This week has felt like nothing but a mad rush against the clock. It’s tested my limits, seen me come to new conclusions, forced reprioritisation. I’ve felt muddled, chaotic, curious. My tendency to procrastinate has certainly peaked over the last while. I spent the better half of this weekend trudging through college assignments and reading briefs over and over again until I could make sense of them. Whenever possible, I’ve slipped out of the house for some fresh air or spent time with a friend. I’m not particularly social but I’ve enjoyed being whisked off to different events and having my phone blow up with text messages. Just yesterday I went to a party for my Aunty’s thirtieth birthday when I’d intended to give into my homebody tendencies. I’m glad I did because I really enjoyed myself. We went to a small nighttime club and sat in the courtyard outside. The atmosphere was dreamy with lanterns and hanging plants, people hovering and chattering away nearby. We had a four course menu to share with honeyed halloumi, spicy chicken wings, pumpkin and fetta ravioli, chicken penne, a selection of pizzas and pear parmesan salad. I felt out of my depth for a while but soon warmed up to going beyond my comfort zone.
If nothing else, I’ve definitely grown my circle and had some intentional, focused and revealing conversations that have contributed to a lot of self growth and exploration. The best way I can sum up this season of my life is to say that I’ve retreated inwards. The outside world is beckoning to me more fervently than ever yet all I wish to do is know myself again. Lately I’ve begun considering what it means to be and know moral people. I know morality is not to do with the presence of perfection anymore than it is the absence of imperfection. It is not black, it is not white. Rather it is somewhere on the messy spectrum of greys. It cannot be defined. This has been a confronting concept to grapple with. I’ve found myself making assumptions that led to asking questions or provoking situations that I didn’t necessarily want to see the outcome of. In ways the past is merging with the present, threatening to collide with the future. History is repeating itself in another time and place, an ocean away from where it all began. I’ve started to look through a different lens, perceive in a way that is new and highly nuanced. Once bitten, twice shy. This is what I’ve been ruminating on. Under the right circumstances, no matter how selective or precise, we are all capable of drawing out still developing personalities in ourselves. Truly, little is as we initially perceive it. It will only take a lifetime to know the people we hold nearest and dearest in their fullest and truest capacity.
The other day I had what was initially a very pleasant and highly engaging conversation with a guy about my age. We talked about his current job and his aspirations of working as a nurse in the mental health field. Everything went smoothly and without a hitch until he crossed a few boundaries and the lines of decency became blurred. He later confessed to me in a moment of sheer radical honesty that he’d not been truthful for the time we’d been speaking. He’d omitted the fact that he had a girlfriend and attempted to come onto me. He tells me he loves her but gets a thrill out of sneaking behind her back. She’s insecure, he says. A go getter too, constantly on the grind. That makes me a bad person and I don’t mind, he says. At that point, my view of him became warped. Further so when I found out he was in a three year commitment. Forget two timing though- what made me afraid was how normal it’s become to lead a double life, to switch interchangeably between personas, putting on a face of modest purity for one and devilish allure for another.
How many people do we interact with on a daily basis, especially in intimate ways, without truly understanding their story, weaknesses, strengths? Could we point to any one person and identify what makes them tick? Naturally, I felt uncomfortable having been placed in such an awkward situation. I felt the need to assign blame, to right a wrong. Unfortunately, I wasn’t given such an opportunity. I felt guilty knowing that I was privy to the real underlying dynamic of this so called relationship whilst an important party was left well and truly in the dark. Society has always given into this false and misleading idea of a victimless crime. When it comes down to it, do you recall seeing a domino fall without toppling the line directly in its path?
As a young teen I watched the movie The Butterfly Effect. Its profound overarching message stayed with me throughout the years. It’s a science fiction thriller centred around Evan, a man who suffers severe headaches and subsequent blackouts. While unconscious, he is able to travel back in time and alter the past. He valiantly attempts to use his newfound power for good, to reverse the damage of events he lacked understanding of in his childhood. However, this causes drastic changes in his present life. There seems to be no single version of reality in which all is balanced and well. The Butterfly Effect is an important part of chaos theory. It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wings can can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway across the world.
You need to stay and you need to stay loudly. You’re afraid of making bad choices but the truth is this- the tiniest actions will influence the course of the rest of your life and you cannot control it. So many factors play a part in you being here today. A delayed train, an extra cup of tea, the number of seconds your parents took to cross the street. This is chaos theory. Sensitivity. Mathematics. You are here. Every choice you have ever made has led to now, reading this. While you exist, every movement and moment matters. Those bad choices led you to the best days of your life, if you were to play it all in rewind.. so let them go. Change will come even if you’re standing still. Butterflies will keep flapping their wings and causing hurricanes. So, make your choices and make them loud. Trust your gut. Trust energy. And if you ceased to exist? Oh, the Universe would take notice. The mess that would make. The hearts that would break. So just stay. Stay for bad choices. Stay for great ones. Stay. Cause a few hurricanes.
As you can tell, my world is spinning helplessly out of control. This way and that. Back and forth. Bear with me. On a less involved note, I’ve been making some lifestyle changes. Once again I’m developing a workout routine. I’ve found different walking trails to follow both in the Blue Mountains and at the apartment in Parramatta. I switch between the two depending on where I am when I feel called to do cardio. A change I’ve implemented is an increase in body weight and tension exercises such as planks, pushups and squats for better tone and muscle development. I want to purchase a few heavier weights as I’ve only got small two kilo dumbbells at the moment. So far I’ve already seen a difference in my physique definition and energy levels. I’ve flushed out water retention from sodium and dehydration and began increasing my protein intake during meals. I was able to pull out a selection of old clothes from storage and have them fit again. It was incredibly satisfying and made me wish I’d put the work in earlier. Little swaps are most realistic for me at this point. In the mornings I’ll pick up an iced latte on the way to college but skip the sugar syrup. I always feel more alert and take the caffeine hit better this way. The stimulatory effects wear off much slower than usual.
A couple of weeks ago I got a precious pet. That’s what I’ve been most excited to share with you all. His name is Arnott, just like the famous biscuit. He’s a lively and fun cockatiel of about ten weeks. Very much still in the baby phase. He took less than a day to warm up to his new family before he was all over us, wanting to be played with and given attention at all hours of the day. He knows basic commands and has been hand raised. He responds to being told to step up and will give you little kisses if prompted. He seems to enjoy being stroked gently on the head, back and neck. He’ll frequently cuddle into me and lay there as I play soft indie or lofi music. The trick to wrangling a bird into submission is nothing more than being confident and affirming their positive actions. They respond well naturally to happy commentary and can pick up on mood. Arnott is highly amusing, that’s for sure. He responds to my saying good boy just as a dog would. He’ll sleep with his feet in his seed dish, whistle and trill when I play rap music.
Undoubtedly though, the most important addition to my family is my stepmother who is coming to Australia from Pakistan tomorrow. Her and my dad have been married just over two years now. Her visa was finalised a while ago but the pandemic held off any actual progress. Apart from a two week long government sanctioned quarantine, the wait is over. I feel terribly nervous. I was never opposed to my parents divorce nor did I struggle with the aftermath. In my heart I knew that couples just don’t work out sometimes and through no fault of their own. They grow apart, they grow weary, they grow smaller, taller. I’ve heard it be said that life shrinks or expands in proportion to your courage and I’ve never agreed more. It is an act of strength to admit that you need a bigger pot to grow in, different soil, more sun and less rain. We set each other free with the truth. I’ve always had a complicated relationship with my father as we have conflicting opinions on culture, religion and the part it should play in forming our identity.
As I’ve gotten older and become less submissive with more independent thought of my own, we’ve clashed many a time. It’s been uncomfortable, abrasive. There is always this push and pull of tension under the surface. My stepmother entering this story as a new character both interests and frightens me. I wonder how I will relate to her and how she will view me. On some level I wonder if she’ll be a carbon copy of my dad and his beliefs. I’m just trying my best to cultivate an air of compassion and understanding to hold above all. In a matter of hours she’ll pack up thirty eight years of knowledge, belongings and memories and take a chance on us, slotting herself neatly into yet another abstract household. That can’t be easy. I wonder if she is excited to learn a different way. To begin speaking English and perhaps teach my brother and I the dialect of Urdu she is proficient in. Will her and I take driving lessons together? Who will amass the most hours in the shortest amount of time? Will another sibling join the mix anytime soon? My mind is well and truly in overdrive.
As always, I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from Morgan Harper Nichols Storyteller series to guide you through the next week.
I cannot tell you that the journey will be easy but I can tell you it is worth it to keep going. I can tell you that any movement forward is still a step in the right direction and one day you will look back in awe at the beautiful reality that after everything, by grace, you carved your way through the most rugged mountains.
It might not look that way now. You may still have your doubts but I promise you are where you need to be. No matter what you have seen, it is worth it to keep traveling for what you are yet to see. It will astound you, surely.
You can do this. You can travel through this season of change breath by breath, day by day. You are not a failure for changing course. You are allowed to change your mind. This is all part of the process of who you are becoming. This is all a part of a story that is still unfolding. Allow yourself the luxury of starting afresh.
Be present to all the things this new space is teaching you. Trust that no matter what you’re leaving behind, there’s peace to be found for your weary mind. As the morning sun lifts up over the hills, remember that beyond all you feel, grace will find you no matter what is unknown.
I hope, for all of the change, you find belonging in unexpected places. I hope the rising of the morning sun reminds you that waiting was worth it. Even though the journey to this new day was far from perfect, I hope in this new season you feel alive, knowing that even though you’re leaving so much behind, there is far better things to come. Knowing that even though this change is taking so much out of you, light is still pouring through. You can keep traveling this journey. You can do this and you will never have to go at it alone.
You may have no idea what lies ahead but you also have no idea just how strong you are. I hope you never let your past failures overshadow your past successes. The failures will always scream at you the loudest but when you actually listen to what they’re saying they don’t tell the story. You do. You are the one who gets to choose to shine light on the lessons you learned. You are the one who has the freedom to see what turned out be a success, what marked progress, far more than you see the failures.
For certain things, you will find you have done all you can do. You made yourself available deep into the night. You have tried to sort it all out. You have held it up to light. Then grace slowly reveals that some wounds take time to heal. You are not a failure if you cannot fix it all. Rather, the best thing you can do right now is trust. Find peace in knowing you are free to breathe in this uncertainty. You are free to trust and let go, no matter what is still unknown.
Let grace in the morning reveal some wounds take time to heal and you learning to breathe
in this uncertainty is a beautiful act of surrender. Let morning rise as morning longs to rise over your mountains of worry and foothills of lies that you will not be loved unless you get it all right all the time.
Let yourself ask “What does forgiveness look like in this space?” and then remember grace, unmerited favour, wrapped in every exhale, a practice in surrender when so much is left unsaid.
Practice surrender. Practice surrender. For letting go will not be easy. But as sure as the river in the wild keeps flowing peace will flow all the same. Even when the closeness and familiarity is gone and nothing feels the same, let every day be a day you fall into grace anyway. If progress feels slow today, remember the mountains already behind you. Remember the mornings you already lived through. Remember the unexpected change that made you stronger. Remember any little thing that reminds you it’s worth it to keep going a little longer.
Was it the moment you finally felt love when you had feared you’d always be alone? Was it the sacred words you heard deep in the night that reminded you of the journey to home you’re on?
Whatever small thing has kept you going, hold it dear to your heart. Keep noticing the wholeness of the forest that surrounds you, no matter the branches broken apart. For in this life you will find winding paths through endless rows of trees yet you will also find that, when you get to the river, the unknowns do not keep you from knowing peace.
The water is still flowing. You are still growing. You are not out of sight of endless, boundless, glorious Light.
Notice the way the sun rays flood the leaves. Notice where the shadows disappear. Notice where you feel free.
Free. You are free. You are free to keep traveling. Free to keep going. For you have already come so far. You are more prepared for the journey than you think.