What my father taught me about love


I came to understand this week that my relationship with my father has encouraged me to have high expectations in my romantic relationships. I’m not suffering from a prolonged Electra complex. I do not want to marry my father. I also would not want the husband my father is to my mother. I did not see love or learn of its magic, by the way my father was a husband to my mother. Observing my mother as a wife, I saw a woman that did not feel like she was loved.

I learned about love not because my father spoke with me affectionately. The first time my father told me he loved me was in 2015; I was 28.  But I did not spend 3 decades waiting for my father to declare his love for me. I had long concluded that my quiet, strange, mathematician father would probably never utter those words; however, I did not feel inadequate and I did not feel unloved.

It was through my dad’s quiet smile and a reassuring tap on my head when I was disciplined by my mother that I learned of his ability to love deeply. When he would wake me at 4am (per my request–He and my mother would do this) so I could finish studying for an exam. Or the fact that he would drive me to school on days I had math tests because he knew I was an anxious soul. His non-disappointment with a (rare) B+ and his silent celebration of an A+.

Though I kept much of my darkness from my father, he believes that I confide in him, which I do, however selectively. My father is not one to avoid conversation even though he can present as someone who does not like conversing.

My father has always been available to me. I have never had to worry about whether it’s the right time to call or how my efforts at communication might be perceived. Confused yet sympathetic toward my insomnia, my dad has always encouraged me to call him when my body refuses to engage in little deaths, “If you can’t sleep or you just want to talk, call me. Don’t worry about the time. I am retired. I have all day to sleep”.

My father has been present in my moments, big or small. On my first day of undergrad, my father called me to wish me good luck. Despite his fear of flight, he traveled to New York from Ghana to help me prepare for Columbia. On the first day of grad school, again, he wished me good luck. Mostly recently, my first day of my new job, my father called to wish me good luck, and again to inquire about my first day. I can rely on my father.

My father is patient with me. He’s aware of ‘my ways’ and does not make me apologize for who I am ( or am not). He knows I am quietly stubborn.

Father’s are important for many reasons (as are mothers). Your father is the first man in your life. In my experience at least, my relationship with my father helped shape my interpretation of what a strong, romantic relationship might look like.

Through my relationship with my father, I learned not to take anyone for granted. I learned not to make the assumptions that are the pitfalls of relationships–that someone is always going to be there.

My father has made me feel valued and important, even on days we do not communicate. I know I am on his heart and in his mind, and I do not waiver in my belief of this. I suppose, in a sense, one could think it’s unreasonable to expect to have this bond with another man. But I disagree. I think it is possible and I think it’s important to have in all adult relationships, platonic ones included.

My father does not love me because I am of him or  half him. If love were only the result of the collision of egg and sperm, I reckon, it would be a much different world. As humans, we have the power of choosing how to love.



Picture credit: http://blackartinamerica.com/photo/father-and-daughter?xg_source=activity



Another take on the topic of introversion


I traveled to Senegal last March for my thesis project. I traveled with a classmate I did not know prior the project.

It was a difficult trip, probably for both us but I’m going to talk about why it was difficult for her.

Over the course of our project, which spanned 9 months, I came to know Olivia* as being largely extroverted. When I learned we would be travel partners, I wasn’t immediately concerned. In fact, I was relieved. Save one other team member, I was very happy that she and I had been selected to travel to Senegal. Once we arrived in Senegal, these sentiments quickly changed. Her extroversion ‘clashed’ with my introversion.

Whereas she would ask very detailed questions (unrelated to the project) about people’s lives with white, invasive curiosity, I would put my hand out as I gently beckoned a child towards me or go sit by the female head of household and observe, impressed with her command of a household that could sometimes hold more than 20 members.

After a long day in a remote area, should we have returned to Dakar, I wanted to sit in the hotel lobby and stare out at the beach-and recover. Olivia wanted to explore and attend live music concerts.

To be fair to her, this was her first time in West Africa. It was not my first; although there were differences compared Ghanaian and Togolese cultures and ways of life, these differences did not feel stark. In a way, I felt at home. But for Olivia, this comfort  and my desire for solitude (despite being) in this exotic and beautiful country was perceived as distant and  generally unenthusiastic.

I was actually ecstatic to be in Senegal. I was looking forward to experiencing this particular West African culture, laced with French perspectives. It was interesting for me to observe the incongruity of this imposed relationship and I was eager to understand the repercussions  of it.

I ended up suffering for this. Olivia reported to our Adviser, that I had not ‘adequately contributed ‘ to the project. I can tell you all the ways in which I did contribute and guide the goals of the project-Olivia’s enthusiasm frequently took us off course. But this is not necessary because Olivia’s complaint had nothing to do with my work ethic and everything to do with my personality.

My friends describe it as ‘resting bitch face’. This points to my ability to be expressionless in a point in time yet, later describe how happy,excited or impressed I was at said time. I understand; more often that not introversion is perceived as a deficiency. But I don’t lack social skills, I don’t like being lonely, but I do appreciate (and need) solitude. These traits aren’t always welcomed in a society that demands you make yourself known at all times.

I have committed to reading a new book every month.  For February, I selected  Introvert Power: Why your Inner Strength is your Inner Power. I have been motivated by Helgoe’s unapologetic description of introversion. Her description of her introversion, precise and inclusive, has begun to foster a better understand of myself and social situations . In fact, her contents page alone had me feeling like she was in my head.



Introversion is largely perceived to be a deficit or coming from a place of deep pain, depression or anxiety. It is only a coincidence that I have experienced all the above. What might comes as surprise is that I have also relied on introversion to remove me from these dark places.

In the past, I have readily apologized for myself and labeled myself to sooth other people’s fears and discomfort. Now, I think I about the ways in which I could have made Olivia feel more comfortable around me but to do so would have been apologetic: Sorry for the way I am, here is a list of ways to successfully navigate the glacier that is me, see below–literally. 

Given the brevity of our work together and no detected desire to develop this partnership into a friendship on either part, it’s true that I did not feel any obligation to ‘help her understand me’. What would be generally helpful, is a social shift in our understanding of personality traits. We might also want to consider breaking assumed links between extroversion and success.

So far in my reading, Helgoe has made two important points. The first is that introverts are not in the minority: we actually make up 57% of the population according to large-scale population study. The second point is that no one is either an introvert or a extrovert.

 I suspect that her book will inspire a few more posts on introversion. So happy reading to the both us!

The Trouble(?) with Gratitude

As has become habit, DearLilyJune, wrote something that made me think.

In her post she referenced a NY Times article (link), “The Selfish Side of Gratitude” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich’s view is that we practice gratitude in a way the self-elevates and rarely involves communication or interaction of any kind.

“All you have to do is generate, within yourself, the good feelings associated with gratitude, and then bask in its warm, comforting glow”. I have not read several self-help, self-love books, but I have read a couple. These books have encouraged me to acknowledge the good things that have happened to me and write, or state, the things I am grateful for. I have never been coached to interact or communicate directly with the donor.

I can, for example, meditate on how grateful I am that my parents insured I received first-class education without ever communicating this to my parents. Yet, because I have acknowledged it to myself, I am showing gratitude without having ever showed it. And because I have done this, I am allowed to feel better about myself because I can say that, yes, I am a grateful person. Ehrenreich is saying that practices of gratitude can be more internal than external–agreed, they can be.

I do take issue with her comment, “Saying grace to an abstract God is an evasion, there are crowds, whole communities of actual people, many of them with aching backs and tenuous finances, who made the meal possible”.

Saying grace before a meal is not practice I follow unless I am sharing a meal with someone who does practice thanksgiving. “Thanking God is an evasion” is a comment that is authored on a misunderstanding of a key attribute of God; He is omni-everything. He has made all things possible. For a believer, these events made possible through farmers, communities, etc, are all also made possible by God–to thank God is to thank them.

And for the purposes of practicality, how long of prayer would it be if we went down the list of people (and animals!) who make meals possible? Her ‘complaint’ seems naive. Imagine a family who says grace before a meal but the mother, who cooked the meal says, “uhh, aren’t you going to thank me too?” Joel Osteen would argue that it is through God that the mother was able to cook the scrumptious meal.

The next point is when Ehrenreich says, “The real challenge of gratitude lies in figuring out how to express our debt to them, whether through generous tips or say, by supporting their demands for decent pay and better working conditions”. I completely agree with the last two points, those are concrete ways of communicating external gratitude. But, generous tips? I probably wouldn’t have flagged this in my thought process if Ehrenreich had not also raised the issue of money when she criticizes the Greater Good Science Center for not funding “projects to directly improve the lives of poor individuals but [has] spent a great deal […] to improve their attitudes”.

I struggle to articulate my thoughts on this but to suggest that we express our debt via generous tips seems conflicting, and again, someone could argue condescending. A generous tip can express gratitude but an individual could also interpret a generous tip as pity. Her suggestion also assumes that generous tips are universally accepted as a shows of gratitude rather than, for example, not being on the phone during an order, or not being rude or demeaning to a waiter or waitress.

As I said, I do appreciate the context around Ehrenreich points. When practicing gratitude is an only an act between you and yourself,  are you really practicing gratitude? But! If you can’t practice gratitude internally, how do you practice it externally? If I can’t acknowledge that you have done something good, can I express it to someone else?

Just like love, I think gratitude starts with oneself.

Week 1 – Updates

I completed my first week at my new job–I like it! I have an amicable and supportive team. My job responsibilities are meaningful and I appreciate that aspect. On Friday, I found out who my mentor is going to be and it’s the perfect pairing as I have been interested in learning programming language. My mentor is a research associate on the team and he is also a data/coding guru.

My personality has been different at work–I surprised myself! I was confident, I asked questions, I interacted with co-workers –rather than just answering their questions and looking away oddly. It’s nice to be able to acknowledge my growth in that aspect.


I am still trying to make my new apartment my own. I never thought that any apartment I’d have in NY would be ‘too big’ for me but I’m finding myself feeling very insignificant in my space. I have been spending most of day and weekends in my room with the door locked-even my bedroom is too big. But as my brother would say “first world problems”.


I started a couple new things this week but I am not quite ready to write about them as they are still new and developing. I’m at a bit of standstill in regards to where to take my blog, so for now, my posts may consist of ‘updates’ as I settle into my new life I guess.

One of my goals is to read a book every month. I was an avid read until I started college. I miss being able to get lost in a book so I’ve made up my mind to re-develop the habit. I purchased my first book this week, Introvert Power: Why Your Inner Life is Your Hidden Strength by Laurie Helgoe. I considered several books, but it seemed appropriate to start here.  I’ll gladly accept reccommendations!


Before writing today, I spent some time looking at my blog insights. Its amazing to see where the likes/views/comments come from. Thank you for your support and readership!



The Trouble with Words (Part III)


The trouble with words is that they have meaning and consequence. Joel Osteen, in the ‘Power of I Am’ discusses the power of what we say and the words we choose. He talks about what God brought to fruition by speaking, “Let there be light” -and there it was. Osteen says that we have this same power and I find myself understanding him today.

Words have a ying yang element. We can use our words to speak beauty into existence, or we can use our words to summon pain and evil. Words matter. With this power literally at the tip of our tongues, we make many mistakes.

Have you ever responded to a text message, been reminded of your words at a later time but then you have absolutely no recollection? You scroll back and there it is; your words, your craft. Did I really say that? Yes, you did. Did I really mean that? Maybe. Is that what I wanted to say? I’m not sure now.

True; the demands around us are too great to workshop every sentence. But are the demands so great that we cannot be more conscious and careful?

Ephesians 4:29 : Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your moths, but only what is  helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians Chapter 4 is not really about how we speak to each other – not directly anyway. Rather, it’s about unity and maturity. It calls on us to be humble (4:2), make every effort to keep unity (4:3) and promises that by speaking truth in love, we will grow to become in every aspect the mature body of Christ (4:15).

Our words are grammatical structures that build, rebuild, or destroy with each utterance. With our words, we can bring each other up, or we can assure our downfall. I think its important to understand we can’t separate ourselves from our actions. The relationship   between who we are and what is we say is direct. Put differently, with my words, I cannot raise you without also elevating myself; I cannot demote you without lowering myself.

If you read, even glance at texts (readings) from centuries past, possibly even earlier, there is a precision to language that I feel is becoming rare. That precision, I am thinking, is a reflection of an acute appreciation for language and it’s power.

I was in a situation early this morning where I wished the person speaking to me could see the damage they were causing. I wished that they could see how their words unraveled me. I also wished that I had not given them the power to do so. I had been courageous enough, at their request, to show vulnerability and so I did. But in doing so, I am empowered them, and because of their words,  I am questioning whether I want to share that level of vulnerability with anyone ever again.



To summarize

I am employed folks! On Monday, I’ll be heading towards the NY Department of Education to work as an Analyst.

A few of my posts covered my struggles with unemployment, as well as my serious misstep of associating a temporary situation with my identity.

I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Ghana with my family. My decision to go to Ghana was somewhat abrupt. Truth be told, I went because I missed my boyfriend and I was concerned about what continued distance would do to our relationship.  When my dad asked me to clarify why I would spend my money on an expensive ticket when I had just recently started working part time, he answered his own question, Addison*. I am lucky to enjoy a close bond with my father so I was happy he knew the answer. I was even more relived that he did not question my decision or belittle my feelings, “Ok, so you’ll be here for Christmas then. That will be nice”, my father said. I went with the hopes of getting clarity on my relationship. I did and didn’t get clarity, but I also got something else –and maybe I’ll discuss it in a future post.
I am back in New York, I’ve secured a lovely apartment in the heart of Brooklyn or maybe an artery leading to the heart of Brooklyn. Either way, I am happy to finally have my own safe space again. My new space has come with soft reminders of loneliness but I confident that as I make the space feel more like home, it will feel like exactly that.

I am looking forward to writing more posts. I am curious to see how my new situation and environment will affect my writing.

Joel Osteen says God won’t give you a blessing you aren’t ready for — I am ready !

*Actually, my boyfriend’s name is not Addison but I think it’s a nice name for a boy. 

Ode to a decade of failed New Year’s Resolutions: I had good intentions.

* This is a post I wrote towards the end of December. For one reason or another, I have been writing without posting. This is an effort to break the silence.

As person who believes she has monthly mid life crises, constantly seeks opportunities to self renew, re-identify and re-start, New Year’s resolutions equate to what I spend most of the year doing.

Change has helped me greatly.But constantly  investing in yourself is never enjoying the fruits of your labor, never stopping to acknowledge the sweet, ripe fruit you have brought forward.

I’ve done a lot of work on myself this year; I’ve made incredible strides since October 31st. In 2016, I want to enjoy how far I’ve come. Will I stop making improvements ? Far from it. I’m still going to be active, I’m still going to eat well, I will still maintain a positive mindset- I’m just not going to start a whole new journey (and I’m also going to avoid people and situations that undermine the work I’ve done so far. I’m going to invest in maintaining; not healing or assessing and reassessing my wounds -I’ve done so much healing. Is there more work to be done? Sure. Are there still experiences and events that I re-visit? Absolutely.

The difference is that I am no longer subject to a past that has been laced with pain and hurt. I can think about my sexual assault, I can think about my perpetrator without breaking down, without drinking a bottle of NyQuil to shut my mind off.
I can think about my childhood without being ashamed, without thinking that I am not worthy of being in a healthy relationship where I am a priority, where I am loved, where I am valued. I can almost clearly state what I want in a relationship without making apologies for it, without thinking that I might be asking for too much.

For me, that is incredible progress and I am extremely proud of myself.

I want to spend time with myself and who I am at the moment before I decide what next steps I can take to make what is already good, better. Gone are the days where I view myself as something damaged, someone that needs to be adopted and nursed back to life.

My  hope for 2016 is that I never allow myself to fall as low as I did in 2015.

A place to be tried & tested

*I wrote this post before my trip to Ghana  on December 21. For one reason or another, I have been writing without posting. This is an effort to break the silence.

In less than a week, I will return to Ghana. For many reasons, this visit will assess and test the growth I have made since my first blog.

My first post explored the Ghanaian word obolo– meaning fat. My next blog post explored the word oboroni-white. I have no doubts that I will be referred as either many times during my short, 3-week stay.  I have been accustomed to hearing these words. But I am hoping my reactions, if any, will be different. I haven’t suddenly acquired a new race(still not white !) and I am still waiting for my body to respond to a drastic change in eating habits and a gym membership.

I’ve written about a few dark experiences, I’ve explored the various ways in which these events have affected and shaped me, I’ve stated that my prior inability (not unwillingness) to trust had eroded a couple of my most important relationships.

For a couple of months, perhaps exactly since October 31st, the voices in my mind that energize and spark my anxiety, have been very quiet. When the anxious chorus crescendos, with the full agency I now have over my thoughts and feelings, I am immediately able to reverse the dial. In Ghana, I will be temporarily united with my boyfriend    of almost three years. Have I fully released the habits that were influenced by an acute distrust of his feelings and actions? Can I listen to what he says and not fill in conversational gaps with worst possible scenarios ? Will I be able to ask clarifying questions calmly and rationally ? Has the effort I have put into being the best version of myself  for myself and inevitably our relationship, been matched ?

I’m looking forward to being in Ghana during Christmas. This will be my second visit to Ghana during this time. My first Christmas in Ghana was due to my family leaving Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. I really only recall the ‘fleeing a war’ part so I’m looking forward to creating new memories.

Where I say “I do” everyday

Marriage—that thing that comes after the wedding.

Much thought and attention is given to the wedding day, in fact, a whole industry surrounds it. Advertised as the most important day of our lives, our devotion to where two aunts that don’t get along well sit, to testing 15 waterproof mascaras, is obviously justified.

You and your boo say ‘I do’, you kiss under pressure, and although your wedding event is highly publicized, the finer details of your marriage (see above definition) are kept private. You leave your guests with a perfect picture, you bid them adieu, the blindfolds are removed and you and significant other find yourselves standing in a febreeze commercial set. That sweet smell? That was your wedding, the room you’re in? That’s life + marriage–figure it out.


Despite my sarcasm, I’m not an advocate of the ‘marriage is hard’ mantra because it seems so negative. It also gives the impression that compromise is a horrible, painful experience. But I don’t think it has to be, certainly not if you start thinking about it differently.

From Old French, compromittere, com-‘together’ and promittere ‘promise’

Beautiful, right? French does that.

I think marriage is a beautiful thing (and not just theoretically beautiful)-I think most people do, or maybe they did at one point. When I think of marriage, I think finally, someone I can fart with. I think of a union with a very good friend, someone who can look at me and roll their eyes, all the while appreciating me for the gem that I am. Someone whose face I can look at and smile for no reason. Someone with whom I will undoubtedly face hardships, either my own, his own, or our own. Someone who knows the outcome of our differences and arguments will be hugs, kisses and solutions that make at least one of us better without hurting the other. Someone who, in a world of options, consistently sees me as the best choice, someone who would chooses me again, and again, everyday and throughout the day. Someone who will say ‘I do’ to me, everyday.

What might hard about marriage, is actually what makes beautiful in the end. It’s not hard to ignore the cracks in your relationship, it’s not hard to come home and not talk about your day, it’s not hard to not listen to your significant other, it’s not hard to watch tv and be on Facebook all day, it’s not hard to not support your significant other’s dreams.

What takes effort is learning how to best support your boo, how to be encouraged by disappointments; it takes effort and understanding to be able to sit silently with your love; it’s hard work to recognize when you are wrong, when you’re the cause of someone’s pain; it’s hard work to be genuinely interested in someone else’s interests.

Marriage is about choosing your partner everyday. It’s that last slice of pizza that you want, but feed your boo instead because the satisfaction you would get from eating it, is equivalent to her pretending she doesn’t want it.


Caution: These views are from an unmarried individual. She may or may not know what she is talking about, but she does so with confidence because she knows what she wants.



Social media triggers: God, feminism & bible thumpers

In a recent conversation with my father, I shared that I “wanted more control in my relationship”. My daddy responded that as woman, I would not have a happy relationship if I was in control and that to have a happy relationship, I would have to submit to my husband.

Before all your red flags go up, my father is a 73 year old two-time ivy leaguer who has overcome tremendous adversity, and in doing so, has ensured none of his children would experience the hardships he did. I have a lot of respect for my father (my parents).

I wasn’t offended by his comment, firstly because he either misunderstood my desire or I failed to adequately express it. “I want to be in control in my relationship”. I do not want the status of my relationship to be subject to the tides of my emotions. I want to place my relationship on a pedestal not a merry-go-round, and to the extent that I can control this, achieve stability, I would very much like that. We would very much like that.

I didn’t think about my father’s comment again. After his response, I offered more details as to what I meant, and our conversation took a different turn. But I found myself reflecting on his comments  later on when I was doing a google search on variants of the question what does the bible say about x, y, z? 

Why should I be subject to my husband? And if I were, how would if affect (or not) my identity as a feminist? It’s amazing how much confusion surrounds this word, it embodies such an elegantly simple concept. There are more serious definitions, but I found Urban Dictionary’s definition to be humorous in the sense that it sheds light on the strange misconceptions and stereotypes related to being feminist : Someone who believes the radical notion that women are people. If you believe that women and men should have equal rights, you are a feminist.

Before  I continue, I must begin with a warning and if necessary, an apology, as I have only recently wondered about the contents of the bible. Well, I don’t think I’m given myself enough credit; let’s try again. I have recently decided to be responsible for ‘finding the light’ instead of being disappointed in someone else’s inability to find it for me. If I misinterpret this, please accept me as a novice, and find a way to correct me without being discouraging.

So, I was doing my search. I stumbled upon 1 Timothy 2 11:14 :

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

When I read this, I smiled, so this is where they get it from. I was enjoying my random searches till now. But something said to me, read on.

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

If my dad had said, “don’t submit to a man who does not himself submit to God” I don’t think I would have thought anything of it. I would have easily agreed–without hesitation or thought. And i think this is what he meant because my parents didn’t raise me to blindly submit, if at all.

Let’s see if I can work this out: If God created me as an individual, and if He wants me to hold myself in the highest regard, respect myself, walk with my head high ( …and maybe also adorn myself in respectable apparel, with modesty, and not with braided hair and gold or pears)…and if my husband himself is above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, managed his household well…would it be such a horrible thing to submit to him? Could my submission to my husband be an extension of my submission to God? Would this not be similar to the Transitive Property of Equality we learn in 3rd grade?

If my husband submits to God and I submit to God, isn’t that submission to my husband by way of God? And I don’t even think that there needs to be any explicit statement of my husband submitting me, because firstly, I think it’s divinely implied, secondly he would be submitting to a far greater power–a power that has plans to prosper me, and not harm me, plans to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

It doesn’t sound nearly as uncomfortable this way. If I think of all the things that made me uncomfortable about “submitting to a man”, if my husband and I both submit to God , then I think my concerns are removed. My husband wouldn’t speak ill of me, he would respect me, he wouldn’t strike me, he would firmly believe that I am God’s masterpiece, and he would  be blessed to be able to treasure me even half as much as God.

Did I do it right?