Two cows are standing in a field. One turns to the other and says, “Hey, aren’t you worried about that whole mad cow disease thing?”
“Why should I?” the other cow replies, “I’m a helicopter.”
Two cows are standing in a field. One turns to the other and says, “Hey, aren’t you worried about that whole mad cow disease thing?”
“Why should I?” the other cow replies, “I’m a helicopter.”
Sometimes I wonder how much longer that I -writer, doodler, talker, teacher, dreamer- will be able to continue working as a director. Managing people, services, cashflow, and strategy- these all rub against my Muslim-hippie nature like a hair shirt.
But since I don’t have a choice, the only thing I can do is suck it up, dig my heels in, and take it like a brave round peg in an irritating square hole. Somebody get me that tiny hammer. POW! Back to my inbox.
AssalamuAlaikum Blogistan, hope you’re doing well! It’s been a while since I’ve written, and like most of my letters, this one starts off with an apology for being late too. So yeah. Here’s an update.
Alhamdulillah, my children are gorgeous and amazing. Check!
Alhamdulillah, HF is the perfect trophy-husband as usual. Check!
Alhamdulillah, we are all safe, well-fed, and reasonably within the limits for health. Check!
The bad news is, I’ve discovered that I’m a crazy person. Seriously. It’s taken me so long to realize it that I don’t even feel like sugar-coating it. I run a business where I feel guilty about taking a salary, but I wouldn’t expect other people to work without salaries. Then, I get tired of getting no return from my hard work and I get annoyed with my job. I make investments of my time with little thanks and zero financial return. So then I think about getting a “real” job as someone’s personal assistant instead of the director of my own organisation, because at least someone would say thank you and I would have some pocket money at the end of the month. As a business strategy, I call this: Crazy.
I count the hours down between when the kids wake up (6am) to when they’re all in bed (8pm) while turning over projects in my head- things I’d like to write, emails I’d like to send, presentations I want to design, an online course that I am excited about launching- but once their little heads hit the pillows- I rush to my computer and open- crap.com, or a wasteoftime.bla, or internetaddiction.meh and three hours later, I hate myself for missing opportunities to be creative and to PRAY ON TIME and I wake up the next day and guess what? I DO IT ALL AGAIN. Crazy.
I make it a point to eat healthy during the day and limit myself to fruit salad and salad and the kid’s dinner leftovers, but once they’re asleep all bets are off and I eat whatever sort of junk I can get my hands on. As a health strategy- to exercise effortless discipline over my food in the day and then throw it all to hell in a chocolate-covered handbasket at night is illogical as well as… crazy.
I feel like I am pretending to be a productive, disciplined, and professional adult, and as long as there is someone watching, keeping up the act is effortless. Once people turn away though, I revert to the wicked sloth-monkey that my momma used to complain about, and I cancel out all the “good” I did during the day- setting myself up for a cycle of failure, guilt, overcompensation, and burnout. I am, frankly speaking, disappointed with myself, and my first impulse is to lament how I want to change but don’t have the ability to, but then I remembered a conversation I had with my former boss just last week or so.
He asked me whether I knew what a “Locus of Control” was. I told him the only locusts I knew flew around and ate crops. He’s a nice man, he laughs at my jokes.
Locus of control is a theory in personality psychology referring to the extent to which individuals believe that they can control events that affect them. Understanding of the concept was developed by Julian B. Rotter in 1954, and has since become an aspect of personality studies. A person’s “locus” (Latin for “place” or “location”) is conceptualised as either internal (the person believes they can control their life) or external (meaning they believe that their decisions and life are controlled by environmental factors which they cannot influence).
Individuals with a high internal locus of control believe that events in their life derive primarily from their own actions; for example, if a person with an internal locus of control does not perform as well as they wanted to on a test, they would blame it on lack of preparedness on their part. If they performed well on a test, they would attribute this to ability to study. In the test-performance example, if a person with a high external locus of control does poorly on a test, they might attribute this to the difficulty of the test questions. If they performed well on a test, they might think the teacher was lenient or that they were lucky.
Thank you, wikipedia.
My boss, or DPO as he is known, introduced me to the Locus of Control as such: people who have an internal locus of control take ownership of the situation around them. People with an external locus of control are victims of the circumstances around them. Which would you like to be?
I was embarrassed that he asked me, because I realized right away that I was talking about higher-level issues with work that were due to allowing the locus of business control be external vs internal, and it was a bit of a kick to the organizational teef. I was messing up the business by letting other people dictate what the business did and did not do.
Now, moving that observation forward, it’s nice that having other people around makes me more productive, but once their presence is removed, my productivity is out the window. My locus of control is so crazily external that without other people pushing me- to email something on time, to complete a sheet in excel, or to make dinner before their homework is finished- that when they’re not there, I do nothing. Absolutely. Completely. Nothing. If- on the odd occasion HF has all three children out to give me some time off, I do absolutely, completely, nothing. I won’t even feed myself properly. I’ll plop some peanut butter and marshmallow fluff on an old piece of pita (true story!) and call it dinner while I watch anime until my eyes crust over. This might be ok if what I really wanted was to eat peanutbutter on pita while watching Fullmetal Alchemist, but that’s not what I wanted to do. I wanted to feel accomplished- like I had four hours to write a week of activities in a subject that I love writing about- I wanted to feel renewed, and accomplishing something creative does that for me- but instead, I did wasted my time, ate unhealthy, and resented myself for it later.
My locus of control is stupid. It needs to be internal. If I accomplish something, it needs to be for my own sense of productivity, self-respect, accomplishment, and personal pride in what I do. If I eat right, it should be because I care about my health even if there’s no one there to scoff at the marshmallow fluff jar. If I make a decision for the business, I should stick with it and push it forward, because what the parents want* is not enough to grow the business and give their children what they need instead.
*(customer wants can be broadly defined as: everything. free. yesterday.)
I need to make a decision and stick with it. Now, my mind is saying- oh no, but I don’t have enough self-discipline for that! Well, that’s a statement reflecting an external locus- that I would blame someone or something else for my lack of action rather than saying Ok, I know I have weak self discipline, so how do I make it stronger?
Once upon a time, I didn’t have the self-discipline to pray regularly. I would pray maybe once or twice a day, and make excuses for it- I don’t have time, can’t get out of class, there’s no prayer room in my highschool, I’m not dressed properly, etc- I made myself a victim of the circumstances I lived in (American public highschool) and it wasn’t until I made the choice to pray five times a day that I was able to change the factors around me. I was still in exactly the same environment- same school, same friends, same me- but I made the changes necessary to accomplish what I wanted to and disciplined myself to stick with it.
I started with keeping a chart of how many prayers a day I missed. The goal was zero. I started off missing three and four prayers a day though. Over time, and with forcing myself to update the chart daily, I built prayers into my daily routine and there’s been no looking back since, Alhamdulillah. Yes, my Fajr shifts around, and that’s a failure on my part- but I don’t see it as being out of my control. It’s my fault, and I’ll fix it. I’ve fixed it before, and I can fix it again.
The same needs to happen with my personal standards of what a productive Muslim and grownup does with their time, their resources, and their health. I need to stop victimising myself in all three areas and take control of a situation that is well within my power to do so, InshaAllah.
For my next act, I will activate the TinyFilter feature in Chrome that HF kindly installed for me. It’s a Chrome plugin that blocks URL’s completely and puts a custom message in their place. It can be password protected as well, and I’m going to enter a list of time-wasting websites in there and ask HF to lock it down for me. He’s done that to me before, but because I hadn’t asked him to do it, I resented him for it and badgered him until he gave me the password. This time, I’m making the decision myself, and I will maintain the self-discipline to not beg HF to unlock it.
That’s going to be my first step. My second step is to start taking measurements again- for eating healthy, for working out, for keeping my inbox at zero and my house running smoothly. Please make dua for me, because I know my self-discipline muscles are weak and my locus of control has been external my whole life- this is going to be hard for me, but I want to do this. I want to take back my locus of control from the rest of the world and make it my own again, because the alternative is not acceptable- I start hating myself for falling short of my expectations and I lose respect for my own self.
So here we go. Updating blog. Activating TinyFilter. Now.
By Abez, The End.
Click here- I couldn’t figure out how to embed, but it’s well worth the watch.
I got this in my work email today. Normally spam makes me angry, but today, it made my day. In fact, it made me feel sociable, and…fluffy?
Subject: Whatsup Bro:
You have drawn my attention to a site of acquaintances. I hope, as I shall like you. How I to you in a photo? The truth – pretty? But in a life I more nice!!!
And as I cheerful, kind, sociable and fluffy! I like to go in for sports, read books, to listen to music. I love winter and summer. I do not love spring and slush.
If I have interested you, with pleasure I shall tell about myself more in the following letter.
I wait for the answer on (evil link removed)
My only sunshine,
You make me happeeee!
When skies are grey!
You’ll never know dear,
How much I looooooove Yooooooooooou!
So please don’t take my sunshine away.
For my next act, I will sit down and write. I will write about writing. I will write about the internet. And then, I will post my writing on the internet.
It begins with a physiotherapist named Miffy. Miffy has been twisting me into knots for over two years now, and Alhamdulillah, her multi-disciplinary pretzel-making skills have been keeping my wonky right leg and my wobbly back in working order. It has taken me two years, however, to learn one amazing thing about Miffy: Miffy does not have internets at home. Not a single one.
I learned this two days ago, and if I hadn’t been mashed face-down into the therapy table, I think my jaw would have dropped off and hit the floor. Miffy doesn’t have an internet connection at her house.
She doesn’t use the internet recreationally.
When she wants to get in touch, she calls.
When she is bored, she goes somewhere.
When she wants to read, she picks up a book. A real one, with pages and everything!
Instead of LOLcats and Reddit, she fills her time with tennis, friends, and the obsolete cultural artifact known as a “Life.”
I was awed.
Then, I was embarrassed. Here is a woman who lives without the internet, and here is me beginning every topic www and ending with dot com. I saw an interesting documentary… on youtube. I read an article I wanted to share- on whatever.com. Some cat in a sock made me laugh. Then there was this video and they were all like “Windmill cookies!” This whole time Miffy has been listening and laughing politely, but I now know she has zero intention of going home and looking up Tard the Grumpy Cat. Why? because she has zero internet at home. And she is not going to be getting any anytime soon. Why? Because Miffy is smarter than I am.
Now, we get to writing.
In the past, people have asked me why I haven’t written any new stories since I have been married. I’ve always said that with the kids, I don’t have enough time to write. However, I think the answer may not be the addition of children as much as it was the addition of unlimited internet when I moved in with HF. I have three children and a job, but I have no lack of ideas and no lack of the desire to write. What I lack is the willpower to free myself from living in the internet.
I know this because I seem to have about two hours a day after the kids go to bed during which I find lots of time to do things like Reddit. If I wrote for two hours a day for just a month, I’d be halfway done with the behavior analysis book for Muslim parents that I’ve mentally written a few times already.
Once upon a time, I didn’t live on the internet. I spent my time doing other things- blogging. Writing. Gaming. Stories. Articles. Poems. Reading Qur’an. Exercising. Cooking. Sewing. Friends. You know. Life?
The internet was something I sat down and did with a purpose- I needed a recipe, or I needed to email a friend, or I needed to find a handout to teach plosive consonants, or I wanted to find out more information about a hadith I read somewhere. That was all once upon a time. Now, I don’t even use the internet for personal email. I am in touch with almost no friends. I spend my day working and being Momma, and my nights drowning in youtube and the next funniest thing in the world for five whole minutes. Admittedly, I watch a lot of documentaries, but just because they’re a “smart” waste of time doesn’t make them less of a waste of time.
In the past I have cut back my internet usage. I officially did tawbah from websitewithprofanitylacedbutfascinatingarticles.com. I also swore off that website where people write their secrets on postcards. I’ve restricted what websited I go to by content, but I’ve never tried to make myself stop using the internet recreationally. Or rather, purposelessly. I think I need to try that. I don’t think I’ll be able to live without the internet entirely, but I know I would lead a much richer, realer life if I spent my time with purpose.
On the plus side, I don’t need to worry about Miffy ever reading this. You know, because she doesn’t do internet?
In any case, three cheers for Miffy, who can make my spine snap crackle and pop more than a bowl of rice crispies, and whose mature use of her time has opened my eyes. You guys can thank her for this blog entry too. And thank Allah for every minute we’re alive, and ask for His help in spending it wisely. Ameen.
I have the bad habit of using my desktop to keep unsorted files in view until they can be assigned to a file in my vast, over-sorted dropbox. Some things though, aren’t like to find a home, and fit into the category of: Stuff I’d like to read again. Tonight though, my beloved lappy is scheduled to be
brainwashed formatted, so it’s time to move some of the miscellaneous desktop stuff to a new home- this blog.
Unfinished Blog: Highway Hifz Program
You may be one of those people who sings in the shower, hums in the kitchen, and has every infernal lyric to every song you’ve ever heard- good or bad- written in stone in your head. Bad news- you are a human mp3 player. Good news- you’re a prime candidate for a highway Hifz program.
Good news for human mp3 players- I used to commute 120 miles, 4 days a week for my son’s therapy program in Dubai from Abu Dhabi, and I learned lots of things from the drive. One is that the best shawarma in the UAE is at Baraka Grills, near exit 366 on theDubai-Abu Dhabi Highway. The other is that time spent in the car can be time invested in your deen, via your own personal Highway Hifz program. All you need is a good CD or mp3 of Juz Amma, and the desire to memorize more Qur’an, and pretty soon, not only will you have revised and fine-tuned recitation of verses you already knew, but you’ll begin adding more and more slowly to the playlist in your heart.
Other benefits include:
1. Using your commute for Ibada, and not just getting from point A to point B.
2. Reprogramming your mental jukebox by converting more of your mental tracks that benefit you and increase your status on the Day of Judgment instead of bring you down. We all suffer from a certain song that pops into our head uninvited and escapes from our mouths unintentionally. Having Qur’an on the brain means you’re more likely to be reciting Qur’an than singing, and the amazing thing is, it’s guilt-free, it’s refreshing to the soul, and the more you beautify your recitation, the more it penetrates you heart and the more you increase in love for recitation. I never enjoyed listening to the Qur’an until I started reciting it myself.
3. (Crash into the gates of Jannah?) Increasing the likelihood of dying with Zhikr on your lips in case of a car accident. If you’re going to crash and die, wouldn’t you rather be reciting Qur’an from the depth of your heart rather than singing Lady Ga-Ga at the top of your lungs? Or worse, screaming four-letter words about excrement? Increasing the likelihood of dying with Zhikr on your lips in case of a car accident.
Inspiring Hadith: 70,000 without Reckoning
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas: Allah’s Apostle said, ‘Nations were displayed before me; one or two prophets would pass by along with a few followers. A prophet would pass by accompanied by nobody. Then a big crowd of people passed in front of me and I asked, Who are they Are they my followers?” It was said, ‘No. It is Moses and his followers It was said to me, ‘Look at the horizon.” Behold! There was a multitude of people filling the horizon. Then it was said to me, ‘Look there and there about the stretching sky! Behold! There was a multitude filling the horizon,’ It was said to me, ‘This is your nation out of whom seventy thousand shall enter Paradise without reckoning.’ “Then the Prophet entered his house without telling his companions who they (the 70,000) were. So the people started talking about the issue and said, “It is we who have believed in Allah and followed His Apostle; therefore those people are either ourselves or our children who are born m the Islamic era, for we were born in the Pre-lslamic Period of Ignorance.” When the Prophet heard of that, he came out and said. “Those people are those who do not treat themselves with Ruqya, nor do they believe in bad or good omen (from birds etc.) nor do they get themselves branded (Cauterized). but they put their trust (only) in their Lord ” On that ‘Ukasha bin Muhsin said. “Am I one of them, O Allah’s Apostle?’ The Prophet said, “Yes.” Then another person got up and said, “Am I one of them?” The Prophet said, ‘Ukasha has anticipated you.”