You will die. And so will I.

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I remember this line from “What’s eating Gilbert Grape” once in a while. The young character of Arnie  played by a 19 year old Leonardo DiCaprio is mentally disabled, but in a moment of innocent clarity, he cheerfully proclaims that “I can go any time you know.”

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So true.

Any one of us, right this moment, could die.

Poof.

Out like a light. Or a candle. But this heart-stoppingly critical notion hardly ever bubbles up to the surface of conscious thought. Maybe we deny our own deaths to ourselves so that we can carry on with our everyday lives without a sense of tragedy and fatality, as a self-preservation mechanism. But pondering our inevitable end is not all gloom and murk. There are benefits to this morbid meander.

If you stopped to think, at least once a day, that you will die, possible someday soon, what would you do differently? Would you go ahead and give your baby that extra snuggle? Open the door for that stranger? Wear your favourite hideous, but comfortable, jersey for all the world to see, testing whether it really matters what other people think? Would you pray salah on time and give more charity?

How long is a human life? We don’t know how long we will live, but on a good day, when you’re feeling optimistic, a long lifespan of an average human could be around 90 years. There’s an excellent couple of articles by Tim Urban on his blog, Wait but why? where he measures the span of a life in winters, summers, baseball seasons (and some other metrics). Seriously, just click through and read the two articles, the first being Your life in weeks, and the follow-up called The tail end.

In The tail end, Urban invites you to consider your current age and weigh it up against your potential 90 year lifespan. If you’re 28, that means 28 summers enjoyed, with just 62 summers left. 62 more springs, winters and autumns. If you’re lucky.

If you eat pizza once a week, that’s around 3224 pizzas left in life.

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But that isn’t the most notable thing. The part about relationships is the bit that will get you thinking. If your parents are 30 years older than you, that’s 32 years left with the folks, if they’re also lucky to live to 90.

But – you spent most of your time with your parents before the age of 18. Like, 90% of your days were spent with them when you were a kid. That time decreased when you started school. That time is probably much less now if you live away from home.

So even though you may not be too close to the end of your life (but really, only Allah knows about that) you may be near the end of the time you spend with some important people in your life.

Urban says “It turns out that when I graduated from high school, I had already used up 93% of my in-person parent time. I’m now enjoying the last 5% of that time. We’re in the tail end. It’s a similar story with my two sisters.”

Therefore he offers 3 takeaways: live close to the people you love, prioritize, and make an effort to spend quality time with people who are important to you.

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It’s a new year, and that means five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes of 2017 to fill up, to live in, to enjoy or squander. The choice is ours.

By the way, Leo DiCaprio got his first Oscar nomination for his role in Gilbert Grape, but only last year, after 5 more nominations and after over 20 years did he finally win. I wonder how much that statue means to him.

Anyways.

All this to say: be good. Or better.

Coffee for four

The four of us sat around the table, catching up, laughing and talking, sometimes serious sometimes light.  It’s amazing how good friends can fall back into each other’s lives without much fuss, after months of not seeing each other, and pick up right where they left off.

After being married for just a few months, I needed to stop being obsessed with Husband to the point of exclusion of everyone else.  I still do want to spend all my free time with him, but after lunch with the girls, I realised what a breath of fresh air different company can be.

Fatima had sat quietly through most of lunch, listening and taking in our new news.  But halfway through, she firmly made the announcement that she’s pregnant – a few months pregnant – and I was surprised that I had failed to notice.  Beautiful, intelligent and self-assured, she delivered the news with measured calm while the rest of us erupted in elated hugs and amazement.

Fatima is always managing to do about 100 things at once, studying, running a business, working at a big firm, running a household, making time for friends and family.  She has a grunge rocker style, her long brown hair flowing in waves, sometimes elegantly covered in a scarf, her black boots a staple even in summer.  Her features are delicate yet strong and her brown eyes sparkle with a mystery that is enchanting.

Priti on the other hand, loud and full of gumption, the f-bombs flowing freely, always with short hair and shorts and a t-shirt, was regaling us with tales from her internship abroad.  Priti can make conversation with a brick wall if she had to, and her friendly bubbly personality is what brought us back together that Sunday afternoon – she is the glue that holds our group together, getting everyone organised and mobilised and in attendance.

As usual, she had great recommendations for the bistro that we had to try, being the foodie that she is.  While nagging her about why she didn’t just go into the gourmet world, she made an interesting point – if you take your passion and decide to make a career out of it, for example cooking 15 hours a day while trying to start up a restaurant, it becomes…a job. And that’s why she’d rather separate work and play.  I’ve always admired Priti’s ability to cut off from work and draw a firm line between work and the rest of her life.  I on the other hand am often thinking of work even when I should be kicking back.

Finally, my best friend Mishka was her usual sweet and loving self, tears in her eyes at the announcement of Fatima’s impending baby.  Also living the juggling balancing act of corporate maven versus Indian wife, Mishka always has a methodical plan, having recently bought a house, being involved in committees at work and trying to figure out the next optimal career step.

While Mishka would carefully plan when was the best time to have a kid, Fatima was content in her belief that things work themselves out and that when things happen, we are able to just deal.

Priti, ever the viva-women ra-ra girl, agreed that women can handle anything thrown at them.  We’re just built that way.

Driving home I kept thinking of Fatima’s exciting news, but also about my own plans to study, work part-time, learn how to cook, get fit and start a family soon, InshaAllah.

Life is exciting, and instead of being overwhelmed at all that is on offer, I am grateful that we are able to have such full, rich lives.  Whatever problems we have are inevitably first-world problems, because we need not struggle for basic necessities.  Sure, I won’t be spending lots o’ money on a new Hijab style, but buying a house is probably more important right now.

Life is a balancing act, a push and pull.

But for now I will remember – everything in moderation – and always make time for the girls.

Work and life : new priorities for a Muslimah

After 4 years working at breakneck speed in order to keep up with The Career and The Man and The World and The Money and The Corporate, I have finally leaped into shifting my priorities quite drastically.

From 50 hour weeks at the office to working remotely, I am downsizing my career in favour of pursuing other interests.

There’s so much to learn and do and be.  There was no spare time at The Firm, what with billing, meeting clients, training, and the myriad other activities that we were expected to cram into our days.  This new venture is exhilarating.

Granted, I am a procrastinator and I need to get that under control, especially if I am working from home, in control of my own schedule.  I am at risk of spending all day reading fiction, but pulling up my big-girl panties, I know that there’s work to be done, a thesis to write, and life to be lived – real life, not the life I live through books.

But also, I am relieved that this Ramadaan, I will have time to read Quraan and Islamic literature and more Salaah and just, feel the blessings of the month.  I know that Ramadaan is still a few months away, but I also know that before thinking twice, the month will be upon us.  And with the past 4 years having been spiritually bleak, I am looking forward to filling up my cup.

I heard it said by an Apa the other day that our Imaan goes up and down, it waxes and wanes.  We need to strive to keep it up up up, always on the higher end, and guard against those low moments.  With more time will come more spiritual and religious focus, InshaAllah.

I want to learn so much more too – Islamic history and law, Arabic, Hadith – I am a nerd and a scholar and I have been feeding my western learning to the detriment of my Islamic education.  This has to be reversed.

How will I fit it all in?  With Allah’s help.

Let’s strive to keep our cup of Imaan filled.