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2020 – The Year I Ended an Abusive Relationship with Myself

It’s been a year. It’s been a heavy year weighed down by the pull of each day that has been a part of it. The obvious heaviness came from the COVID-19 pandemic. But there were also so many other hurdles and blocks that made each passing day thick with emotional and physical challenges. For me, 2020 was a year similar to everyone else’s. Fear and worry on one side, and the desire to live life fully on the other. But something else happened, this is the year that I ended an abusive relationship with myself.

There is no other word that I can use that can describe what I have done to myself for most of my life.  I am guilty for the pain I have caused; I am guilty for being abusive to myself.

One of the biggest crimes I’ve committed has been the verbal lashing I unleashed upon my unknowing heart. I’ve been the first to tell myself that I wasn’t good enough. Not good enough to be out there among strange faces and even similar ones because everyone else was better than me. They were smarter than me. They were prettier than me. They were more successful than me. They were more driven and motivated than me. Better mothers. Better friends. Better women. Better. Everyone in every space in every home was at the top or at least higher than myself, and I sat at the rock bottom of the earth, decaying into the aged soil to give nourishment to those who were destined to grow strong and big, while I self-destructed. I did not consider myself to be worthy of the life I was given by the Most Merciful. And day after day, year after year, I grew into that role like it was an identity that belonged to me as much as I belonged to it. So after decades of this torture, what was it that changed for me this year? Truthfully? I don’t know… there is so much and so little that changed for me. 

What that means is that very little changed for me on the outside. I am still living with my husband and children, in the same house, in the very same city, looking every bit the same as I have before. An outsider looking in would question where the change was because they wouldn’t be able to see it. And that’s when the greatest change happens, doesn’t it? An evolution of thought not to be judged or approved by others but leaping to new heights and surging like waves crashing with energy and renewal. On the inside, mental blocks placed years and years ago that had cemented into place began shifting. A shift initiated by praying to Allah in times of fear and unease and quickening when I began to ask Allah to allow and assist me in forgiving myself. 

Forgive. It’s an innocent little word, right? We use it so loosely and effortlessly. But what is it that I had to forgive myself for? I had never committed a crime nor harmed anyone. Why have I been torturing myself? What did I need to forgive? I needed to forgive myself for failures. I needed to forgive myself for unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. Every time I couldn’t or wouldn’t, I placed boulders in my mind that kept me and my other self away from each other – the imperfect me. Separating us like tall-walled borders, never to become friendly with each other. Never to cross from here to there. She was to be kept hidden away and buried, and I would be here out in the open hurting and trying to find my way. Somewhere somehow, I have been wanting to be perfect. Keeping imperfections hidden away, and paining to be perfect without it for years. I did not want her to be me.

Then 2020 came. A monumental year of immense pressure and fears. And I lay awake many nights paralyzed by fear and worry. Not sure if normality will ever return and if an invisible virus would pluck out humanity one by one until we would all be gone for good. In that deep level of despair, I turned to Allah, the All-knowing, All-aware. Asking him from a heart full of pain to hear my prayers. To free from the unease that had resided in my heart for so long. And each time I did, the pain began to slowly shrink away. Suddenly, I found myself standing by my bedroom window every morning waiting for the sun to rise. It was like a beauty that  had been hidden in plain sight. I was falling in love with the bright piercing morning rays as they majestically began to spread their wings higher and brighter with each passing moment. Was there anything more beautiful than this? Why did I think that the sun that rises over an ocean was the only one worth drinking in? Why did I think I had to go somewhere or get to another destination to find beauty and happiness? Why didn’t I search for it right here? Why was I waiting to be happy when happiness could be found in the now?

The more I forgave myself for being overweight, losing and gaining pounds over the years, the more I became comfortable with who I was. I was not my physical attributes, it was not my identity. My weight was only my appearance and I was still Tumkeen. 

I forgave myself for not having pursued my passions. No, the kids were not to blame nor myself for not running after it, it just wasn’t meant to be fulfilled before now. I forgave myself for the mistakes I’ve made, and let myself free from the imprisonment I had casted upon myself for so long I forgot that other parts even existed.

When the shift began to free the imperfect me, and I stood there watching her dust off herself and emerge as someone who seemed familiar and yet distant. I met the woman I had been searching for my whole life. She was right there in front of me. She was weak and traumatized. She was scared and nervous to see a strong sun shining down on her. She was imperfect but to me, she was perfect. She was a part of me. I took her by the hand, and fed her. I no longer suppressed her with food that was binged in so much quantity that she suffocated. No, no more. I fed her vegetables that suddenly didn’t taste so bad. I put lotion on her cracked feet and parched hands. Seeing the possibility beyond what was evident in front of my eyes. She would no longer suffer for where she’s been, she was allowed to recover and let her feet feel at peace wherever they stood. I gave her clothes to wear that fit her body as it was today. No longer having to wait to be skinny to deserve to look better. No longer wearing sizes so large that she could hide in them and never be found again.

I ended the abuse, and let her heal. And when she did, we embraced each other. We completed each other in the ways we had both ached for, and she no longer feared me for all the years of pain I had caused her for not being who I wanted her to be. 

So yes, 2020 has been a year of many challenges. For most of us, the challenge has been to survive a global pandemic and the effects it has had on our families. But for me, 2020 is a year that gave me the courage to end the abuse, and allow myself to peacefully come home, to me. 

-Tumkeen, Writer+Poet

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December 1, 2020

We are all born with two vessels of love in our hearts. 

One is an empty one waiting to be filled, while the other one is full, ready to give. 

Wise are those who first fill their empty one with enough love to feel content, and then give from the abundance leftover to those who are worthy of it. 

This prevents so many heartaches associated with love. 

If we were to pour out from our full one into our empty one, we would have nothing to give others nor any space to receive from them. 

If we were to keep both vessels in the state we were born with, we risk adopting a longing to be filled by others; and hoping to give someone…anyone… who is willing to take from the love we had stored. 

Indeed, wise are those who love themselves enough that they still have room to receive, and savings to give from. 

If they receive love beyond their capacity they can give it out freely and in fistfuls to everyone around them, for both of their vessels would be full.

And if it happens that they do not receive love to fill up their once empty vessel, they still continue living in a state of contentment for they were wise to love themselves already. 

To desire love and to need to love is to be human.

-Tumkeen, Writer+Poet
@thepoetryoftumkeen

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October 20, 2020

Dear long dark nights, welcome.

Dear cold temperatures, welcome.

Dear pandemic surge, welcome.

Dear virus, cold, and flu season, welcome.

Dear dim sunlight, welcome.

Dear virtual education, welcome.

Dear anxious nerves, welcome.

Dear worries and fears, welcome.

Dear stress and pressure, welcome.

Dear juggling and canceling, welcome.

Dear season of change and uncertainty,

Dear climate of policies and politics,

Dear strange normality,

And return to simplicity,

Dear restrictions and closures,

Dear life in this place and time, welcome.

I accept you and every shade of you,

with peace and joy,

with faith and fulfillment,

knowing with absolute surety that I am where I am meant to be.

This is life as I live and breath.

And because I made the decision to show up in my life, regardless of its state,

… I accept all of the above.

Everything is welcome here.

-Tumkeen, Writer + Poet
@thepoetryoftumkeen

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October 11, 2020

Rock bottom is a place we don’t like.

In fact, it’s loathed when we descend into it, and despised upon arrival.

I know because I’ve been to my rock bottom before.

I hit it not very long ago.

I didn’t like being there.

I cursed it and tried to find an exit out of it.

But there was no escape… it didn’t have secret doors or tunnels leading out.

At first, I could not understand the purpose of being thrown into the depths.

Afraid, desperate, and alone.

But when I stopped kicking and screaming, I found silence.

And in the silence, I had a brave understanding.

Perhaps I didn’t fall there through failure, perhaps I was put there.

Put there by God so that I can awaken to my existence and call out to Him in tears of desperation from a place where only He can hear.

To be awakened to Him who has never, not once, left my side.

There in the solitude of rock bottom, I did not see Him but I felt Him.

I did not hear Him but I understood Him.

Eventually, I was able to leave rock bottom behind.

Realizing that the only way out was to go up.

But there was a wisdom that was gained in the process.

Rock bottom is a gift enveloped in hardship.

Rock bottom is a place of awakening.

Rock bottom is the answer to a prayer.

I now have a new respect for that place, as we all should…

because it is from where we rise.

-Tumkeen, Writer+Poet
@thepoetryoftumkeen

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October 1, 2020

Do not look down at those who’ve changed around you,
They too stood strong & purposeful,
With might & life their stance was,
Now here you are unchanged by the wind & cold that slowly seeps through your blossomed leaves.
But look, how the withering ones still go up in blaze.
They burn up in bright hues of yellow orange red,
Some say it’s time for them to fall,
But look how they’re pushing a force of light in their fading hours.
Humbled by the breeze, but facing destiny with brilliance,
Do not mock them for they look at you with bare wasting branches,
with knowing wisdom, they look,
Through the whistling winds they silently nod,
“Your time shall come, too.”

-Tumkeen, Writer+Poet

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September 24, 2020

For the first time, I am investing my time and energy on self care.

And I’m starting with my feet.

I’ll explain.

Ever since I can remember, I have had very dry feet.

Cracked heels, dry tough soles, covered in flaky parched skin.

My kids would ask if it hurt that my heels were so cracked they would split open and bleed.

My husband would complain that he felt like I was sawing off his feet when my cold rough feet searched for his on chilly nights.

My mother wondered out loud (as mothers often do) how anyone can get their feet in such bad shape and not want better for themselves?

I’ve secretly wondered the same.

But my dry feet were familiar to me. Something I’ve always known to be no matter how far back I think.

I became accustomed to them. 

The ripped socks, the painful cuts, and the embarrassing appearance.

I believed they were unsalvageable. That there was too much effort to care for them. I would just “live with it”. 

Like I was tolerating my own self.

But the more I get older, the more I am wanting better for myself; the more I am realize how important the health and appearance of my feet are.

These feet have taken me to places I never imagined I’d go.

Digging deep into soft sand, at the shores of the Atlantic, taking in the majesty of the morning sun, as it rose over the ocean.

Or from walking up to the barren invisible border dividing Alaska from the wild Yukon Territory, a place I had only read about but never imagined to see.

These feet have taken me every step of the way in my adventures.

They have stood firmly in uncomfortable public places that didn’t want me there.

They rescued me from the spaces I didn’t want to be in.

I let my children stand atop my feet to give them a bumpy ride in their early years.

And walked them nervously to their first days unsure if they were ready to face independence and the world.

These feet are the unsung heroes of my life journeys.

They have held me up when all I was able to do was fall down.

So it’s symbolic, really.

The care for the forgotten, worn down piece of me that has been crying out for a long time.

I am finally listening.

And so I am giving them the time and care they need.

I am scraping off the dead weight that has been no benefit to us.

I am moisturizing them with thick creams and lotions to revive them and awaken the life inside of them that has been locked out for far too long.

It’s time to lovingly care for myself and acknowledge the life that has worn us down.

It’s time to care for my feet. 

-Tumkeen, Writer
@thepoetryoftumkeen

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September 9, 2020

What if?

What if I dared?

What if I dared to dream a dream so big that it began to frighten me?

What if the dream I want to pursue pushes my back against the wall and the only way out is to lean into it?

The only way to find fulfillment and joy is by opening the doors of my guarded self and allowing myself to be vulnerable.

Vulnerable to love.

A love that is the first love I was supposed to have but denied it any air.

Instead, searching for it in relationships to say the right words and show it in the right way.

What if the love I have longed for… ached for, was in my grasp?

What if that love I have been searching for is buried inside?

Pushing against the gates to be let free.

Because it knows how much I am in need of it.

How I am finally ready to embrace it.

What if I dared to dream?

Dared to dream a dream so audacious and bold that it frightens me?

What if my wildest, craziest dream is to love myself so unapologetically that it allows me to step into myself as the person I have waited to be all my life?

What if I am whole and present and alive? 

And stand up that way for myself and for all the people in my life, fully?

What if I dared?

-Tumkeen, Writer

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September 3, 2020


For years I’ve fastened my children’s seat belt in the car, and not remembered to wear my own.

Protecting those I loved but not caring much about my own. 

But it was when they got older, and no longer needed me to fasten it for them, I realized something. 

The lesson wasn’t learned.

The children who are now old enough to wear their own belts, refuse to. 

They’re quick to point out “but you don’t?!”. 

The lesson wasn’t learned. 

I now realize that though I belted them in, they would’ve learned the action if I implemented it as well. 

They would’ve caught on to what the difference was between being kept safe and being safe.

The importance of practicing safety. 

The cruciality of valuing yourself enough to invest in the brief moments it takes to secure yourself too. 

It is now when I am no longer a mother of very young ones, no longer in the thickness of routine and schedules, that I realize the value of practice and how they lead to lessons.

True, teenage angst loves to go against the grain and rebel even if it had seen Mom do it a thousand times.

But they still would know the difference between the right thing to do and the wrong, because they would’ve learned the lesson. 

As for the children who never saw it, they’ll learn it eventually- they won’t get their license if they don’t. 

Hopefully, implement it before they become parents themselves. 

With their children strapped into the most expensive and extensively tested seat, watching the lesson from the rear view mirror. 

And if they chose not to, if they chose to continue what they had seen or not seen as children themselves, they will continue the cycle of behavior they were a product of. 

But, if they take the time to secure themselves as well, they will have broken the pattern and changed the course for the generations to come. 

The lesson will have been learned.

Seatbelts, lessons, and safety.

Behaviors, patterns, and healing.

-Tumkeen, Writer

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August 24, 2020


Summer’s telling me something…

get ready to let go.

It’s not really a choice;

not the choice of mine nor the choice of these leaves that have already begun to show hues of what’s to come.

The end of August is the end of many things.

It’s the end of long, warmer days, and carefree schedules.

It’s the end of summer vacations and excursions.

The end of a season.

And sure enough, even if the temperature doesn’t begin its descent just yet, nature will let you know that change is about to begin.

Signs.

Oranges transitioning into apples.

Watermelons into pumpkins.

T-shirts into long sleeve layers.

Greens to bright hues to earthy ones.

We are right at that edge.

From one season to another.

And summer is whispering slowly to get ready to let go.

To enjoy the buzz of bees for one more day,

To stand under the hot sun and feel the warmth of its rays from your head to the tip of your toes.

To drink a glass of cold water and savor its gulps as it quenches the thirst of a sunny afternoon.

As the gentle breeze blows through rustling leaves, listen.

Listen to every sound.

And understand the inevitability of change.

The inevitability of moving ahead.

Comfort was beautiful, but is a fleeting season.

Before you know it, it brings the new to your doorstep.

Not to be feared, nor to dread.

No. 

But to remind you to treasure where you are.

Enjoy the season you’re in.

Realize the going that will surely follow the coming.

So sit under the bright sun and look,…

Summer is getting ready to wave goodbye.

-Tumkeen, Writer
@thepoetryoftumkeen

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August 20, 2020

Dear Me,

Not old me, not new me.

Not child me, nor adult me.

Not me I want to be, or the real me.

No, not even “just” me.

Me.

Dear Me,

You are an embodiment of all of you.

The past, present, and future all united and bound under the skin of me.

Everything that has ever happened has made you into who you are today.

And yet, despite what has happened or didn’t happen, you are exactly who you were going to be.

Me.

I am so much more than the circumstances surrounding me.

I am so much more than this moment and this place.

I am a progeny and I am an ancestor.

I am a living and breathing entity that occupies a space in a time where it seems like no other could be in it but me.

Exactly.

I am exactly who and where I was designed to be.

There are no chances, no mistakes, no coincidences, or irony.

I was written into this play at this precise moment in time, and for a role no one can do better than me.

Dear Me,

I am whole.

Not broken, not shattered.

I am a living creation with my own set of emotions, stories, ideas, and experiences.

I am a whole package.

Who I have been running from is who I have been searching for.

Where I came from is exactly where I am headed.

I am a cycle of leaving and returning back. Each experience teaching me to return more evolved, more humbled, more wise.

So here I am, me.

The same me who wanted a friend to play with, an extra bit of affection, and a place to shine is the same woman who gets excited about messages and friend requests. Loves the unexpected hug and kiss from loved ones. Is me trying to pursue a passion that has been burning inside for much too long.

Me, I haven’t gone anywhere.

But it seems as though I lingered a while in that space between leave and return for a bit longer than I should’ve. I got lost.

But here I am loyally waiting in anticipation like no one else can.

Waiting for me to bring wisdom, humility, and knowledge tucked away in a travel bag eager to be given as gifts.

The wait has been long.

So long that I worried I would be left stranded forever.

But here I am. 

Tired but content. Pleased.

“You’ve been gone for a long time. 
What did you bring back with you?”

“Me.”

-Tumkeen, Writer

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