Are We Out of the World Cup, yet?

Yes, if you are looking for a short answer to the question posed above. A few hundred million hopes and dreams have been dashed. Careers have ended. No fairy tales, no messiahs and certainly no heroes. Sarfaraz and his men have been runners-up in a race against themselves.

Now to the longer answer. No, we are not really out of the World Cup yet. See, our team is a patch-work at best. We did not even know our best combination until half-way through the campaign. You can attribute this lack of clarity to the think tank but only partly. It is a system-wide failure. For far too long, the cracks in the system have gotten papered over by a chance victory or three at the world stage. When that happens, we all buy into the narrative of the ‘unpredictable Pakistan’. This allows the entrenched mindset in the system to hold its sway thus never allowing in the vim of the youth and the unconventional. Think of World Cup 1992 or Champions Trophy 2017 and you will understand what I mean. It’s the performances after a victory which bring to sharp focus the inadequacy of the system.

In so many ways, our cricket team perfectly sums us up as a nation. We are mercurial: “One minute down the next minute up” to borrow from Nasser Hussain. Our approach to life is that if we win the toss and bat first, we will win the match. The problem is the coin also throws up a tail when opting for a head. If we are asked to chase a target that demands of us to show grit and determination, we tend to creak under pressure and resort to idiocy and self-destructive behavior to get ourselves out of trouble. With shaky foundations, our structures crumble and we end up making wrong decisions. Hello, IMF.

Our collective is such that we do come across world-class talent that somehow doesn’t let us fade away into oblivion. Think Dr. Mahboob Ul Haq, Abdul Sattar Edhi, Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis among others. God only knows how many Wasim Akrams have slipped under the radar because the system failed them. Any talk of reforms and your uncle will stop seeing you.

Back to cricket. It is time for us to overhaul the system. It has been crying for it. It is only after a defeat do we start seeing paunchy players and an under-performing support staff. If we do not heed this call we will be out of the World Cup forever.

Just Keep Swimming

Just keep swimming, go with the flow, accept the way things are; these are just a few of the things that we hear around us almost every day. They all point on to the one fact and that is, once a thing is done, there in nothing you can do about it, so let go and let god! However, as easy as it is to say these things, I’m afraid I see very few people who actually practice it too. As a result, people take more tension, become more anxious and irritable, and in the end put their mental health at stake, all because they think they are in control of their future, but are not ok with the fact that they cannot undo their past.

Let’s break this situation a little using a tree diagram to understand how things works:

flowchart one

Here’s the thing, you have a task/situation/chore/mission in front of you and you need to fulfill it. You have two ways to go about it; complete the task in a timely manner with all your heart poured into it, or complete the task half heartedly and get done with it just for the sake of it. Each case will have two scenarios; you will either get to the desired outcome, or the undesired outcome. The feeling of what comes from these outcomes is what will all be different. But what stands still is that you have next to zero control over any of them. Frustrating as it might be, it is the truth of life and you can not do anything about it.

Some of you might believe in destiny and some of you would not. I myself, being the tiny opinionated person that I am, strongly believe that whatever happens has been already written down. The path to choose to reach that outcome is chosen by you, but other than that, everything is already planned for you. So why worry, my friend? Why the despair?

The term “Just Keep Swimming” is my moto to life. It comes from one of my very favorite movies, Finding Nemo. Finding Nemo is an animated movie about a father fish who loses his son fish in the ocean. The father fish, on his quest to ‘finding nemo’ befriends a fish called Dory who has a short-term memory loss, and is usually good for nothing. Throughout the movie, she chants her favorite words of ‘just keep swimming’ which clearly imply that just keep going with the flow and you will end up where you need to be, and in the end helps the father fish find his son. The perfect example of letting go.

Now letting go here does not mean to fold your arms and sit in front of your television watching your favorite show all day because, hey God has everything planned for you right? No. Rather, it means to work hard and pour your heart into whatever you do, and then let go, because at the end of the day, whatever happens, happens for YOUR good.

My father often says that he wants to have my attitude towards life. In any critical situation, I am usually the one who says “chill kerein, relax kerein” and my father is usually the one who cannot sit still and has his forehead all frowned and his heart beat racing 150 km/h. I often tell him to relax because there is nothing he can do about the situation except pray.

I am no expert in maintaining my calm in tough situations. But I do know my power of belief, and I wish that everyone did too. It is pointless to put your beautiful heart through so much, so why not practice the habit of letting go once your job is done, and staying happy for the life that is planned for you. Just keep swimming and you will be where you are meant to be.

flowchart two

Surviving Adulthood

My 30’s are already turning out to be weird. I’m a mom, a daughter-in-law, a wife, a mentor (yeah i know, weird), an ever-so-still-rebellious daughter, a friend, an ex-friend, a sister…the list just doesn’t end. That’s how many roles I, like many other fellow adults, have to juggle. See, the thing about life is the one million curve balls it throws at you. One moment you’re on top of your game and the next moment you’re falling apart, because, well, life happens. This may seem like your average day-to-day story, but the fact that you have all these insane roles to play, doesn’t make anything easier. You stop finding the time to heal, the time to process, and the time to move on — not move forward but move on.

Adulthood isn’t easy; it’s about containing yourself when you feel you’ve hit the end of the road. It’s about initiating a brand new start when you physically feel that you won’t be able to live through the day. It’s about making choices that may (did i say may…I meant most definitely WILL) be really difficult but are probably for the best (but you don’t know that yet…which makes it even more frustrating!!). 

Adulthood is an overwhelming process. It frightens you because you are constantly struggling to do the right thing and you keep brushing away the things that give you joy and happiness because it seems like the “right” thing to do (Terrible isn’t it? And you thought your 20’s were bad). 

For the benefit of you 30 somethings, (20 somethings, read and learn) I’ve put together a small list which may help you get through the day, especially when you feel like s*** has hit the fan and there’s no way you will be able to bounce back. I like to refer to this list as the ADULTTS (yes that’s adults with two T’s…): 

1. Always hug your mom – I like to start the list with this because it always makes things a tiny bit better than they were before. 

2. Distract yourself – Sometimes getting away from a situation, or the person causing the situation, or the negativity of your surroundings may just help you think a lot more clearly and objectively. 

3. Understand what is important – Prioritize and tackle each step as it comes. Once you understand what is important you will eventually make sure things fall into place.

4. Let it go! – This is the tough one. The really tough one. Especially for impulsive humans such as myself. It takes a great amount of self-control before you realize there’s nothing you can do to help salvage a certain situation. Once you do let go however, you will be in a more positive head space and will eventually realize that perhaps letting go of a certain situation was necessary for you to grow.   

5. Trivialize it – How difficult and unsolvable a problem is depends primarily on your own thought process. You might need to take a step back and really analyze the root cause of the problem and look into that as opposed to blowing the issue out of proportion. 

6. Talk about it! Cry about it! Laugh about it! Write about it! – Basically get it out of your system. Don’t let it linger on. The more you internalize your feelings the worse the pain will become.

7. Structure a game plan – Once you’re done analyzing the problems and the symptoms, exercise a bit of self-restraint and get into solution mode. A good idea is to structure your thoughts and decide how you will tackle each step. We all manage emotions in different ways and this may be a more practical take on the matter; however, once you get down to it you’ll realize that perhaps there was a pretty simple solution all along.

This list of course is fluid and may take a couple of iterations before you get it right but you get my drift. Lastly, always remember: Nothing and by that i mean NOTHING lasts forever. And if we’ll survive one day, we’ll survive the next one too.

A Tribute to Ours and Theirs

You were born into a family like any other. A family that saw dreams for you, pushed you to grow, and stood by you no matter what. A family that prayed for you, cried for you, and fulfilled all your wishes. You had friends that thought you were crazy, friends that made fun of you, and also those who inspired you to be the better version of yourself that you dream of. You were afraid, wavering, and anxious, but also eager, energetic, and certain. You knew what you wanted from life, and you went for it despite all the struggles you knew you had to face. Your mother’s tears and your father’s silent expressions, your sister’s hugs and your brother’s convincing, there was nothing that was going to stop you. There came the day when you went from being just your mother’s, to being your motherland’s. And you would not have had it any other way!

Life was tough and it was crazy. Everyday was like a roller coaster ride that would not end. From waking up at five on cold winter mornings with your seniors throwing buckets of ice cold water on you, to running unending laps on the football even though your legs gave up 20 minutes ago; from drinking your food out of your glass because you only had 2 minutes to finish it, to rolling in mud because your shirt was not properly tucked in; from having emotional breakdowns in front of your fellow batch mates, to being the support system to all, you woke up everyday with a smile on your face and hope in your eyes because you were brave and courageous, and you knew you had a whole nation that was counting on you. You never gave up.

You and many other ‘jawans’ had a sole purpose to life, to protect your country and the many strangers that became your family. You had people rooting for you and praying for you from the comforts of their homes. Did anyone really know what you really went through? The constant fear of attack from the enemy and the distress of losing the life of a fellow or even yourself. Did you really love your land so much to go through that? For you, every bruise was an award, every scar a story to tell. For your family, every breath of yours was another blessing to be thankful for, every doorbell a skipped heartbeat.

And you? You entered the ‘enemy’s’ land being the tiger that you are. You were doing only that what you were told was good for your land. You were considered a terrorist, a spy, an intruder. But you did it still, because you knew that every drop of blood of yours would make you a bigger hero, someone who fought for his land and died in the name of it.

I am sat in my bed, all cozy and warm with a cup of tea in my hands and my family sat right around me. Words are not enough when I write this thank you note to the both of you for doing what you are doing, for being our savior and our protector. A world full of peace is what we’d all love to see, but till then, thank you. Salutes to you both.

“Afrad ke hathoun mein hai akwaam ki takdeer,

Her fard hai millat ke muqadar ka sitara”

Pursuing the More Significant

If we look into human history, there has been one question that has been either asked directly or alluded to, in all religions and cultures. This question is: What is the meaning of life? Ever since humans started thinking rationally and analyzing their surroundings, they have been curious about why things are the way that they are. From wanting to know how organisms have evolved to asking more broad questions about the purpose of life, God and the nature of the universe.

What makes life worth living? Is it a life filled with happiness and success or a life filled with purpose and meaning? Is there even a difference between the two? Recently, I read a quote by John Maxwell and the dots finally connected. He says: “Success is when I add value to myself. Significance is when I add value to others.”

While the thirst for success is never quenched, significance satisfies our deepest heart and soul. It allows us to lay our head on our pillow each night confident that we lived a valuable and fulfilling day. The pursuit of significance is a daily practice of priorities. It is when you set out on a path, focused on something important and you work towards it with dedication every day. It can be anything from a tangible goal to the legacy you leave behind one day. It truly does not matter where you begin, what matters is what you achieve at the end.

The purpose of life, therefore, is to create your own meaning  and to bring it to fruition. It is a waste to be asking the question when you are the answer. The truth is, there are untapped sources of meaning all around us—right here, right now. We can find meaning in every scenario, event, occurrence and context. We can find meaning in the sublime, the absurd, the dull and dreary, and in the perfectly wretched in life.

Here are simple ways to pursue significance in your life:

Begin and end with gratitude:

Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. Start each day and finish each evening by thinking of three things for which you are grateful. When we anchor ourselves to the abundance in our lives, we uncover that which is most significant to us. It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude, it’s gratitude that brings us true happiness and contentment.

Value what you have:

If you need something to believe in, start with yourself. Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. And until you value your time, you’ll do nothing with it. When clearly defined, your values will simplify your decision making process and will create fertile soul for you to flourish.

Dream big, live big:

Clear out the clutter in your mind so that your dreams have room to live and grow. Set goals: Plan, execute and implement them. A dream written down with a date becomes a goal. A goal broken down into steps becomes a plan. A plan backed by action becomes a reality. Dream big, work hard, make it happen!

Act with meaning:

The purpose of life is not to be happy, rather it is to be useful, honorable, compassionate, make a difference and leave your mark in the world. In the hyper-competitive world in which we live, leaving a legacy is often implicitly put forth as the highest virtue. It is a way in which  we will feel valued and remembered after we have gone. It doesn’t have to always be grand, it could be something small that aids you in leaving the world a slightly better place than when you came into it.  

The Tyranny of Time:

Do not be lured into the premise that ‘someday’ you will take action, since that day may never come. Many people die with their music still in them. You’re never going to be 100% ready and it’s never going to be just the right time. This means that every moment is also the right moment. If you want it, you just have to do it!

If you don’t make the time to creating a life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with the life you don’t want. Remember, we came to this world with a purpose. Find out what that is. It’s going to be hard, but hard isn’t impossible.