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The relationship between myself and I is a love-hate one. I love myself, I absolutely do but there’s this lady, her name is ‘I’, she resides somewhere- I’m not sure where but I think it’s either my brain, my mind or my body. Sometimes I think ‘I’ is my shadow but then she lingers even after I can see no visible shadow. ‘I’ is more than the physical or tangible, in fact the fact that she’s not tangible makes her more powerful.

‘I’ is annoying, she annoys me to no end because she is too dauntless and daring and adventurous and she lands me in trouble all the time. Are you looking for bad advice cookie? That’s ‘I’. And she nags so much I find it hard to ward her off so to make her keep shut and have her off my case, I just go along with it… bad decision.

I want to lose weight so I try to cut down on food portions and avoid ‘bad’ food and even when I see a super juicy and cheesy chunk of junk, I direct my mind away by myself, but not ‘I’, ‘I’ redirects me. She comes with this super therapeutic voice and goes ‘do you really want to do this to yourself Hafsah? Do you really not want to indulge in this piece of edible luxury? You only live once you know’ and she is sooo good like an expert siren, I usually end up trailing her demands.

And later when I’m drowning in the guilt of it, she sits cross-legged on a plush chair by the side of the grey cube room that’s my mind and smirks to herself. She’s usually writing on a notepad- that’s one thing myself and ‘I’ have in common- and I think she’s scoring herself. By now it will probably read: ‘myself’ 7- 10834893 ‘I’.

‘I’ doesn’t like letting go of people so even when I have a crush on a guy and I want to move on, ‘I’ pushes me to just check his Instagram page one more time for updates, ‘It helps with the healing process’ she says. But she’s lying because I end up stalking him for three more hours….unhealthily.

‘I’ is (am) a hoarder. Like when she tells me I need stuff I don’t need. She’s like ‘Hafsah we are going to need this in the future, keep it’ and the future comes, and it goes and we never need it but we’ve kept it.

And she even hoards memories, some good ones- I must give her credit- but she hoards even the unnecessary, bad ones and that makes her hold grudges like an expert in the field of grudge keeping (there’s a pun lying here somewhere).

For example there’s a family gathering yeah? And I see that cousin and I’m approaching her because I want to catch up and… ‘I’ actually stops me. She says ‘remember when you were 4 years 7 months 1 week old and this cousin flicked a lit up match at you and it burned your arm? You still want to talk to her after THAT?!!! And the memory comes back anew, I feel the pain of the matchstick sizzle on my arm and I make a 360 turn away from the cousin. ‘I’, you are here on banned from interfering with my family life ever again.

When I learn a new song (which is usually some few lines), I don’t like letting ‘I’ know. Because when she gets hold of those lines, God in Heavens! It takes the whole spirit of the Earth to make her stop endlessly chanting them like a breathing mantra. And it annoys me because it’s stuck in my head every moment! But ‘I’ enjoys it. She just loves tormenting me.

You think you have naysayers? Mine resides within! This lady is my worse critic. Everything I do is subject to judgement. I can’t try to look pretty in front of the mirror, ‘I’ will start dissing me. And if so help me God I try to dance or worse sing, ‘I’ contorts her face like she’s smelling poop and grimaces, I’ll have to shamefully stop. That’s why I don’t like taking pictures because ‘I’ calls each of them ugly save one or two. Because of that, I may take 100 pictures and two days later, I’ll delete the lot to one or two. The ones approved by ‘I’. I hate her guts.

I know you are thinking I should let go of her and I’ve thought about it but even as I’m typing this right now, she’s in here laughing her heads off (wickedly) because she knows she’s here to stay. She knows she’ll outlive me, because I know that house, my mind will breathe and exists even after my body gives up the ghost.

And I can’t mute her because in between it all, she drops the most amazing writing and story ideas. She’s my perfectly ever-engaging muse. That’s where our love relationship comes in. I love her for the endless supply of stories she provides. Ever wondered why my stories are usually sadistic? Well….

And she’s my gossip partner, who else will I laugh about my boss with? Most times when you see me laughing to myself, it’s myself and I sharing an inside joke. And she spins the most romantic stories when she’s on her monthly’s. And she can be sweet in a mean way. She comes up plenty horrible ways to get back at people many of which I thankfully forcefully dismiss.

‘I’ is (am) a creative fellow, sometimes mean but usually to me and generally, there’s not a single dull moment between ‘I’ and myself.

With all the things happening today from politics to religion to the society to economics to marriage to education, it is to be expected that everyone will have an opinion on everything. 

The problem arises not when people have varying opinions (that’s a good thing), it is when people decide to voice out those opinions at the same time, all trying to scream above the others din in order to be heard. It makes you wonder, is it to seem relevant and intelligent or to just communicate.

In the society it is very easy to judge people based on what they say especially when their point doesn’t tally with that of the majority, they are automatically seen as wrong.

In the society it is automatically wrong for you to even breath once someone of your religion or ethnicity or state does wrong because he is your kin and you are vicariously just as much a culprit.

In the society (some parts) as a woman you should learn to voice out your opinions only when you are in a room by yourself, and even then, hush it down will you?

In the society saying what you mean makes you fake and a wannabe and automatically you are in an intellectual competition with others and you don’t even know it.

Bottomline, in the society today, you always wonder when to speak or not to speak!

Now speaking is not a problem, WHAT YOU SAY is a problem. You honestly just can’t say anything you feel like because not everything you say matters. Some things make sense in your head but in reality they are rubbish. ‘Think before you speak’ is honestly the most underrated thing.

If it’s unnecessary, keep shut.

If it’s fruitless, don’t.

If it will cause alarm, soften it.

If you aren’t sure, be sure first.

HOW? When you decide to let your tongue race without control and you untactically say all the things that come to you everywhere to everyone, then you have signed up for it.

If it’s offensive, tune it down, use examples.

If it’s harsh, use euphemism. 

If it’s rude, then you are wrong.

If you are riled, calm down.

Talk calmly and with intelligence in passing your message across, don’t just spurt out anything you feel like carelessly, it’s rude.

WHEN? Which time do you choose to speak? Do you tell people the truth or what you think when they are hurting or most sensitive or when they are much calmer and ready to see reason? The former should be.

TO WHOM? If the recipient is not a person of understanding, hold your peace (avoid dragging things to forever, it irritates). When you realize that no matter how calm or tactical you are the person will vehemently never see reason because he isn’t in the discussion in order to learn but in order to ‘win’, then you are just wasting your time and reducing your intellectual potential with something not productive.

Choose the calibre of people to talk to about certain things. You can’t come to a purely Muslim community and preach to them about accepting homosexuality because it is not in their orientation same way you can’t go to a western community and preach them on polygamy. If they don’t want to hear leave them alone! If they don’t want to accept and it hurts no one leave them alone!

WHY? Are you speaking up for clout? For validation even in things you don’t believe? 

If no one cares, don’t. If your reasons are mischievous and not noble don’t. So why are you speaking?

Your RIGHT? Recently, a Professor with degrees in Psychology and International Law and certification in Ethics who has taught Prime minister and presidents and… said that you should know when to defend your right and when to surrender it. Defending your right may do you more harm than actually letting it be so that you can tackle the situation more tactically.

SOCIAL MEDIA has turned us into unempathetic beings, we feel like because we are behind the screens and because we can’t see the people we are directing our wordings at physically, we hurt no one when we speak. Why do you think suicide is on the rise now? Directly or indirectly social media has many things to do with it.

Use the tool of globally reaching out to people wisely and not oppressively or carelessly.

All said and done, I am all for speaking up. I am all for expression and saying your mind. I’m all for watching and observing and laying your observations to the table. I’m all for not keeping things bottled up but in this world where everyone is sensitive, you must not be insensitive about it. Talk only when not talking causes more harm than good, talk only when needed to, talk only when it causes more good than harm, speak up, but do it right!.

Some people are people’s people. They can be around people 20 hours a day and never get tired. They’d rather be with people longer than they will be with themselves. They are extroverts, social, and very confident and comfortable around people.

Some people cannot stand others. They’d rather be alone 20 hours in a day. In fact, they don’t even like people. They are very reserved and might not be confident around others. Socializing is a strenuous task for them.

Then there’s me. I can be around people, I can socialize, I can be with others 20 hours in a day but honestly, I’d rather not.

Sometimes I want people around, most times I want them away. And I know why.

It’s a different thing to chat or be on social media, I’m at home so no (much) problem. But for me to actually go out of my house! That is a mighty problem. I don’t go out except I can’t help it (Market, Hospital…. oh yes of course, work). Socializing and hanging out are major tasks even for a productive purpose.

When I share no common interests or point of view or discussion point with a person, then I can’t relate much with him. If I can’t relate much with a person, then there’s not a point being around the person. Now I might feel this way around people I can even converse with.

For me to want to be around a person then that means the person really gets me to a certain extent and I can be myself with the person at all times. I can handle otherwise (when I’m not comfortable with a person) but I’d rather not, so I’m always surprised when some people are comfortable with everyone and they can be with everyone and speak to everyone. How fam?

I don’t even like talking much except it’s about a novel or cartoon. I don’t like repeating stuff, if I say it once I’d rather not say it again.

I don’t like arguing with people’s opinions and beliefs.

I don’t like it when people think my normal conversation is a battle of intellect and so they start showing off their IQ when in fact I don’t even know if I have one.

Generally, except when I really see the need to (because of the person or topic), there’s little or no point to talking more than absolutely necessary. Ever.

I never thought I’ll send my profile to any page on Instagram in response to men looking for a wife/ soulmate/ life partner. 

I always thought it was too silly, if a person is destined for you, the person will be yours even if he resides in Mars. 

But then maybe it was the thought of turning 28 soon with no prospect of a wedding in view,  or maybe it was maturity settling in with a bam! and unsitting my firm believe in never doing anything to get a man. Whatever it was, I had a moment of epiphany. And in it,  it is okay to fast track meeting the one as long as it’s through a halal means. So the day I saw a request by a man whose words sounded earnest and whose English looked flawless enough for me, I found myself messaging Northern Hibiscus… and mumbling a prayer while at it.

She didn’t reply for a day. I was fidgety, nervous, anxious and in constant trepidation about the implication. What if I come off as desperate, what if he is an axe murderer, what if I don’t like him at all and I have to lay him off, I hate doing that- I’m a softie. I wanted to retract the message but she’d already seen it. The last what if was the one that made me the most nervous- What if the account of Northern Hibiscus is hacked and her inbox are screenshotted and my careless gesture is splayed bare to the whole world- the shame.

But she replied, the next day,  she replied with a phone number. He just saw my profile, he didn’t ask for a photo, he liked me enough to give my number. ‘Can I get his Instagram handle instead?’ I asked her. 

‘He isn’t on Instagram’ came the short reply. What?!

He sent me a message first a day later. I had already convinced myself he wouldn’t message and hang me if I message him first. I was convinced it was for the best if he doesn’t, but the inner me wasn’t delighted, she is a curious one.

So while I groaned when he messaged, she cheered and hi-fived herself. Then we started talking and I couldn’t help but cheer and hi-five myself.  He was like a gold fish in a river full of tilapia, the perfect catch, and I snagged him. 

Sadiq bought me from the word ‘hello’. His diction and play of words is so mesmerizing I’d read our chats everyday over any English text. If you know me, you know a good command of diction is my weakness. I am vain brained but whatever. The more we chatted,  the more I liked. We didn’t exchange pictures till two months later, we didn’t even request so, we weren’t interested in the physical so much as the logical… or lexical rather. But he wasn’t all English, I swear he was something of everything,  any subject, any topic, my guy knows it, a freaking walking Encarta. 

As a sucker for intellectual conversations, I was gone within the first week. He said he liked my mind. It’s special with a touch of weird,  I say the oddest things at the right time, which was perfect because I loved his.

The day we exchanged picture, It became a fact written on stone. I could marry him,  I wanted to, I had to. No better man for me out there. He was just like I had envisioned,  not better, not worse, Just. Like. 

That day, he told me he had to come see me, see if I was real, I was too good to be real ‘that brain and that beauty is a deadly combo’ his words. 

I had asked him too,  I had asked why when he could have half of the female population,  send a request on social media. He said half of the female population weren’t for him, just one woman is and he may have found her. 

Apparently the day her messaged NH, he just woke up, prayed and less than 5 minutes later, he found himself opening an Instagram account and sending a message to Northern Hibiscus ( he already knew about her). He had made up his mind to accept the first person to reply. Somehow, he knew it will be me, not me me, but me. Yes he was also a hopeless romantic like that.

We kept on chatting, this time knowing what the other looked like, but not how the other sounded like. You see, we have never had a phone conversation,  nor exchanged a voice note, nor done a video call. And it was cool with us. I had hinted on a phone call once and he had said that he wasn’t a call person. I respected that.

I began counting down. Weeks to when he takes his annual leave, days and before I knew it, hours. The days leading to when he was coming, I could barely contain my excitement.  I told everyone in my house; my husband is coming!. 

‘Habiba there’s something very important that I’d like to tell you but I’d rather do it face to face’  he said after it was established that he was coming the next month.

I had worried. What was it? He was married most likely. The good ones always were. My heart was unsettled because somehow,  I had a feeling it was big.

‘You are married? You have kids? Divorced? You don’t like potatoes? Because that’s a deal breaker for me’.

‘Lol. None of the above. Calm down’.

He typed back then wrote something that made me laugh and made my worry reduce.

We contemplated on where to meet first. Whether to meet at home or in some other public place. Sadiq is a very modest person. He wasn’t interested in anything that can lead to a ‘haram relationship’ because he said that he genuinely wanted to marry me. So he’d rather home or a public place because he couldn’t trust himself otherwise. I found that very respectful. 

I was ready by the time he said he’d left the airport and was heading to town. I had no makeup on, I was barefaced, literally trying to be transparent. I wanted to come as I am because if he appreciates that then he is a sure keeper. Our relationship was never a pretentious one.

My younger sister rushed into the room. “He’s here’. She declared and my heart slid down and lodged below my stomach.  Here we go…

I spritzed some perfume. Checked myself in the mirror. Rubbed on some lip balm. Adjusted my headtie and veil and finally went down.

The car door opened slowly as I approached,  I was to walk him in. To avoid plenty awkwardness, we decided to meet outside first and as he stepped out in his full manly glory,  I knew that my fate was sealed. I didn’t know when a giant foolish smile plastered itself on my face.

He came towards me with a giant foolish smile of his own. He was taller than he seemed. Good. How did you snag this one you…? I asked myself and my inner self offered me a high-five.

‘Hi’. I said with a little wave. His presence was so easy, it wasn’t as awkward as I thought it’d be.

He smiled and returned back my small wave in an oh-so-charmingly -boyish manner my inner self groaned and sighed. Especially when two shy dimples crept out. I didn’t notice that enticing feature in the pictures. Even better!.

‘So… how was your journey?’. I asked.

His smile grew even wider and he gave a thumbs up. 

Okay… That’s weird. 

‘So …’ I said. In my mind I was like say something. 

He brought out his phone and started going through it. The f**k! I thought. My brows were furrowing together in an ill-concealed frown.

Then he pushed the phone in my face.

‘You are so beautiful’. It read.  Even though the sincerity and emotions in that sentence was almost tangible, my frown deepened. 

‘Thank you’ I mouthed. But my voice was low. Why didn’t he say something? Why did he have to type that and not say it? It was not possible.  But… but it seemed like it. It wasn’t possible that my Sadiq, was dumb. But how?.

He was watching me intently as I struggled with the realisation. His smile had faltered and I could see a shadow of sadness settle over his face.

It was true then.

‘Sadiq’ I said tightly. He looked away. A small gasp escaped from my throat and I covered my mouth with my palms. The shock coursing through my bones made me feel faint.

‘Sadiq’ I called his name again this time, my voice pained. He shut his eyes and looked away.

Then he removed a letter from his pocket and gave it to me. On the envelope read  ‘Please Read This Habibty’.

I didn’t know why I reacted that way, but I slapped the envelope from his hands and fled back in. Why? Why me? Why him? Why didn’t he tell me?

Why now? Why this?!

I ran back as fast as my legs could go against the sting of hot, betrayed tears. But even as I ran, I knew that I’ll go back to him, I knew I felt bad for him, I knew that it wasn’t enough to keep us apart, but it hurt that I’ll never know the voice of love.

It was later, much later, after I’d taken a month to myself to think and heal.  After he and his family and mine had pursued me and tried to make me see reason, after I’d agreed and given in, that my sister told me that she saw all that happened from the balcony . And that after I had slapped the letter from his hands, it had fallen into a small puddle made of the June rains, and he had dejectedly picked it up, shaken the water away and wiped a stray tear from his eyes. She said it was the single most heartbreaking scene she had ever witnessed.

Life’s not meant to make sense all the time.

Sometimes we don’t make sense and life has no sense and nothing makes sense.

It’s a topsy turvy world. An hourglass kind  of place, today you are high up the contentment scale and tomorrow, rock bottom.

I won’t tell you that you can do it and you’ll be fine and you should pick up the fallen senses and build a six story mansion in the sky because then I’ll just be like a con-artist motivational speaker.

I’ll tell you that in my years on earth (which might seem not that much) I figured that you are entitled to your plenty ‘life is not making sense periods’.

It’s not necessarily teenage years or mid-life crises, everything in between counts and should not be downplayed.

If life makes sense 24/7/4/12 then I doubt life will even be any fun or interesting. I mean you’ve figured everything out, move on to the next level.

There’s a reason why we need God , there’s a reason why we need to confide and seek His guidance, if everything is spelt out then I hardly think we will.

The figuring out part, the contemplation on direction, the part where you are trying to reconcile who you really are, who you thought you were and who you’d like to be , the confusing part (who should I be with, what’s best for me), the unraveling part, the puzzle-solving part of life is actually 80% of it and eventually it gives life meaning and keeps you on your toes and growing.

So life doesn’t make sense? Yup, mine too most times is jumbled up but las las, we go dey alright.