Top 10 Gifts I Have Given Myself in 2020

2020 has been intense.  With the topsy-turvy upside-down world, I’ve had to assess and reassess my priorities. I’ve wondered out loud– on more than one occasion– is the world ending? Despite these dramatic sociopolitical, environmental changes in the world due to Covid-19, I decided that there were small acts of kindness I would give myself. Below are the gifts that I have given myself that have resulted in some level of positive impact as I continue to strive for a bismillah home.   

  1. I have rediscovered my love of literature and my love affair with the library continues.
  2. I have made time for spiritual development. 
  3. I am learning Arabic.
  4. I started my dream job as a philanthropy consultant.
  5. I started investing in childcare— and subsequently my own affairs.

I rediscovered my local library.

I go to the local library weekly, to pick up new books to read for my kids and for myself. I have discovered new genres; traveled to new places; and learned so much. It has been transformative. When I go to the library, I also pick up weekly crafts for the kids, which are absolutely free and worth it! In particular, I have fallen deeply for young adult fantasy. I have discovered American Muslim writers like Sabaa Tahir, Taherah Mafi, and my absolutely favorite SA Chakraborty. It has been a powerful thing to be represented in fiction, in some form, to have these told by diverse storytellers.

I make time for spiritual development.

Just as I go to the library religiously, I also do more things with my faith. Each day, I set appointments for adhkar, for remembrance, for spiritual goals. Each week, I participate in a halaqa, or a gathering of remembrance. Each month, there are certain milestones I try to reach in terms of comprehension. When I was a full time working (outside) mom, I could only do these types of things on vacation. I am deeply affected by the gatherings led by Sheika Iaesha Prime, who said at the start of the pandemic, “Get your spiritual affairs in order.” This has been a game changer mantra for me, and has allowed me to prioritize faith over other interests and pursuits. At the height of the pandemic, I found myself waking up at 5AM, reading and writing for an hour, having lunch cooked by 9AM, and homeschooling. By 1PM, we were essentially “free” for playtime. When I lined up the day around a sunnah timetable, I found there was more blessing in the time, and it all started with the intention for greater spiritual development.

I learn Arabic, even if it is only a few new words a day. 

After years of dreaming of learning how to read and understand Arabic better,  I took the plunge and enrolled in a class. If not now, when? I thought to myself.  This was a fuzzy goal I had set for years, and yet had not made time for. I had run out of excuses.  I started learning with Fawakih. I memorize words for 5 minutes a day, and take a class each week with students from all over the country. I know how to take apart a sentence and have some semblance of what the words might mean. If that’s not progress, I don’t know what is.

I started working as a philanthropy consultant.

I don’t know how much I had to beg the Creator, but I got a job, in an industry that I love. It is truly a joy to get paid for my expertise in capacity building, and organizational development. I enjoy nerding out on assessment reports, and thinking through possible alternatives for programs.

I started investing in childcare. 

After 18 months of being “solo” with the kids, I realized some truths. I am generally happy with “clean enough” and “organized enough” home.  I will never quite know where the socks are.  It is my temperament, and I have come to embrace the chaos in which I operate. Investing in childcare is a gamechanger. Yes, it is not free. But it is the best gift I gave myself AND my kids. The auntie who has cared for my children for 6 years, not only cares for my children; she ensures their sanity, and preserves my own sanity at the same time. She asked to come back to me, and I said yes. I didn’t know how I would pay her, but I think my duas for her exceed anything I could give her.  I don’t make much, but whatever I make, it is enough to share with her, and to find some happiness for myself. Some days I work uninterrupted. Some days, I run errands. I feel free, to be or not be.

I play in my house, instead of looking for places to go with the kids. 

I have made my home a giant playground. This has resulted in a lot of time saved. My dining table has been converted into a GIANT art table. We paint daily. We draw and color daily. We create random stuff. My son plays lava with the couch cushions. Our house literally can be taken apart, and put back together. I never quite finished decorating my house, or even really putting it together, but I feel it is perfect as is for the life I have now. Also, over the course of my life, my kids have traveled to 5 countries, and we can just re-watch the videos of our adventures!

I hope you find that a bismillah home starts with our intentions, and our ability to refocus in difficult, changing times. Not everything has ended. Each moment is a gift that we did not earn, so let’s make it count. May 2021 bring you more joy, peace, and delightful moments.

Photo by Emre Can on

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