We’ve all done it.  Wondered why someone seemed to have it all while we struggled.  Questioned why jerks seem to be rewarded while good God-conscious people bear inequitable burdens.  We’ve been envious, jealous, and downright ornery about the good fortunes of people we deem to be less deserving than ourselves.  In short, we have engaged in the comparison game.  We have forgotten that, with life, there is no comparison.

There is no comparison because life isn’t about what we perceive someone  else has that is lacking in our life.  Life isn’t about accumulation of wealth or material goods.  Our perceptions of  the “good fortunes” of others are really only that – perceptions.  Perceptions that are based merely on outward appearances of accumulation of wealth and material goods .  Perceptions that are based on what others want us to see but mask the inner turmoils that we all carry.

There is no comparison because it is destructive.  Either we become angry or envious because of a perceived inequity or, conversely, compare ourselves to others as a way to prop ourselves up to look down at others.  In the process, we have forgotten that our worth is not to be determined by someone else’s yardstick. We determine our worth.

There is no comparison because this is your journey.  It is your life.  You choose the roads, the means of transportation, and the destination. Let go of the negative emotions which keep you from fully experiencing the wonder that is life. Stop comparing and start living.

Lately, I have been contemplating how God manifests Himself in our lives.  For me, it is an incredibly personal relationship which provides me solace.  I sense His answers to my prayers in the quiet moments.  I feel His love during prayers, in the changing colors of the season, and in the awakening of the sun.

However, for others, God does not present in the same way.  Prayers are perceived to be unheard.  Questions as to the meaning of existence seem to be unanswered.  To some, God is perceived to be distant and unapproachable – someone who does not involve Himself in day to day trivial matters important to the believer.

Why is this so?  Why does God seem as close to some as the jugular vein and distant and unconcerned for others?  Is God neither or both?

For me, the answer seemed to be in one verse.  God tells us that He ” will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.”  Is then the answer in ourselves?  Does God then manifest Himself in our lives in the manner we see him?  For me, God is most merciful, generous, and loving.  God, in turn, has blessed me with answers to prayers, said and unsaid.  I feel His love everywhere – in the wondrous beauty of nature, in the smiles of children, and in the laughter of others.  God manifests Himself in my life in the way that I perceive him.

However, to those that find God distant, unapproachable and seemingly unconcerned with day to day matters, maybe the answer to a better relationship with God lies in changing our condition.  If we hold anger with God because of perceived slights or omissions, it is hard for us to, in the same space,  recognize the blessings God placed  in our lives let alone to express gratitude.  However, if we come to God believing in and thanking him for his mercy and generosity, maybe – just maybe God will manifest himself in our lives as kind, generous, responsive, and merciful .  When we do so, when we change our condition and operate from a  default position of gratitude, we allow God’s blessings to reach us.

Being grateful isn’t easy.  It takes conscious reflection of the every day ordinary blessings we so often take for granted. It requires a retraining of how we look at God, the world, and ourselves.  It calls for us to focus on solutions instead of being mired in the muck of our problems and negativity.  It demands a change in our mindset.  However, when we consciously look for those ordinary blessings, a magical thing happens.  The blinders come of, our vision is high definition, and we see other ways in which God’s blessings are manifested in our lives.  The blessings of gratitude then perpetuate itself in our lives in unimaginable ways.

But how do we do this? For me, I know I need to be better at expressing my sincere thanks in a meaningful way to people in my life who have been there for me.  While I am pretty good at expressing thanks for little things, I have never been good at thank you notes let alone remembering important dates.    I know I need to be better. We all can be better.  We all have people in our lives who we need to recognize and thank.  We all have taken our friends’ support for granted from time to time. How we do this is as individual as we are.  However, when we do, we open ourselves up to God’s grace, love, and mercy.  Isn’t that what we all want?



I have been thinking a lot lately about the things we voluntarily carry – anger in particular.  It’s not that I’m carrying it.  In fact, I am in a particularly peaceful place.  It wasn’t always this way though.  After my marriage,  I had a lot of anger toward my ex.  Anger that he couldn’t be straight with me.  Anger that I was deceived.  Anger that he had moved on with a new wife and baby in tow.   However, while I may have outwardly expressed this anger towards him, deep down, I was really angry with myself and the choices I made which included marrying a  man when my gut told me not to.

This led to one inevitable conclusion.  I needed to forgive.  I could no longer hold onto my anger like a warm blanket when all it did was leave my cold. I needed to forgive my ex but, most importantly, myself.  You see, my divorce left me feeling like I was never enough.  I blamed myself for the relationship’s inevitable demise and wrongly attributed it to some fatal flaw in my psyche which would prevent me from ever finding true love.  However, the truth is that I always was enough.  We just were never meant to be together.  Accepting that brought forgiveness and peace.

However, I haven’t forgotten.  It isn’t that I am holding things against myself or others.  Rather, I need to remember the valuable lessons I learned about myself, trusting my intuition, and knowing my self worth.  Lessons that I find useful in helping someone I love who still voluntarily carries the unnecessary burden of anger.

Sadly, he is not the only one.  I think everyone at some point in their lives do.  I did.   However, holding onto that anger is destructive.  Anger keeps people away.  It prevents you from experiencing true joy in your life.  It hardens the soul and sacrifices empathy. Most importantly, it keeps you from moving on.

I know it isn’t easy to let it go.  Forgiveness is hard.  It requires us to let go of all the hurt and pain someone caused.  Maybe that person doesn’t deserve forgiveness.  But this isn’t about him or even for him. The other person long ago moved on while you carry the heavy baggage of anger.  Forgiveness is for you.  It is an entirely selfish act. It allows you to accept your human frailties, acknowledge your wonderful strengths, and move on.  Put down the baggage.  Forgive.  Love yourself and let it go.  You were always enough.

Today, I was on my way to my last appointment of the day and got struck behind a number of school buses dropping off children in the South End.  Instead of cursing my bad luck, I decided to enjoy the scene of exuberant young children happy to be home.  I watched these inner city children, many who live in abject poverty,  and couldn’t help but smile at their laughter, playfulness, and exuberance.   I wondered where did that all go?   The childlike innocence, the zest for life despite less than optimum living conditions, the hope in their eyes.

At what point did our life experiences create the tapes in our head which prevent us from enjoying life?  Somewhere along the way, we forgot to have fun.  We talked ourselves out of enjoying the simple moments and listened to the crazy voices in our head instead of doing what makes our soul happy.  We forgot that life isn’t something to “get through” but something to be savored.

We need to stop… stop listening to the negativity that plays nonstop daily in our head.  We have to ask ourselves a simple question – what makes our soul happy.  We need to listen for answers in the silence when those voices are muted.   It is only in that silence that our soul speaks.

“Return to the origin of your origin.”  These profound words by Rumi have been occupying my thoughts all week.  For me, this means returning to God.  But how do we do this?  Is it more than just prayer and remembrance?

When I hear this, I can’t help but correlate these words to the attributes of God.  Return to mercy, for God is the most merciful (Ar-Rahman).  Return to forgiveness, for God is the Forgiving (Al-Ghaffar) and the Forgiver (Al-‘Afu).  Return to nourishing, for God is the Nourisher (Al Muqit).   Return to generosity, for God is the Generous (Al-Karim).

However, at the center of all of this is love.  Love brings us closer to our origin. Closer to God.  It opens our hearts to being merciful, generous, nurturing, and forgiving.  It does not tolerate hatred, stinginess, or harshness.  It is not a limited commodity but a naturally renewing energy which sustains us and nourishes our soul .  It is the natural state of our soul and, when we return to it, we return to God, the Loving One (Al-Wadud).

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about why being grateful seems so hard.  It may be because we allow negative emotions like jealousy or envy to pervade our thoughts when we see others have things that we secretly wish for ourselves.  Or it simply may be that we think we are unworthy to receive wonderful things in our lives.  It may be as simple as we do not look for them.  But we need to.  Otherwise, we surrender ourselves and our happiness  to the negative voices in our head which crowd out any expressions of gratitude.

That’s why I think we need to practice simple gratitude  every day by expressing, loudly if need be, what we are thankful for.  In our prayers, we need to take time to thank God for what we do have instead of detailing the endless lists of things we need fixed.  We need to sincerely look for the positive in every situation.  When we see others receiving things in their lives which we sincerely want for ourselves, we need to let go of the envy, jealousy and unworthiness we feel and be happy for them.  When we find ourselves drifting into negative thoughts, we have to affirmatively draw on those things we are grateful for.  We need to retrain ourselves to operate from a default position of gratitude.

By no means is this easy.  Over the years, we have allowed ourselves to engage in destructive self talk.  We have found it easier to spot the negative things in our life instead of acknowledging the gifts God’s wondrous generosity has provided. We have wallowed in self doubt and destructive emotions for far too long.  But, when we do actively practice simple gratitude, amazing things happen.  Gratitude chases away unhappiness. It opens ourselves up to better relationships, love, and God’s abundance.    It frees us from the prison of our thoughts and allows us to see the possibilities God places before us.  It allows us to become closer to the Divine.  All this because we practice simple gratitude.

For almost fifteen years, I wore a scarf to signify my Muslim faith.  But, truth be told, I never found God wearing a scarf.  I never felt closer to God because I wore it.  Nor was I ever convinced that it was required.  I think I did it because, as a blonde-haired blue eyed American, I wanted to be “identified” as a Muslim.  I wanted to be a part of a wider community.

However, over the years this “identification” has lost its appeal.  I became increasingly disillusioned over those in my faith who judged a person’s relationship with God based on outward appearance instead of what was in the heart.   I didn’t feel I should be responsible for men’s inability to keep their own urges under control.  I questioned those who judged others based on outward reflections of religiousity and rigid conformity to rules devoid of compassion. This religion was more than just a piece of cloth.  To me, it was about compassion and kindness to all members of humanity.  It was about humility and gratitude – not just conformity to rules without any real connection to the divine.

This past year especially was a year of reflection to me.  Turning fifty does that to you.  I became more concerned with my personal relationship to God than mere conformity.  This is the relationship I needed to develop.    I knew in doing so that I needed to be authentically me – and so I removed the scarf.  I took it off it because it wasn’t authentic.  I took it off because I felt stifled by it and didn’t want any resentment from it to keep me from God.  I took it because I refused to let myself or others be judged on an insignificant matter such as outward appearance.  I took it off because I knew that anyone who judged me by its removal was far from God.

An amazing thing happened.  I feel closer to God now than any other time in my life.  God let me back to consistent and regular prayer through a kind kindred soul who needed my prayers.  Now, I feel His presence everywhere.  I feel His presence in those quiet moments after prayer when the voices in my head have been silenced.  I feel His presence when answers to my prayers seem to come from thin air.   I am reminded of Him when I recognize signs in my life of his wondrous grace and generosity.  Most importantly, in the love I have for others, I am continually reminded of His love for me.


I still remember the conversation like it was yesterday…. my ex husband told me that he couldn’t be the man I wanted him to be.  I  remember telling him that all I ever wanted was for him to reveal himself to me.. for me to KNOW him. . . something he could not and would not do.

You see, for me, when I care for someone, knowing them is enough.  I’ve never been one to want to know someone to determine what they could do for me , provide for me, or because I wanted to change them.  For me, the gift is when that person allows me to know him… allows me into the hidden world of hopes and fears… a world of dreams yet unrealized.  A world of thoughts yet to be expressed and emotions hidden.  A place of hidden idiosyncrasies.

This journey is one best taken together by two like minded souls seeking only to know the other . The trip may be difficult and the road may be rocky.  It will demand  an openness with ourselves and each other that takes us out of our comfort zone.  It requires a deep trust that neither will exploit each other’s vulnerabilities.    But, in the end, this is a journey worth taking.  A journey of revelation, love, and acceptance.

Today, I found myself thinking of advice I give to new attorneys I mentor and realized its practicability in my own life.  By day,  I represent parents and children when the state removes kids from parents because of abuse or neglect.  These types of cases rarely turn on legal technicalities.  Rather, the ability of parents to regain custody of their children really turns on what they do to eliminate the conditions which led to losing their children.  Thus, the advice I give to new attorneys is simple – you should not be working harder than your client.

I thought about this today and realized its meaning in my own life.  No matter how much I want something for someone I love, I can’t make it happen by myself. We each have to decide.   We have to decide to let go of the excuses which keep us from our own potential. We have to decide to tear down the walls which keep us from enjoying life.  We have to imagine a different life and take any step, no matter how small, towards making it happen.  We have to decide we are worth it.

If we don’t, it isn’t our circumstances which are keeping us from happiness. We are.

Two years before my mom died, I bought my mother a beautiful pair of opal earrings.  I wanted to get her something she would treasure.. something she would never buy for herself.  I wanted to do something for her because of all the quiet things she did for me.  For me, it was no small purchase.. but for her, it meant the world.

I remember joking with her at the time that, being her only daughter, it would eventually come back to me.  I never realized that my time with her would be short.  At the time, my mother was healthy and active.  Pancreatic cancer changed all that.  Two short years later,  I watched her become a shadow of her self and felt utterly powerless to help.  I remember thinking at the time that she was truly the love of my life.   I wished I could take her place but I knew in my heart she would never allow it.  And so, two short months after diagnosis, I held her hand, gave her permission to leave, and watched tearfully as she took her last breath.  The earrings which were meant for her now became mine.  A constant reminder of the love we shared with each other… mother and daughter.

I have been wearing those earrings a lot lately.  Maybe it is because they give me comfort.  Maybe it is my way of being close to her when I need support.  But today, a friend noticed that one earring had fell out somewhere along the way.  In that moment, I lost hope of ever finding it and knew it could never be replaced.  I was saddened and disheartened but I accepted it.  I tried to tell myself it was only a material item but knew in my heart it meant more.

But then, just as I had let it go…. it came  back.  It was found in the elevator of my office building by the same friend who noticed its loss. I immediately saw this as a sign.  A heartwarming reminder  that all that is lost is not gone forever.