If you follow my blogs, you know that I’m preparing for Ramadan, as I explained here. As part of this preparation, I’ve been re-evaluating many aspects of my life. Here’s the low-down. I’ve gone through my wardrobe (including shoes and accessories), the basement (where I still had boxes I hadn’t unpacked since we moved five months ago), I’ve emptied my desk of beads, sorted out my yarns, canvasses and paints, and kept my paper at bay. I’ve just watched a lecture by my favorite fitness trainer Mubaraka Ibrahim, on the physical benefits of various fasts, and a whole host of interesting topics related to fasting, which answered all of my most pressing questions for this aspect of my Ramadan. If you’d like to watch the video, you can find it here. So that’s settled.
My kids have sorted most of their toys, and I’ve gone through all our books, so that’s all taken care of. I’ve received my new translation of the Qur’an, which is an attempt at translating the Arabic verses in paragraph form. It makes sense, because it might make the meaning clearer, but that’s I think part of the reason why scholars never translated the Qur’an like this before: because it imposes a structure that isn’t a part of it. I guess fourteen hundred years after the fact, with the benefit of hindsight and copious volumes of interpretations codified by thousands of scholars, the argument may be made that most valid interpretations have been at the very least considered, so a paragraph format that takes these into consideration is much more feasible than it every was. Nevertheless, I will continue to revert back to my favorite online Qur’an, to check the dozens of verse translations available side by side. I’ve started reading it, and so far so good. What’s left to do, then?
I need to figure out my intention, the overriding motivation behind all this need for simplification. Why do I need a clean slate? What is my purpose for making space, time, and what do I want silence for? [These are the three aspects of my life that I’ve been craving to focus more on]. Prompted by a couple of bloggers who regularly write about the environment, and the need to remove ourselves from the consumerist trap, I checked out some of their recommendations, which included a couple of documentaries.
Given the fact that I’ve written about the Minimalist Wardrobe, you might have thought that I had watched The True Cost, or Minimalism, both available on Netflix. But I actually hadn’t. I just stumbled upon them in the last week or so, and I must say, they are worth a watch, even if you do think you have a fairly good idea of what it’s all about already! If I may make a suggestion, and you haven’t seen them yet, I’d watch “The True Cost” first, and the “Minimalism” movie second, just because the first really tackles the problem of fast fashion (the second greatest polluter after fossil fuel), while the second delves into one possible solution, in a good amount of depth. While the first may cause some tears and possibly make you wonder if we can ever fix this problem, the second offers hope, albeit in one specific form. They both ask a number of poignant questions, and you decide which ones you want to answer for yourself.
For my part, I’ll let you in on a little secret, which watching these documentaries reminded me of, and it ties into my purpose discussed above. My main purpose for leaving my family behind in my late teens, and pursuing literary studies was because I wanted to become a writer. This wasn’t the only reason, but it certainly kept me motivated enough to continue on this path. Everything that has happened in my life since then has put this dream of mine on the back burner. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to seriously consider the possibility of applying myself more earnestly.
One of the questions the “Minimalists” ask people to ponder when deciding what you want to keep in your minimalist life, and what you can discard without negatively affecting your life, is “what do you want from life?” This immediately reminded me of a sketch I drew a few years ago, when I was trying to figure out which direction to take professionally. I was at a point in my life where I could no longer point at anything other than myself for what was going on in my life, and I needed to sort out what I was doing, subconsciously, to sabotage my efforts. I needed to have a reason within me that would push me forward, not something to run away from, but a goal towards which to aim. Some reason that would make saying no to other opportunities easier. A focus, if you like, to keep me from getting distracted from what really matters in my life.
This sketch illustrates what I want in my life. This is my goal, if I can put it in a simplistic drawing. There are no bookstores, no bright lights and screaming adulating crowds, just what matters to me.
I drew this when I was trying to figure out what I really wanted to do. Not that it was much of a secret; that’s why I moved to Canada, that’s why I studied literature, that’s why I didn’t pursue an academic fast track career. I wanted to write, and be able to do it while putting my kids first! My kids have been number one and only, for as long as they’ve been around, and perhaps even before that (that’s another story), but I needed to make writing a priority alongside mothering, after putting it on hold for so long.
For years I felt I was floating through the world, keeping busy with immediate responsibilities: a paper, then an article, a thesis, a translation to finish, one to edit, someone to help out, family to take care of, kids to raise, and before I knew it I had four little charmers to wriggle me out of anything and everything. Soon thereafter the war broke out, and I was literally shifting from one gear to the next, without pausing a minute to consider if I’d be able to live my dream of being a full time writer. I was drinking twelve cups of coffee a day, walking miles each day with a baby carrier, two toddlers on a double stroller and a first grader mature enough to go to University, and subsisting on their left-overs. I barely had time to eat, let alone write. My mind was rushing faster than I could keep up with!
That dream would have to play tag along, but it had tagged for so long, I had forgotten that it was my main focus just a decade before. Immediate needs always had a way to take over my attention, coming into great focus, and blurring everything else I thought my life was about. It’s hard not to be in the moment when you’re surrounded by little rambunctious kids most hours of the day! They’re a lot of fun, they keep me energized, and on my toes, and they keep my thoughts real. They’re so honest and so pure in their care for our little family, they make it easy to forget that I had needs and wants too! I’ve always wanted to be a mom, and that remains my main priority. But as they become more independent, I have more time on my hands, and I get to wonder about things, such as what the heck happened to my dream of becoming a writer?
But how do I see it? Well, as you can tell from the little sketch I drew, I saw it as a freeing experience, that I can happily do alongside mothering. I hoped that it would give us the ability to enjoy life’s joys: playing, nature, independence, autonomy, laughter, freedom.
We do enjoy a lot of that freedom now, and we live in a relatively safe and nature-friendly environment. We get to see bluejays, cardinals, woodpeckers, deer, foxes, raccoons, eagles. We have space to play and time to enjoy each other’s company. But for years that wasn’t the case. I’m getting to an age where more and more of my friends are having grandkids: I’m not getting any younger, and despite the many stories of people who start their careers in their forties and fifties, let’s face it, there’s no time like now to start working on your dreams, especially if they’ve been sitting on a shelf for a few decades already!
This blog has been a great help in sorting out my notes, and many of my thoughts on what I think is worthwhile writing about. And I am committed to continuing this journey as a blogger, to help me write more and better, and to share the stories that matter. I realized that I’ve been gathering ways to weave my stories into; from knitting to beading, from painting to scrap-booking, I’ve been dabbling in a variety of story-telling forms, just to come full circle, and realize that it was before my very eyes this entire time, I just hadn’t bothered to sit and let it flow.
So here’s to a new outlook on life, where stories are told, and meaning is uncovered, by shedding all that is distracting from it! To the many, beautiful stories of all my beautiful people, who make up all the imaginable complexities that this world encompasses. To you readers, who believe in the importance of the written word, and to all who have wonderful stories to share! May they all be penned and “heard”!