are asleep to do some online, off-season boots shopping. An artist gets paid handsomely for their art.
I’d forgotten that the psychic said he was going to come to me in the spring, with a briefcase in hand. I was so heavy with grief that the thought that I’d ever be able to feel love in my heart again felt like fiction. There was room for nothing but sadness and survival. How could I ever fall in love again? Instead, I fixated on the things that she said that mattered in that moment, only seven weeks after Mom died.
It was an accidental reading – or had I subconsciously summoned her? – by a friend, over casual dinner and conversation. Things I had been yearning to hear started tumbling towards me. She said Mom was standing behind me and how that meant that she literally had my back; that I had Mom’s cheek; that Mom wanted me to have her saris, especially the blue ones, because she knew my favorite color was blue; that she wanted us to go down to the water, the beach, her favorite, and to say a farewell ritual of some sort; and, most importantly, that she was happy, or more precisely, that she finally felt free. The psychic didn’t need to tell me that. I just knew.
It wasn’t until I had moved back to my parents house, nine months after Mom had passed and one month into falling head over heels in love, that I remembered what the psychic had said. That she pictured him well-dressed, maybe in a suit, with a briefcase in his hand. (“A briefcase?” I thought. “Who carries a briefcase these days? Only gangsters or Wall Street guys – neither good options.”) That he was secure and stable. He was responsible. He’d be good for me. She didn’t see him being ‘the one’, but I would love him all the same. And, more importantly, that I’d be in love.
A hushed night. Soft and still.
I see threads. Threads. There are threads. Laced like webs.
Twined around my fingers, my toes, the vessels within my heart.
Stretching out piercing through particles and atoms.
Crisscrossing through time. Interlocking and tangling.
Knotting with other threads. Weaving and weaving.
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Novelist and screenwriter Kamran Pasha on being a Muslim in Hollywood and having the courage to follow your dreams, whatever your spiritual path.
Dear Love InshAllah,
There’s something that I haven’t been able to talk to anyone about, but I need to talk to someone about this. It’s about our views of purity, and whether we can start our lives fresh if something terrible happens. In our society, we’re told from the time we’re little girls we should save ourselves for our husbands. I want to get married and have a family, and raise my children in a safe, caring environment. I only wish I was so lucky. From the time I was 12, a relative started to abuse me. It started gradually, but it became sexual. Over the next few years, I didn’t say anything. I knew if I did my family would fall apart. Alhamdulillah I was finally able to stop him. I went to college far away from my whole family. I haven’t dated at all in college. I’m waiting to meet a good man, a man I want to spend my life with. But I can’t get over this feeling of guilt, that I’m somehow not worthy of being happy because of everything that’s happened. I wish I could just start my life fresh. I never wanted this to happen. He’s a sick man who should have never done this to any little girl. But I know that many people would judge me if they knew my state, and maybe they would say that I’ll never be able to be a good wife or deserve a good husband anymore. I think this is so unfair. How can our entire life be judged by something that we didn’t even want to happen to us? I was hoping you could tell me what I should do, and how I can lead a good life now. I want to have a normal, happy life, but will any husband accept me if he knows what I’ve been through?
Praying for a fresh start
Miss Sunshine replies:
Women have had a profound impact on my life. My mother was not given the privilege of a college education. The culture she grew up in didn’t allow it. Women finished high school, and then got married. While she was raising my sister and me, she decided that that wasn’t going to happen to us. She urged us to become as educated as we wanted to be prior to marriage.
My 31-year-old sister is pursuing a Ph. D., and has completed a J.D., M.A. as well. As I write this post, I’m finishing up my last year of law school, and have already completed an M.A. I’m grateful that my sister and I were not restricted to having to marry young in order to sate an arbitrary cultural appetite. I’m even more grateful to have grown up with two empowered women. Having these two amazing women in my life has made me highly appreciative of other empowered women. A real man is thankful for an empowered woman, not afraid of one.
Last week’s guest post How I Met My Son’s Mother is emblematic of larger struggles within the ummah: those of sexism, ageism and racism. These are all issues Islam was supposed to cure, but that cultural Muslims recreate. These issues become extremely pronounced during the marriage process. People’s insecurities become amplified, because they want to fit into cultural/societal expectations. Alhamdolillah, through the responses to the article, it’s clear that some people are questioning those expectations.
As a Muslim man and lifelong social justice activist, I took issue with the author’s lack of realization of his own male privilege, and also his inability to challenge or reflect upon that privilege.