Reality is not what you see, but how you see it.

By Naazish YarKhan

One sure fire way to stay in vacation mode – or at least enjoy its last remnants, is to be afflicted with jet lag. The first two days or three days it was great. Here was our whole family waking up when it was still dark outside and getting a move on the day. It felt like being kids and reading under the covers past bed time. My children had never been so dressed and ready to go to school, so not ‘You’re getting late!! Go! Rush or the bus will leave’. By evening, we hit the covers by 7:00 p.m. because we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. So it was fun, as I said,… initially. But today, the fifth day I’ve awoken in my own bed, but at the holy hour of 4:30 a.m. I tell you, I did try willing my body and mind to stay asleep. No such luck. My mind filled with thoughts re: the day’s doings and I just had to get cracking. I had a deadline for Oman Observer to meet so here I am.

I like to hit the road running so I sent the kids off to school the very next day after our return. They were up at 4:00 a.m. anyway so why not? Yousuf, my son, complains how everyone has some work to do ( his being school) and how mama does nothing. I am, of course, offended by this observation and ask who does the laundry and the cooking. “Baba and I do the laundry,” he shoots back, not batting an eye-lid. Jeezzzz!

Anyway, because I was feeling badly that I am not the best of house-keepers, nor best of cooks, I actually pulled out a Khana Khazana cook book and went and purchased all the ingredients to make some delicious food. I am not the best of cooks, but seeing my kids eat so well at my mother’s has given me food for thought. If I am a stay home mom, I better have something to show for it. Funny, though, how email creeps up and mislays your best plans. I have spent more time fiddling with email than cooking. But I have faith. I will make a better cook of myself. And if I fail, that is the only way one learns. Like biking or swimming, you know. So in the end, to all the hats I wear, I can don a Chef’s hat as well. Ha haa. Taskeen, especially, misses breakfast being ready on the table, which was how it was at my mother’s house. It made me sad to think that I don’t even have breakfast ready for the kids before hand and have them drink a meal replacement drink on many mornings. What kind of mom am I ??? But I’m glad she brought it up. It is a simple request and one, I hope, I can fulfill regularly ( and not just when I’m jet lagged).

Speaking of Muscat, it was heart-wrenching leaving my folks and siblings behind last week. And it isn’t like family is sugary-sweet all the time and yet I miss being surrounded by people who undoubtedly love me and care for my well being, and who want to help me out when they see I need it. Plus, I’m plagued by ‘Who knows how long we’re going to be on this planet’, and that kind of thinking. A Nigerian neighbor of mine read my mind apparently and said he’d pack his bags and move back, if it hadn’t been for his American wife, and now American kids. This realization struck him last year after he’d been to visit family in Nigeria after a 12 year gap. His mother, in fact, didn’t recognize him!

This trade-off, we immigrants make emotionally, has really been playing on my mind. And then to affirm my thoughts that here in the U.S, we have thin relationships as opposed to thick ones, one of my students mother, a German woman, commented on how, in America, we have oodles of acquaintances but few people we know really, really well. Americans are friendly and because of that, they end up sending the wrong signals that they want to be your friends, but they really just want to be friendly acquaintances, she was saying. So I was right. Here, rare are the people who have the time or want to make the effort to have a thick relationship...and having lived here 13 years, I can be that person, very often, too. What’s odder is that many Americans do think acquaintance = friends.

I asked my husband, who is born and raised here, if the paucity of inter-dependent relationships, where friends need to bond regularly, where they feel revived and reenergized in each others company, whether the paucity of that was something that bothered him. His answer was a no-brainer, simple sentence. ‘This is all I’ve ever known.” So he doesn’t know if there’s something he’s missing because he’s never had an alternative. I, on the other hand, have lived elsewhere and have a frame of reference where I can make comparisons and yes, the relationships we have here, don’t hold a flame to those that people have in India or elsewhere in the East.

Not only that, it’s not going to happen in the US, because individuals are raised to be independent and not inter-dependent. And if you don’t feel the need to have another person and can do it all by yourself, then having another person in the picture isn’t productive – it only slows things down. But how precious is a support system. A real support system which can be the wind beneath your wings, the oil that keeps your machine going.

They call FaceBook this great way to keep in touch. To me it’s just another way to fool yourself that you’re in touch, and have a relationship. Sending a nudge or a poke, as FaceBook allows you to do, replaces having to make that phone call or download your thoughts in an email. Sending a mass note instead of a personalized one which reveals who you are on the inside, creates emotional ties only to the extent that reading a columnist regularly gives you the feeling that you are friends with the writer.. when, in fact, that really isn’t the case.

I end with a quote from an editor of the New York Times who’s in charge of a section called Modern Love, where readers send in essays about love and not just romantic love. According to him, “in pursuing love, electronic communication allows us to be more reckless, fake, distracted and isolated than ever before. According to the personal accounts I've read, men and women today are apt to plunge into love affairs via text message, cut them off by PowerPoint, lie about who they are and what they want in forums and blogs and online dating sites, …ignore the people they're physically with for those who are a keystroke away, shoo their children off their laps to caress their BlackBerrys, and spend untold hours staring at pixilated … stars when they should be working, socializing, taking care of their children or sleeping.”

On that note, give your kids an extra hug, tell your spouse you love them and can’t imagine a world without them and call your parents and tell them how much you miss them. Take care. Au Revior. Adios.