“social anxiety”

shall I tell you the way it feels,

the swampy bog of worry and panicked thought?

to stand knee deep in it is both a comfort and dread

here, in the center, no one can touch me, see me, criticize me

it is me and this repugnant slime,

a manifestation of the worst of me.

and so it sucks me down until I realize

I cannot breathe and there is no one

and the dread is overwhelming.

It is ungratefulness, they say,

that which makes up this clamorous quagmire,

this insidious morass which demands so much of me,

and becomes envious if I dare try and leave.

If I try to climb out of its maw to rest upon its

viscid shore,

it redoubles its effort, it bubbles and spits

it reminds me no one can befriend me, how could they?

and regurgitates my flaws, my wrongdoing,

my sins, upon its abhorrent banks.

And I desist in my resistance,

and slip slowly again into the gurgling mire.

Comforted that none will see me sink.

 

 

Nesha Usmani

4/19/2016

 

 

 

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Time; God’s Great Thing.

A memory-maker

A dream spinner,

a way to heal, to transform.

Where, in the long stretches,

do moments turn into memory?

August Popsicles dripping down a summer dress

Warm Septembers,

Rusty, breezy Octobers,

Chilly Novembers giving way to winter,

and those nights I used to write and write.

Countless seasons have passed me by,

I am left clinging to childhood, to a carefree

sense of wild freedom,

of so much time to do so much,

and now, too many distractions,

and too little time.

 

Nesha Usmani

 

whether a princess or a prince.

you are but a tiny thing

barely four inches of existence

with blood and body I carry

but have not yet seen.

For a decade now, I’ve prayed for you

to one day become a part of me.

You are part of two,

two that love and cherish each other

who love and cherish you.

Whether you are to be

a wild-haired princess;

free spirited, huge-hearted,

brimming over with adventures

or

a benevolent prince,

wide-eyed,

eager for knowledge,

with enough wisdom and love

for a hundred men

Whether a princess or a prince,

We wait for you with barely constrained

impatience, and so, so much hope.

 

Nesha Usmani

These are a Few of my Favorite [Tea] Things

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

My husband and I drink tea. But only one of us really love it. Or should I say, only one of us is really obsessed.

Like, if there is no tea in the house I have obviously taken it with me somewhere you will never find me. Or I drank it all.

I probably drank it all.

I haven’t written much since gettin’ hitched to the awesome guy I call my husband, but I have been collecting tea and coffee and the little innovations that make them so much more enjoyable.

Here are a few of my favorite [tea] things.

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 My snazzy red kettle, without which tea would take way too long to make and would require a trip to the kitchen.

It was my first newlywed purchase and it’s ever so useful. A plump and pretty thing, I got it for about $30 from Amazon. The brand is Hamilton Beach.

Here’s the link:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZG8Q88/ref=sr_ph?ie=UTF8&qid=1438981545&sr=1&keywords=red+kettle


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This is Teavana’s Perfectea Maker. 

I actually bought this for my husband thinking he’d become a tea connoisseur, but alas, this didn’t happen.

To dream wildly is often its own punishment.

 It’s not too expensive. This one makes about two cups of tea, which is about one serving for me. I love this handy gadget because I’ve fiddled with so many loose leaf tea sieves and sieve spoons and sieve chains and sieve teapots and nothing ever really works as well as this thing. You fill it with your favorite loose leaf tea and some hot water, and let it brew. Then you place it on top of your tea mug, the rim of which pushes up on its whatchmacallit and dispenses the tea straight into your cup. Just watch how much you’re pouring, and set it down on its drain plate to catch any drops. It is plastic, but Teavana also makes a glass one, or some poly-plastic type material that looks and feels like glass. The only downside is that it’s a bit challenging to clean.

Here it is on Teavana’s Amazon page:

http://www.amazon.com/Teavana-PerfecTea-Tea-Maker-16oz/dp/B004X7DIHI/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1438982052&sr=1-1&keywords=Perfectea


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Tea for two, two for tea?

My father gave me this beautiful cast iron tea pot and tea cup set a few years ago. It’s wonderful to use and beautiful to look at. The floral designs on the pot are dogwood flowers and I believe the plates have them, too, if I’m not mistaken. It has a sieve attachment for loose leaf tea. It’s a pretty small teapot, you could make a nice strong green tea or some oolong in this and it would be perfect.

It is from Teavana, and can be anywhere from $40 to $100 dollars. I have tried to look for the dogwood design but I haven’t found it

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Just a peek at my current tea collection. I have much more stashed away, somewhere. Nuts.com has more than nuts and chocolate, it has tea!! I got a bag of their gunpowder tea and their matcha tea (not pictured). Unfortunately, I don’t have a bamboo matcha whisk (soon!), so I still have yet to try that. But the gunpowder tea is everything you think it tastes like. Bitter, strong, earthy.

Husband and I are not big fans of fruit teas. He’s tried it but I haven’t had that one yet. The copper Teavana bag is filled with their gingerbread tea, which were favors from my amazing surprise bridal shower. I stole the ones left from the people who didn’t come! Bahaha! The Perfectea box is stuffed with other tea from the bridal shower. I took them all. I am without mercy.


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Here they are!

Also – My amazing sister Areej and my friend
Sunny D (her real name has been modified, this is her super hero name) made teabag cookies. Sugar spice cookies shaped like a tea bag, dipped halfway in chocolate, and then strung with string and a label. My brain couldn’t handle the delight.

I think I ate them all. Or most of them. They were amazing!


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Last, but never least…My tea of choice.

If you’re a Desi person, or are not Desi but have a Desi spouse, like my husband, you probably, most likely, maybe have this in your kitchen. If the above applies to you and you do not have this, you’re crazy. Get outta my house and get this tea immediately. Just as good is Ahmad tea (green and yellow box).

This is called Tapal Danedar (red and green box). It’s a very rich and aromatic tea. I like to cook it on the stovetop with cracked green cardamom, and drink it with milk and honey, sometimes a little sugar. I used to drink this 3 or 4 times a day, then realized I couldn’t handle that much caffeine. Suffice it to say, a little goes a long way.

So that’s that. I have a few other teas and tea gadgets laying around, but this is really the cream of the crop. The cream of the tea. The dregs in the cup, if you please.

🙂

Re: Dr. Ingrid Mattson’s “A Muslim Woman and her Dog”

I do love dogs, as much as I love every other of Allah’s creatures. I respect them and value them for what they provide to humans because of Allah’s will; protection of property and family, in hunting for food, and protection of livestock and crops.

Without criticizing Dr. Mattson, who has inspired so many with her leadership and Islamic values (May Allah reward her, Ameen), I just wonder where the Islamic concerns go when you bring a dog into the home.

Ibn Taymiyah said the most correct view was that their hair is taahir (pure), but their saliva is impure. Many sahih hadith from Muslim that say if the saliva of a dog touches the vessel of a human, it must be washed seven times with water and an eighth time with soil (Muslim, 279 & 280). Al Nawawi says that keeping dogs is permissible only if it is for three reasons:

  1. Protection of houses
  2. Guarding livestock
  3. Hunting.

Sheikh Uthaymeen says this only applies to villages and not in the city (city dwellers can’t keep dogs, but those in rural or countryside can, as long as its for those three reasons). Abu Hurayrah said that unless its for the three reasons mentioned, Muslims who keep dogs lose a quantity of their reward each day. Ibn Majah says that the malaika (angels) do not enter a home that has a dog or an image. Allahu Allam.

After looking into it, I don’t wonder why there is so much confusion on keeping dogs. But one thing is quite clear. No where does it say that Muslims should hate, kill, or avoid dogs. All it says is to have them for a purpose, keep them out of your dwelling, and don’t let them eat or drink from what you eat or drink out of.

Harsh or fair? My understanding is that Allah did not create anything without purpose. Dogs, cats, rabbits, or other animals are not created to sit in homes and look cute. Cats are clean and have their own benefits, verified by many Hadith (and science, which shows that cats have antibacterial enzymes in their saliva, but beware here too, cat FECES are the number one transmitters of toxoplasma gondii, which can cause birth and neurological defects, so be careful with that litter!).

Dogs are not as clean as cats but they have served a greater purpose than other animals throughout history in the protection of property, families, livestock, land, and crops. It has certain traits such as loyalty and submissiveness, so that it can be trained to do certain things that are useful to humans and gives the dog a sense of purpose and belonging. But in the end, it’s a dog. Studies have shown that the following bacteria live in a dog’s mouth: Porphyromonas gulae, Tannerella forsythia, toxocara, salmonella, giardia, hookworm, tapeworm and Campylobacter rectus. Alhamduliillah, the wisdom of not sharing your utensils with your dog makes sense.

From volunteering at animal shelters, I know first hand the habits of dogs, particularly where they put their mouth and nose. From my Epidemiology class, i know full well the dangers of salmonella, giardia, and campylobacter. Definitely not something you want coming into your home, regularly, in the mouth and nose of a dog you love but whose habits you can’t control or monitor. Dogs might have resistance to some of those things because of their ecology, but you don’t, and neither do your children.

Allah draws lines in all relationships, between human & human, human & animal, and human & material. In the case of confusion, consider everything said by the Messengers of Allah and the scholars who give their respects to the essence of Qur’an and defer to Allah, not to emotions and longings. Again, many people mistake Islam’s reservations on keeping animals within the home as hatred towards animals. This is ridiculous. Animals are gifts and signs of Allah. Being conscious of the cleanliness and safety of where we pray and from what we eat is not animal hate. It’s just caution.

This is no way an attack on Dr. Ingrid Mattson, but an expression of my views on a matter that is unclear to many.

And الله اعلم

Allah knows best.

Keeping Promises to Myself

Since I was a child, I feel like I have been analyzing the people around me, comparing them to the state of their families, neighbors, cities, and the rest of the world. I’ve wondered why people talk so much, why some see little beyond the center of their vision, not even glancing at the peripheral.

I know the value of friends – I do, I really, really do. I have turned from an introvert, to an extrovert, to an introvert again through years of schooling and friends that have all had varying degrees of influence.

And I have interacted with them in various different ways, too. Sometimes being overly nice to compensate for not fitting in, and sometimes shutting myself out; too afraid to talk to anyone for fear of humiliating myself or feeling awkward, ugly, fat, stupid, conservative, liberal…what have you.

As is obvious, there are very few people in this Dunya I can truly relax and be myself around.

Maybe once I thought myself as someone who could cope with many friends, someone who loved people and could get along with anyone. Allah adjusted this for me. Gave me those I thought I could trust and showed me they could break me in half with barely any effort. He gave me those that love me unconditionally, and showed me that I could inflict the same harm upon them, sometimes obliterating their trust in me. Sometimes taking me out of their heart.

I realized the importance of silence in the face of empty words that take up space and offer no benefit. Is that not the nature of the worst of people, the worst of habits, even the worst of foods?

They fill up the space, but at best they offer nothing else. At worst, they metastasize like a malignant tumor and poison the things around them. They squeeze into the seats reserved for better things. Things that reciprocate and last, things that make an impact. And when the time comes for you to make the better choice, to choose Salah over sleep, or carrots over cookies, or wisdom over gossip, it has become habit. You are used to choosing the poison; the consequences diminished by the opiate force of routine.

Promises to Myself.

I cannot count on any number of fingers or toes the amount of promises I have broken for lack of respect for myself. Maybe for lack of self-esteem. Maybe motivation. Or maybe simply the habit of speaking words that carry no weight. Empty shells pretending to mean something.

How can we value someone else if we do not value ourselves? How can we keep a promise to another human being, but easily break promises to our own selves?

Maybe a broken promise to someone else will be forgiven. But broken promises to oneself usually go unrecognized, unpunished. They turn into the norm and we inflict harm upon ourselves quietly but steadily. The broken promise turning into addiction, abuse, sickness, lack of motivation, lack of esteem….the list goes on.

No mobile app or diary will amount to the loss of potential when we betray ourselves.

But maybe in silent reflection and quiet determination, in the meditation of self, we can find ourselves again. Sift through the loud, chaotic debris of the lives we lead, and just make one, quiet promise. One to keep.

Brave Girl, Chapter One

author’s note: this poem has elements of magic (entirely attributed to evil in the poem) that serve as metaphors in the story. What those metaphors are…is entirely up to you to interpret. But this story is meant to outline the journey from abuse, heartbreak, and trials to understanding and redemption.

Brave Girl,

She walked a path for miles

a path of brick and stone

tree limbs bending downwards

green leaves overgrown

Along the path she met a Lad

His eyes were cloudy grey

His hair was red and brown,

Yet glinted golden in the day

They linked arms and began to walk,

new love bubbling from their easy talk,

Easier and easier they began to be,

Walking over mountains and valleys,

and along the pale shores of the sea.

Within his eyes Girl saw her life,

And he promised with words that he would stay

So with fingers entwined like wanton vines,

They cast their doubts away.

One day on Girl’s hand,

Lad placed a glass band

that sparkled with his love

And with eyes wet and smiles wide,

The promised Groom and promised Bride

Both thanked God above.

But as years flit by, as dragonflies do,

the Girl began to doubt,

For as much as he was there with her

She began to feel without,

Girl felt love like burning fire

but began to fear her young Lad’s ire.

He said with words he loved her much,

And would never leave her side,

But often swatted away her touch,

And became defensive of his pride.

The path became no longer smooth,

It jutted rock and stone,

And though their discomfort she tried to soothe

Lad’s confidence was thrown.

He stumbled over root and stone,

Due to attention little paid,

When stifled by vines overgrown,

Refused the young Girl’s aid,

At last, for fear, there came a day,

When Lad’s color began to abate

His eyes and hair, his skin so fair,

Met the mirthless bite of fate.

For Lad lost hope,

and could not cope

with Girl or path no more,

And through the trees, he spied a space

And left through it like a door.

Girl cried tears bittersweet

For she knew she could not follow,

And though in her chest, her heart still beat

She knew within was hollow.

Girl felt a cold, thin vice,

upon her cold, thin hand

And looked upon with grief

At Lad’s still-sparkling band.

Girl continued on the rocky trail,

But often sat to weep,

Whispering his name brought no avail,

and memory’s wounds were deep.

But her grief was woven

with a stronger thread than she,

One night it drew an evil coven,

Of curious witches three.

Cackling, they asked her,

“What hath befallen thee?”

Girl jumped and walked much faster

So frightened now was she,

“We know the burden of your heart!”

Called the three magicians,

“Fear us not, let us help you,

For we are but mere physicians.”

But Girl kept her stride

And said “I have no money, nor trust for witches.”

And the witches, cackling, gleefully replied

“We offer only aid and have no use for riches.”

Girl then stopped and turned to face the Three,

For her heart was but pain and anguish,

And an end she could not see.

“What aid you offer, O stalking witches?

And what your price, then, if not riches?”

The witches laughed with victorious glee,

And at our Girl did smile,

“We wish to end your suffering,

And bring back your Lad a while.”

“Lad?” Girl cried, “How can you know?

Lad, who hath hurt me so?”

“My dear sweet Girl, your tale we know,

It hath been spun, so long ago.

It is an age-old tale, timeless and grand,

Our price, sweet Girl, is your sparkling band.”

Girl thought she felt a warning in her heart

Though Lad was no longer there with her,

With the band she should not part,

“Your band, my dear, is what we seek,

If it is Lad that you desire,

For the path does not favor the weak,

And companion-less made dire.”

Girl felt a pull inside her soul,

And Lad came to her mind,

His smile that had made her whole,

A love impossible to find.

“A question, witches, if ask I may,

before I give my band away?”

The witches looked at the sparkling ring

with hunger in their eyes,

“My dear, sweet girl, ask anything,

Anything that rests your mind.”

“What use have you of this sparkling treasure?

It is but mere memory,

It has no value beyond its measure,

For its meaning is known only to me.”

“Worry not of these things!

It is that which we require.

Forget your sentiments of that ring!

And we will bring you the one whom you desire!”

So with care she slipped the band away,

Off her cold, thin hand,

She gripped it, shining, in her palms a moment,

then gave away her band.

But the wind blew then,

a cold, strong, gust

That blew the band to the rocky ground,

and shattered it to dust.

Horrified and terrified, Girl began to retreat,

But the witches gathered around her,

And with vines  tied her hands and feet

“I cannot explain this! Let me go!”

Cried the Girl, fighting against the biting vines,

“I cannot explain it! I do not know!”

But the witches cared not for Girl’s cries and pleas,

they tightened the bonds and pinned her body

to the trunk of a leafless tree.

“Liar! Traitor! Deceptive thing!

We want the band, or you’ll dearly pay!

Repair that sparkling, shining ring,

Or we’ll cut your Lad’s head away!”

“It was a gift of mere glass,

No value had it, but sentiment!

I cannot repair the shattered thing,

You must accept its detriment!”

The witches gathered to consider this fact,

The band was gone, shattered to dust,

But the girl was whole and young and brave,

To claim her youth, kill her they must!

The witches, seething, drew a long knife,

Crooked and forked, and dripping dark red,

“If you wish to save Lad, you’ll pay with your life!

“Either pay with your blood, or we take his head.”

Girl trembled in fear against the tree,

And shutting her eyes she tried to see,

One last, precious memory…

End of Chapter One.

Nesha Usmani

2013