Let’s be Zen.

Sometimes it’s harder said than done, and sometimes it’s the easiest thing imaginable; to constantly be there for someone, who has no regard and no appreciation of you. It’s difficult, I won’t lie. It’s almost as though you are choosing who to be, the person who is a doormat, or the person who is giving and kind. The latter is certainly more flattering and often rewarding when recognised, but that’s hardly ever the case, is it? Well, anyway, despite feeling a little like a doormat, I’m choosing not to be disheartened. In fact, I’m choosing to adopt a ‘zen-like’ approach…to some things (wouldn’t be me, if I were zen in everything!), notably my PhD (my most stressful burden).

Although, I have to admit…perhaps I’m being too zen? I have a lot pending, and yet I seemed relatively unfazed, as though I have all the time in the world…not true, I really don’t. But then, why should I ruin this ‘calmish’ state of mind with anxiety? It’s not often, one studying a PhD can say that they aren’t very stressed, certainly not something you’d hear from a finalist.

So, what I’ll do is take this all in my stride. I won’t let anyone else take me for granted, I’m a valuable resource, but mistreat it and it’ll go…and that’s exactly what’s going to happen. Fend for yourselves, you dirty Feet (because I’m a doormat…get it?)! Nazra is no longer a doormat, I’m going to be a tapestry, pick me up and put me on a wall! Oh yeah! Also…I need to get stuck into doing research, and this time, instead of freaking out about why I’m not freaking out, I’m going to work with the ‘zen-like’ attitude and calmly and rationally approach everything with an open and clear mind. If something isn’t working, I’ll simply move on to the next thing. Baddabing baddaboom. Job done.


NQ out.


Right, let’s get back into it, shall we? Into the shwing of things (see what I did there?…yes, I know it’s not very funny, not when you say it with that face…frown).

It would appear as though the dysfunctional weather, together with ample unwanted mingling with students, has resulted in a spread of a bug. Yes, that’s right, it’s that time of year again…time to be mucusy. Mucus, migraines and mantle pieces (that’s the first most random thing to enter my mind to fill the ‘m’ void). Hmm, perhaps that should’ve been the title? Nah. Not changing it.

So, let me stop being so very vague (despite the fact that I very much enjoy it); it’s now the aftermath following the whirlwind storm of undergraduate projects, and it appears as though nothing was left unrooted. Pretty much everything that could’ve been broken was…well…broken(!) And the last 48 hours have been spent trying to normalise things as much as possible and just get things back to normal, into the ‘shwing’ of things (yep, the title is very much apt). My personal countdown hasn’t halted, I only have around 3 months to complete all of my lab work and with no running RO water (that’s right…the students actually managed to break off the tap…don’t ask how), therefore no running washer or filtered water system…it becomes increasingly difficult to prioritise lab work without any water. But we’ve found a route around it…certainly not the most compliant with our risk assessments, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And you know, it wouldn’t all be so bad, if the experiments ran perfectly smoothly and every supervisor was perfectly on board with us. Certainly never the case with us. And in actual fact, even that can be managed with a healthy immune system…but again, one is not so fortunate.

So, where am I, then? I am mid way through that chapter I finally got feedback for (although…does feedback for only 15/90 pages, actually count?), still yet to complete the repeats I should’ve really finished by now, and have barely collected data from the new techniques I’ve started. All of this in 3 months? Certainly possible…with a functioning lab, immune system and supervisory team. The operative word: functional.


NQ out.

I. Am. Lorelai. *gasp*


Sometimes it’s just far too easy for reality to not feel real. To the extent where the only certainty is the very fact that everything around me doesn’t seem real. Losing a grasp on reality is the sign of an over-worked mind. A mind which much like the rest of your body requires rest, but it’s not as easy as resting your body. Sleep is wonderful and plentiful when it does what is needed of it…otherwise it is simply falling prey to your subconscious mind, unable to disengage and instead feeling as though you have been chased all throughout the night.

It’s the stress, the anxiety and the uncertainty of your daily decisions that morph into those angry bird which wreak havoc in dreamland. The way to escape, you ask?  Escape, is not a physical thing in this case, it’s a matter of releasing your burdens slowly, of knowing what deserves some of the stress and anxiety, and what is futile. It’s not always easy to distinguish which is which, sometimes it’s far too complex, and it’s at these stages that you actually ask yourself…what can put on the back burner? What can wait a few weeks for me to deal with…rather than have an avalanche of worries and doubts.

So if it were not all too obvious, let me explain. I’ve been incredibly stressed the last few weeks and all of a sudden it simply became so overwhelming that I ended up having a panic attack. I should’ve seen it coming, I’ve been describing everything as though it doesn’t exist…as though I’m not sure as to whether what is happening is reality…or not. But I know why it happened, and I know what I can put on the back burner for now. I don’t need to deal with all my stresses in one go, I can wait a bit and I can break things down and work through them gently. I agree that I need to take things slower, that this quest to finish in the time I’ve allotted myself may be a bit of a stretch. But I can hope. That’s something I won’t let go of. I have faith in myself and the people I love and my Faith itself. My faith has always been the light amongst the darkness and even now, when I feel afraid and overwhelmed…it is the enveloping blanket to protect me. The Protector protects.


PS. Titular reference: It’s something I’ve always known…but when the events in my life played out like an episode of the Gilmore Girls…I can’t help but gasp!


So, we’re into the second week of the project period…and I’m still unable to find the motivation to get on with the list of tasks I’ve prepared. I only managed to force myself to start with something yesterday…because I got told off my my mum! Yep. I feel drained without even exerting myself…and I feel off balance, which keeps hindering any progress of completion. I know it’s not an excuse, and I also know that time is ticking away and with my supervisory team ever unhelpful…this all comes down to me and my ability to push through. An ability…which seems non-existent at present.

So as I sit here with my notebook ready to make notes on whether I should do an ELISA for cAMP levels, or simply use an antibody…I’m trying desperately not to let the warmth of the office tuck me in for the morning. I just hope that I can stick to my list of tasks, it’s not gargantuan and most certainly doable in the time frame I have. But all I can think of right now is “mummy, five more minutes”.

Must’ve eaten from the same beetroot.

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve posted (it probably hasn’t, but I haven’t really got much sense of time at the moment), so here goes!

So just to get things up to speed, I’m recovering from a cold…it’s been more ‘headache’ than most other symptoms, but I’m not complaining…much. Although the cold may be subsiding, the headache may be here to stay. Undergrad projects have started and that spells chaos, and since we’re (PhD students) making a point of staying well out of the way, I’m hopeful that the chaos won’t spread. But who am I kidding, since when doesn’t chaos spread? In fact, it may even reside well within the roots of each of our respective studies…now that’s a scary thought!

Four weeks to get through, and I’ve finally got my “plan” written down, whether I can complete all that I ambitiously aim to fulfil…well…we’ll just be optimistic, won’t we? As I said to a colleague of mine earlier today, I have 7 lots of experiments to complete until the end of April, and I should be able to complete 5 of the 7 things. But then again, life does tend to get in the way of things, and I do mean Life…please don’t ask me what that means, my mum has asked me plenty as it is! (Crawls into the smallest little crack in the wall…They’ll never find me here!…laughs theatrically until a spider crawls into my mouth)

Like I said before, this is going to be a very busy year, and I expect to be procrastinating a lot. A lot. I just hope that everything happens like I hope it will. There’s a lot of hope and effort to be put into this year, and it’s entirely possible, with the support system that I have. I love you all. I just want my silly isolations to work, and I hope that I can make sense of the flow cytometer! I have no idea what the outputs mean, right now it’s all just random blobs…in what I would say are the wrong places. But how would I know! Oh well, just have to try again and then again, until I can get something that I actually understand.

So here’s to new and old techniques, and a year of waiting and seeing.


PS. Titular reference: Something I heard on TV.

A gassy deposition

I figured I’d squeeze in a final word before the end of the year. An ominous thought almost, that an entire year has passed and yet I struggle to recall it…as if I were to have fallen asleep in a lecture and suddenly have been presented with a test on the everything I’d slept over. In one sense, that’s exactly how I feel, like I’ve slept through the year, unable to distinguish January from December; but on the other hand, I feel as though this year has been agonisingly long, where I feel as though my journey has been stretched and then shrunk back…antagonising my forever confused brain.

Taking a break now from catching up with the book I had started in April, just makes me realise how quickly everything has become a cloudy blur. Now that probably sounds odd, a blur is already cloudy…but I don’t mean a blur of clouded objects…I mean cloud coloured, murky, dull and often depressing. It’s been an odd year on an international scale, a lot has happened over the past 12 months and dare I say, a lot more is left to happen. In the name of what we’ve called ‘taking a stand’ a lot of stupid decisions have been made by people motivated by nothing more than scare tactics and tempered fears. Played on emotional insecurities and disillusioned that the state we are in can be changed by the political ideologies of those who run our respective countries. Leaving a continental union, building a wall, destroying currency.

But I’m not going to talk about those things, they affect us all and I’m pretty certain that several other voices can do a lot more justice than I can. I simply want to talk about the journey that I’ve made this year, from the little steps to the bigger leaps (although not that much bigger, since as a short person my stride is tiny!). I’ve transitioned into the ‘final’ year of my PhD, and it’s been a rocky ride, emotionally and physically unsettling and that hasn’t quite stopped. Whilst the torrents may have eased, the stormy waters haven’t passed and the fear that the worst is yet to come…still hangs in the air. But if there’s one thing I’ve learnt this year especially, is that I’m not alone in this, even if sometimes I’ve felt more alienated than accepted, I know I’m not alone, and the stormy waters aren’t isolated. We all want to leave the waters, move forward and venture into a new territory…where even the worst may seem like clear skies. I feel more optimistic, and that may just be because I’m generally an optimist when my realist abilities have fallen asleep, but I’m hopeful that I can do this. I CAN do this. I can finish. And that’s the only motivation I need, just four words.

It’s scarier to think of what next, but again, I’m not alone. And suddenly, realising that you aren’t alone makes even the darkest alley less frightening. There are so many things that need to be aligned this coming year, my thesis, a job, a house…and something to go along with it. Lots to do and somehow I’m not as afraid as I might once have been. I’m not scared or put off by making those decisions, I’m not confined to my comfort zone. And that’s probably because a lot of firsts happened this year too. I went abroad alone for the first time in my life, had a downpour which became endless sunshine. Dublin, Amsterdam, Buenos Aires, London. And nothing can compare with Makkah and Madinah. Every journey builds you, shapes you. Every obstacle exposes one more fact about you. Every struggle increases a strength.

I feel equipped to tackle the year to come…a year of fruits, well laboured for (iA).


PS. Titular reference: a lot of political decisions made from the rear…don’t you think?

Reformation of heart — The heart opener

Aoudhubillahi mianshshaitaa nirrajeem Bismillahirrahmanirraheem Reforming the inner is indeed difficult The pious elders didn’t pay much attention to the outwardly deeds as their reformation can be done in a minute with a mere change of intention. A be-namaazi (one who does not pray) can start praying in a minute, a beardless man can start growing […]

via Reformation of heart — The heart opener