Febreezing Your Life

I was watching a commercial that talked about odor masking febreeze fragrance and it sparked a unique thought outside the realms of my obsession with cleanliness. Odor masking fragrances mask odors – they don’t remove them. The commercial showed a back seat full of dirty clothes but with the febreeze masking odor fragrance, you couldn’t even smell what was in the back seat. People came in and out of the car as test subjects and none of them had any idea there was any odor emanating from within the car because they smelled the febreeze only.

My thought circled around the tendencies of our hearts. Rather, the realities of our hearts which we sometimes fear and mask. Within the deepest realms of our hearts are the most sensitive matters to us. And not being at peace with a matter in a deep portion of our heart slowly affects us more and more as time goes on. For some, they may struggle with feeling inadequate, for some they may struggle with letting go of something, for some they may struggle with a bad habit  – these are the dirty clothes. And we have trained our routines on a day to day basis to mask the smell of those matters most sensitive to us – not realizing that masking an odor will never eliminate it.

When I was younger, I remember I used to really have a hard time with certain things and thought processes that I have alhamdullilah, for the most part, overcome since then. One of the things I used to do was stay up late into the night so that when I went to bed – all I did was crash into it so that I didn’t have to bear my thoughts just before I slept. You think about matters closest to your heart when you lie in bed before you sleep. I remember going to sleep was the scariest thing in the world to me which seems so backwards because now – I love any opportunity I get to sleep. In fact, I just woke up from a nap when writing this.

While I am postulating the importance of getting rid of the odor rather than masking it, I’m also expressing the difficulty in breaking societal norms and daily routines to reach those deeper realms of your heart and thought processes. Honestly, it’s scary and almost unfamiliar even though they are your own thoughts. But the moments you spend embracing the realities of your heart will eventually give you an element of life that is very sacred – peace of mind.

Peace of mind isn’t just about feeling content with different aspects of your life. To me, peace of mind entails something greater. It entails that you’ve challenged the deepest levels of your heart and won. It entails that you could have a bad day but still lie in bed satisfied with who you are with a healthy motivation to be better. Peace of mind is understanding that you may not have got everything you’ve wanted, but you’re truly happy with what you have.

When you get rid of the dirty clothes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a good fragrance replaces it. It means that when the febreeze inevitably runs out and you’re left with just you and what is in your car – you smell with peace.

Fabreeze smells good. Peace of mind smells better.

Yanny or Laurel

The latest internet craze has been an audio clip where certain people hear the word “Yanny” and others hear “Laurel”. Sound pretty different right? It seems impossible that in a group of people, some may here one or the other but that is the reality.

I first listened to the clip last week and realized I was team “Yanny”. A few days later I listened to the same clip and heard “Laurel”. I was convinced I had listened to two different clips but I hadn’t. My certainty was thwarted by a scientific explanation on different sound frequencies resulting in hearing either Yanny or Laurel. Regardless of the science behind this phenomenon, there was a powerful lesson in what we perceive to know about this world.

And that is that we truly don’t know anything about this world. Even the things we seemingly know for sure, we don’t necessarily always have the full picture. As many dots as we may connect to render any level of explanation and understanding about the events that occur in our life will always fall short of the true reality. And that’s because only Allah has full knowledge of the full reality. Even when we are completely certain about something, there are levels of something’s reality that may not be apparent to us.

Realizing our conclusions and realities fall short of true reality can be a restricting thought. Why expend mental and emotional energy to trust certain realities if those very same realities are subject to change. The idea isn’t to stop ourselves from making the conclusions – the idea is to realize that those conclusions may change no matter how certain we are. And you can either allow the change of those personal realities to define your internal state or you can place the change in realities within the realm of spirituality. In other words, let go and let God.

Things are often not what they seem. Things are too often not what they seem. So don’t let any reality give you a sense of certainty. Have certainty in Allah and realize that this life is really only a medium of changing certainties. Our hearts often attach to our certainty and when we let our certainty revolve around our perception and understanding of the world around us, we subject ourselves to pain. Instead, attach your heart to something Greater and far more Stable.

Think – Connect – Reflect – I’m not saying to not do these things. In fact it’s very important to do these things. But don’t put your entire emotional state into the things you deduce. Allow your conclusions to fail, not because you failed at understanding something but because we weren’t created to understand the full realities behind everything around us.

My Own-goal

I was playing soccer one day with some friends on a crisp autumn morning. At one point, my team was defending a corner kick which basically meant the opposing team gets a free kick from the corner of the field to try and set someone up on their team to score a goal. My task was defensive – to make sure the ball didn’t end up in the goal. As the corner kick soared through the air, I found it coming straight for me. My sole purpose and focus was to make sure the ball DID NOT go into the goal. I jumped, swung my head to head the ball out, and ended up hitting the ball with the back of my head and straight into the goal.

Yikes.

Focus is typically linear – but the result can sometimes manifest the exact opposite. I focused so much on hitting the ball away that I ended up hitting the ball backwards. Just like you can study extensively for an exam and receive an A or you can study extensively for an exam and still fail. It’s frustrating because that fact makes you second guess your motivation. Why even study? Why jump to head the ball if I could potentially mess this up?

Baseball is a great example. You can swing at a ball with the best swing in the world (and yes, there are very detailed mechanics into how you swing a bat), and completely miss the ball. You were focused. You knew what to do. You did it right. But the ball and your bat didn’t connect. On the flip side, you can do everything right with your swing and knock a ball out of the park.

But you can’t even hit the ball if you don’t swing.

You’re going to fail at times at the thing you wanted and focused on the most. You’re going to fail in the worst possible scenario and it will feel devastating. Not only that, your failure (which you focused on so deeply to avoid) will define your life for some time. The own-goal I committed in my soccer game defined the game because we were losing until our team scored again.

But you will fail always if you decide to give up. You’ll feel worthless, alone, isolated, and confused because you thought the worst feeling was failure but it’s not. It’s the feeling you feel when you know it won’t get better because you don’t have the heart to try anymore.

Failure is part of life. Own goals, strike-outs, mistakes – they are the shadows that make life prominent. They provide perspective the same way the darkness of a shadow does to a picture. But it’s important to continue to strive after failure even when you feel like your biggest enemy.

The best batting advice anyone ever gave me was to forget all the mechanics and just go out there and have fun. And that goes for life like it goes for batting. Mechanics are important but so is relaxation.

Life sucks and it’s all your fault sometimes. Who cares? Don’t let any level of failure permeate into changing the person you perceive yourself to be. You are all the great qualities you have ever attained and failure doesn’t take anything away from those.

If you get back on the horse you could fall again, but if you never get back on you’ll never go anywhere.

The Difficult “Normal” Life

I was overwhelmed with all the texts and calls I received on my last post, “Soulmates of Time.” My posts are the medium by which I understand my own thoughts so it was refreshing to see so many resonate with the way I see things. I reflected on my “soulmates of time” further and realized something interesting. As amazing as those times were, I also remember a lot of pain and confusion associated with those very same times. How could that be?

In my opinion, one of the most difficult emotions to process is normalcy. The word “normal” and “typical” have created standards by which we mold our lives around. Deviation from “normal” and “typical” is only noble when we exceed the standard. For example, if it’s normal to own a house at age 30, then it is great if we purchase a house at 28.

But what happens when we deviate from normal in the opposite way? What if we purchase that house at 32 or 34? What if we can’t fit the puzzle pieces of our life within the frame of the standard we perceive life through?

We crush ourselves. Subliminally yet ruthlessly. We yearn and we feel justified in yearning because we convince ourselves that we don’t want anything above and beyond, just the standard. Just a “normal” life. We wait for the stars to align the way we believe they would “typically” for everybody else. “If I had this” or “if this had happened” or “when I feel this,” etc.

Let me tell you something that you already know but don’t believe – there is no such thing as normal. You’ll never have the life you want. I had to reflect very hard about the “soulmates of time” in my past. There were times and years of my life that I look back upon with such happiness – my “soulmates”. One of the times was a period where I was extremely fit. Another time was living with one of my best friends during my senior year of college. I have countless soulmates of time.

But if I reflect deeply, I was troubled in other aspects of my life at those times. Things went wrong. Life wasn’t perfect and I had a hard time dealing with certain things in my life. Yet when I look back at those particular times, they make me feel so jubilated that it brought me to write about it last week.

If you’re waiting so that you can live a life you think is normal, you’re trying to play with cards you don’t have in your hand. You will win some days, and get crushed in others.

Even in your worst memories you’ll see flowers.

Nothing is “normal” or “typical” and everything is how you decide to play the cards you have. You will look back at this current moment in time one day and possibly find a soulmate you don’t even realize right now. Embrace the life that you have, thorns and petals together. Don’t wait to look back at the soulmates passing through your life right now. They are there – all of them – just not in the form you may have expected.

Forget normal, and embrace your own path. It’s not a “normal” path but it’s your own perfect path. There is nothing wrong, delayed, or bad about it. Walk, run, and don’t wait for “normal” anymore.

Because a unique and beautiful life is waiting for you.

 

 

 

 

Filling your Empty Cup

“You can’t pour from an empty cup”

Some of us have filled cups, empty cups, and even broken cups. If I’m writing about this, it’s probably because I’ve fluctuated between all three like any one of you. I’ve realized recently how important it is to focus on yourself unselfishly.

Focusing on yourself and being selfish are two entirely different things. Focusing on yourself means you’re taking care of yourself in the deepest and most fulfilling ways. If you aren’t, then you’re inevitably seeking someone or something else to fill that deep void for you. And no matter what, as long as you seek anyone or anything other than yourself to fill that deep void, you will repeatedly fall short of feeling fulfillment. In turn, you’ll turn selfish by feeling entitled to receive something to fill that void rather than seek to fill it yourself. You’ll blame external factors rather than realizing your cup is empty. And when this happens, you’ve not only skewed who or what is to blame, you’ve lost sight of any ability to refill your cup. Not only that, you risk losing a certain level of patience with yourself and breaking your cup.

The most important quality you have to offer to this world is the core of your being. Embrace it. Feed it. Society will often convince you to embrace a being that isn’t yourself. Whether it’s peer pressure or the latest fad, we often feel compelled to partake in something that we deep down don’t feel like doing or be someone who isn’t a true reflection of ourselves. And that’s a battle you must win because you have much more to offer the world than conformance.

Focusing on yourself fills you. It charges you. It allows you to give to the world – to your career, your aspirations, your dreams, your relationships – everywhere. Find out what fills you. Find out that which holds a special place in your heart and no matter how unusual or unorthodox it is, do whatever you can to make it part of your life. When this happens, your cup will fill and when your cup fills, you’re able to give to everything that holds a special place in your heart.

Sometimes though, the cup breaks. And that’s just a hard reality about life. The thing about taking care of yourself and understanding the initial quote is realizing that not only can you not pour from an empty cup — you can’t receive in a broken cup either. Meaning, if you haven’t taken care of yourself on your deepest and most basic level, then anything you try to do to fill your cup will simply leak out. Consequently, anyone who tries to fill your cup with what they are capable of pouring will leak out of your cup.

For the broken cupped, take comfort in knowing that you’re not alone and that with time, your cup will heal. I’ve been there – cup shattered – but Alhamdullilah, my cup is now intact (and likely filled with Peach Iced Tea). Seek help from Allah and seek help from whatever means necessary because fulfillment starts with an intact cup.

Allah decided that from the multitude of His creations, your presence was merited to exist in this world. Be the best you. And however your cup stands today, know that the more you strive to take care of yourself, the more you’ll fix and fill your cup.

 

How to Dance in Your Rain

Life somehow feels harder at times than it did before. Does anyone else feel it? The good still feels good, but the hard feels harder. I wondered why that was. Social media highlighting much of what we don’t have? Tragedies around the world subconsciously disturbing us? A shallowness internally based on an “instant-click” society? Perhaps some combination of all three?

I’ve noticed that I’ve repeatedly sat through various storms in my life recently and just waited for them to pass. After one storm left, another followed with only brief moments of sunshine – if any at all. It’s felt like a pretty miserable way to live life. All the while I lay curled up waiting for a particular storm to pass, I’m watching people around me bask in their sun. It’s made the raindrops heavier.

Here’s some advice:

Firstly, realize that a picture of someone’s sunshine is just that – a picture. A snap of their reality at a moment in time their storm briefly left. I think part of the reason the hard feels harder now is because we are wrapped up in everyone else’s sunshine (via social media) in the midst of our storms.

Secondly, interact with more people. Connect with them. Have conversations with them.  Some only interact with the world around them via social media, some just quick cliché conversations, and some just enjoy being in the company of people but not actually interacting. Before the dawn of texting and social media, people would create deep and meaningful relationships with people around them which was an important step in creating a deep and meaningful relationship with ones self.

Thirdly, realize that everything happens for a reason. The rain falls and the sun shines and both are equally important in your growth. Don’t lose site of that.

Whatever way you decide to do, make a decision to not sit curled up through any more of your storms. Just be you and find transcendence in the being that you are. Find depth in your life. Don’t just stand through your storms, walk tall through them. Do things that make you, you. Strengthen yourself from the inside out so that your life doesn’t become an amalgamation of various shallow connections. Don’t imbue into your life someone else’s sunshine – create something beautiful out of your storm.

My contention is this: before the dawn of texting, social media, and the internet – we harnessed a strength that allowed us endure our life. We thought more, felt more, interacted more, and saw things with a deeper sense of intuition. We can’t fight societies norms, so don’t. Instead, discipline your intake. Intake less of that which draws attention to what doesn’t fill you, and intake more of what fills you.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”