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This is a storytelling space that focuses on documenting life experiences, ranging from motherhood, to travelling, and every inspirational idea in between.

Life

An Open Letter to My Husband, On Father's Day

Sultana Patail

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Dear friend,

It seems not so long ago, we were blessed with our little one. Scared and uncertain, we fell into parenthood the only way we knew how - as partners. And although the journey has driven us in opposite directions at times, today I celebrate our differences. I celebrate you.

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I fell into motherhood with greater ease than I ever imagined. But in the depths of my motherhood, I forgot certain things. I forgot about all the moments I had with him first. The months that I carried him, the mornings that we bonded, how our rhythms fell into sync with one and other. I forgot about these stepping stone moments that I had the advantage of experiencing first hand, that helped solidify our bond once he arrived. I forgot about these secret whispered moments that you weren't always privy to.

I realize now how much harder you've had to work at your relationship with him than I ever did. I've watched you struggle to do the daily tasks he fights you every step of the way on, that he comes to me for with ease. And it dawns on me how much I truly admire your strength and tenacity as a father.

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That his affection trickles in much less than you deserve, yet you put his well being above your own ego, every single day, amazes me. That you've taken your life lessons and taught him strength, kindness, and patience, inspires me. And that as the more he grows into his own person, I can see all of your character traits in him, warms my heart.  

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You often compliment me, but the truth is I wouldn't be half the mother I am without you as my partner. And I can already see, that he will grow into the greatest version of himself, thanks to your love and guidance. 

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Father's like you, are likely to get labelled the 'babysitter' or 'playmate'. But today, and everyday, you need to know that you're so much more. And how much you're appreciated. 

Happy Father's Day.

Writer's Block

Sultana Patail

Nothing will ever be perfect. So if you wait for it, it'll never happen. My whole life I've been fixated on the end goal. The university degree, the marriage, the published book. In that time it's safe to say that I missed the forest for the trees. I've been missing the whole damn journey. And it's not like I haven't known this, but the older I get, the more I feel it. The more to do lists I make, the more editing I do, the less goals I accomplish, the.more.I.feel.it.

Drafts sit in my inbox; I nitpick and mull it over; I re-visit it and inevitably find something wrong with it. I say I'll get to it tomorrow, which slips into next week ... and so months pass me by. 

What is that? That thing that we do? What is this magical chromosome that some of us have, which others of us lack? The one that propels us into action as our ideas form. Why do some of us wait for a massive build-up, or worse, rock bottom, before we are pushed to create? I personally do this with everything from writing to cleaning and all things in between. I think I love the feeling of a massive accomplishment, instead of incremental small ones. Tornadoing through 3 loads of unfolded laundry, rendering a sparking clean bedroom for instance? Much more appealing than packing them away in a timely manner. The avalanche approach vs. the snowball, if you will. 

Are we manifestations of our habits? [Does that sentence make sense?] I don't know, but I do know that it's very difficult to change ourselves, for the better, the healthier, the more productive. 

Here's to being less perfect. But perhaps, more authentic. 

This is Why We Celebrate

Sultana Patail

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It was winter the first time I went alone. I remember trudging through the snow, forcing the door open against the wind, setting off the bell over-head. And with that one ring and gust of cold air, I was pushed inside. About 20 pairs of eyes veered toward me, evaluating me from head to toe.

Wishing desperately for a numbered ticketing system, I quickly searched the crowded room for a seat. I calculated how many women were in there, who was next, and how long my wait would be. I wedged myself in between two other girls, head down – This was before the days when you could bury your face in a smartphone.

Peering up, I started doing my own evaluations. We were all at our most vulnerable in this space. Hair pulled back, with no makeup to hide behind. We were collectively exposed in our insecurities. I must have been 17 at the time – on the brink of womanhood, but really still just a child. A first visit to a waxing salon is a seemingly insignificant yet important rite of passage for a young girl, as is finding her place in that waiting room.

Even in my naivety, what struck me then – and makes me shake my head now – was the tension that was always in the room. This silent judgement that made the air thick with hate. Hidden thoughts of comparison, not to mention fighting for position. (Girl, you better sit down. I’M next.) Which led me to a question that would evolve in my mind over the next decade: Why do we, as women, cut each other down, instead of building each other up?

Why do we, as women, cut each other down, instead of building each other up?

I’m no stranger to this nor am I innocent. I was the first to say that girls were too catty and high maintenance to get along with. I never stopped to think of their experiences or to celebrate our differences. I didn’t grow up with sisters, and I was born into the loving arms of a quiet mother. Needless to say, I didn’t learn certain lessons until later in life. So I didn’t truly appreciate the female bond until recent years. It didn’t even occur to me that my gender was something to be celebrated. It wasn’t until marriage, and motherhood, and a career, and hell – social media - that I truly understood how our unique experiences unify us, if we let them.

Now, in my early thirties I understand how my own exposure has shaped my perspective. It’s only now that I can appreciate the beauty in our strength, born out of our shared struggles. When I see a fellow mother battling with her toddler at the grocery store, I give her a knowing smile because I’ve been there. Or when I have to speak twice as loudly to get the same nod as my male colleague, I know I’m not the only woman who has ever felt that invisible.

This isn’t a woe is me speech, but quite the opposite. Never in my life have I been more thankful or proud to be a woman. To share in our accomplishments. To band together in the face of our trials and tribulations. To feel the safety net of sharing a #metoo story. To aspire to more because of increased representation. And yes, to be enveloped in the understanding support of the men in our lives.

So thank you to all the women who have set a path ablaze before me, and to all who will pave it after. We celebrate today because you are brave and outspoken; because of your strength and compassion. Thank you for taking action and not settling for anything less than you deserve. Thank you for the lessons I’ve learned and will pass on. In a time when I’m exhausted of putting everything and everyone before me – as I know you are too – today I am proud to celebrate Women’s Day alongside you.

And to that young teenage girl in the waiting room – waiting to make yourself pretty, waiting for your turn – I guarantee you that you’ll find your place.  

#MeToo

Sultana Patail

As much as I support the cause, I didn't change my status right away. I had to take a step back and ask myself why. The reason saddened me.

A number of years ago, when I was in my 20's, I was riding the subway with a friend, when she motioned suddenly toward the man next to us. He looked straight forward, an unblinking soulless stare. I didn't understand at first. But then I looked down and realized he was lightly rubbing his hand up my leg without me noticing. I sat there in shock for a moment, unsure of what to do. I sat there frozen until she pulled me out of it and urged us to get off at the next stop.

I didn't change my status, sadly enough, because I didn't think I qualified for "sexual harassment". The issue is so commonly widespread, and affects so many of us, that there is a spectrum ranging from inappropriate comments to bodily harm. Somewhere in my sub-conscience I thought: "This happens to so many women, what happened to me doesn't even count."

...this happens to so many women....

I realized that, that thought in itself, is part of the problem. We dismiss and we ignore because it has become a part of our daily lives as women. Whether it's catcalling, crude jokes, or worse, we put up with it because we honestly believe it's part of our gender identity.

At the time I brushed it off, chalking it up to another ridiculous TTC story. But for years it ate away at me. I felt violated. I felt like an idiot. The questions started seeping in: "Why didn't I defend myself?" "Why did I silence myself?" "Why didn't I take a picture of this creep and report it?" Was it enough to warrant reporting?" "Was my outfit too provocative?" "Was I asking for it?" These are the questions I faced in my head. These and worse are the questions that women face when they report. We are taught not to demand societal respect of our bodies regardless of the circumstances, but rather to judge ourselves, feel guilty and ashamed.

Stepping forward, speaking up, speaking out, takes great courage and bravery. Whether it's a day after it happens, or years, it matters. It makes a difference. So thank you to all of you who support the cause and have shared your story, because, well ... #MeToo

Food for Thought

Sultana Patail

Working in customer service, you come across all walks of life. The friendly, the not so friendly, the disgruntled, the entitled, the one who makes your day. And we've all been there at some point or another. Whether it's pouring drinks, standing behind a register, or on the phones, we've been there. Spend a bit of time in the role and you'll do anything to get out. Spend a longer period of time, and you'll start to wonder what factors make people tick.

I personally have been in this role long enough to fall into the latter category. I watch, and I wonder. 

I watch people day in and day out. Some are overtly cheerful; some are argumentative; some are bitter; some are abusively aggressive with their loved ones, while others are patient and kind.

I wonder why they are the way they are. Are they bitter because somebody hurt them? Are they kind because so many people hurt them and they've become softly strong? Do they argue tooth and nail for what they want because that's how they were taught to survive? Are they impatient with their loved ones because the world has been impatient with them? Are they soft spoken and kind because that's what their parents showed them? Are they open minded because they're well traveled or well read? Do any of these behaviours represent a simple cause and effect correlation? 

It may sound negligible, but on a larger scale it's importance is palpable. These factors that make people tick, contribute to the hurt we feel around the world. It's the reason we protest for #blacklivesmatter; it's the reason I type in i-s-l-a-m and the fourth search down is "islamophobia"; it's the reason we shed tears in unison at terrorist attacks yet build walls of suspicion; it's the reason America is currently in such upheaval. 

We are no more or no less than the sum of our experiences, teachings, and environment. It's difficult to understand let alone output anything more than we've been exposed to. And when we come together, we are a melting pot of opposing opinions. The outcome can often be beyond words.

But wouldn't it be ideal, if we used those opposing perspectives to our advantage.  

If we were perhaps, a little bit more kind to one and other. 

"Some Pulp" and Other Marriage Goals

Sultana Patail

Some time ago, my husband and I were grocery shopping, when we noticed an elderly couple in front of us. They were bantering the way only a couple of 40ish years of marriage could - she talked a lot, and he quietly trailed behind her, pushing their cart. As we got to the checkout, we watched them unload their items. He dropped a can, but instead of picking it up, he cleverly - as my husband called it - kicked it under the cart so it would roll to her and she would have to pick it up. Head down, a mischievous smile spread across his lips as she scolded him, naturally. We died in a muffled fit of laughter behind them. 

"Is that marriage? Is that our end goal? Will that be us in 30 years? Are we even gonna last that long?" Our exchanged glances silently asked each other. We looked into our own cart to find our "some pulp" orange juice. I hate pulp, he loves it, so every week we get the "some pulp" carton. He asked once when we'd ever get the "lots of pulp" OJ - I passive aggressively said, 'When we get divorced. So it's a catch 22.' 

Speaking from my all of two years of experience, I can already see what seasoned married couples warned us of. Marriage is one of the most difficult yet rewarding things any two people can undertake. It is a true labour of love. 

When you're dating, you're head over heels infatuated and on a high akin to being on drugs. You don't know any better, and maybe you need that buffer to make the leap into the unknown. But once you're in the thick of it, things change. And not necessarily for the worse, but undoubtedly, the dynamic of the relationship changes. 

The love transforms from the honeymoon phase into something else - let's call it mutual respect. You learn to compromise, to change your expectations, to accept your partner for who they are. You learn the value of differing perspectives, you learn to complement each others' energy, to be strong when the other needs to be weak. 

Just for fun, hurdles will be placed in your way like a Mario Kart banana peel - kids, debt, parents, sickness, job loss, mid-life crises. You'll discuss boring, sometimes uncomfortable topics like household chores, schedules, and finances. You'll face the unromantic parts of life together, and you may fight, but eventually come together like a transformer to get through whatever obstacles stand in your way.

Marriage is possibly the hardest thing I've ever done. The biggest misconception is that it comes naturally - it doesn't. It takes work. It takes re-setting on almost a daily basis. It takes deep breaths, patience, and communication. It takes laughter and letting go. When you think about it, over time marriage has transformed from a business proposition to a societal expectation. It's a paradox really: 'tie yourself to me forever, and let's grow together.' Well, it's difficult enough to grow alone, as we need space to achieve that. So, if you can intertwine yourself with someone you love, function in rhythmic sync with, take on life with, and indeed happily grow together as partners as well as individuals, you're one of the lucky ones.           

The Art of Being Selfish

Sultana Patail

Taking some me time on my wedding day.

Taking some me time on my wedding day.

Have we all seen the Jada Pinkett Smith video that was floating around last week? If you haven't, watch it - it'll take 5 minutes of your time.

In it, she speaks about the role of a wife and mother, and the importance of taking care of yourself. I couldn't agree more, and here's why.

If you don't take care of yourself, you will deteriorate. If you don't take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. And often as wives, mothers, girlfriends, daughters, and friends in general, we tend to take care of others before ourselves. We are nurturers by nature, and that can be a draining role. 

I think this is the best advice I've ever learned - yes learned - because it's one of those lessons that takes practice before you fully understand. It wasn't until I became a mother myself, that I really started to take notice. Friends, family, and even doctors were all of a sudden concerned with whether or not I was "getting out" enough. Although I knew they were alluding to notions of baby blues and postpartum depression, there was importance behind it. You need to take some time for yourself. You may not realize it because in the new role of a mother, you get so caught up in feedings, and sleep routine, and your own sleep - you're lucky if you get 5 minutes for a shower. But you can't keep going like that, without burnout. And furthermore, there's no reward for doing it. Nowhere does it say that "you shall devote your whole life to your family, and take no time for yourself, otherwise you're a bad wife/mother/woman" 

When I was in my 20's, I devoted a lot of my time to my relationships, except at the time it didn't feel like work [(because of the endorphins of love and all that crap) P.S - if you're reading this and you're hovering around your 20's, do yourself a favour and be selfish with your time. Prince Charming there may not be the one you end up with. So go do something for yourself. Take a trip alone. Take a trip with a friend. Pursue your passions. Treat yourself to a movie. Get your nails did. - get comfy with yourself, alone.] When I got married, it began to take more of a concentrated effort - because that's just how marriage is - but it was still good because we had "us", and then we had our individual interests, goals, friends, and lives really. But then I became a mother, it was 2:36AM, and I had a little human attached to me, and nobody else but myself. At first it felt just evil, but I quickly came to love this lonely hour. It became a peaceful, surreal time of day just for me.

Once I embraced it, I started to get hooked on 'me time'. (It's funny how tightly we'll hold onto something [time] once it's rapidly taken away from us.) I'd try to leave home 1-2 times a week, whether it be to write, or get lost in a book at Starbucks, or go for a Pilates class - anything to indulge in myself. And I'd come back feeling rejuvenated. I liked myself more, had better conversations with my husband, didn't care if our place was messy - I was me again.  

"So if I don't have a kid, but a bottle of wine instead... am I not entitled to some me time?" NO! This advice doesn't go for just mothers, but all women. (Sorry fellas, it goes for you as well, but most of you seem to be well verse in being selfish with your personal time) We value and nurture our relationships, but the most important relationship we should be nurturing is the one we have with ourselves. For our mental health, our emotional state, and our growth, it's essential.

So - what have you done for yourself today? 

 

New Years Resolutions

Sultana Patail

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It's that time of year again. Time to get that gym membership, quit smoking, and get out of debt. Better get cracking! 

I've never been one to set resolutions, mainly because I break them before my Christmas tree is down. (In my defense, my Christmas tree is up for an unusually long time) However, the older I get, the more I let go of those notions of failure and broken promises, and set some goals that will help me go in the direction I'd like to take my life.  Because that's what it's really about, laying the foundation for your path. The problem is, sometimes we don't know what our path is, because we're constantly in flux.

It's taken me 30 years to really figure out what's important to me. Once I blocked out the other voices and distractions, telling me what I should want, how I should be, and what I should aspire to - once I quieted those voices - I could hear my own. And this is what it boils down to:

1. Water my own grass, so that mine is always greener: I hate comparing my 'behind the scenes to someone else's highlight reel', yet I find myself doing it once in a while. I know social media is fertilized with bullshit, yet in my weakest moments, I fall for it. I vow to focus on my own accomplishments. Set the bar for my personal growth. And value the framed pictures in my home, rather than the ones 'liked' online.

2. Family first: This year took me by storm as I stepped into motherhood with more strength and grace than I ever gave myself credit for. It wasn't until we took a family selfie one day, that I realized myself, my husband, and my son are our own little family. We are my most prized possession, and I aim to make us the beginnings of our legacy. That goes not only for motherhood, but also for marriage - because anyone out there who is married, knows it's one of the most difficult and ongoing things two individuals can attempt to do well together. But I plan to strive. #3Muskateers

3. Foodie Diet: Not to count my calories or weigh myself every day. But to stop denying myself one of the greatest pleasures in life. Instead to embrace meals, cook with loved ones, indulge in new healthy foods, and break bread with friends and family more often.

4. #Fitspiration: The postpartum body can be hell on your psyche, especially if you were a string bean before. But rather than focus on losing 10lbs and getting a 6-pack, how about this - Get up everyday. Start with some physical fitness. Get strong inside out. Challenge myself. Spike my endorphins. Work out with my kid so he forms the same healthy habits. 

5. Passion Project: I will dedicate more days to doing what I love. Spend more hours on what matters rather than the mundane. I will throw myself into my work, and fake it when it's not a roaring fire - because passion can sometimes turn lukewarm. 

6. Be Selfish: This one is tough. As a mother, we tend to put ourselves last, but there's no reward for that. If you don't take care of yourself, you can't take care of your family. There should be no shame in taking some time out for yourself, continuing to chase your dreams, viewing yourself as an individual, and just loving yourself - so I think I will!

 

Happy New Year to you and yours, and all the best in 2016. We are a constant work in progress - so don't quit.