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The Aram

with Tahmina Begum
I didn't want to write about 'Galentine's day' or how great it is to be single or in a relationship right now. I didn't even want to write about self-love, a topic that frequents The Aram. What I really want to write about, as I type this romantically at 01:35 am on Valentine's Day, is something I question a lot. What we ask of when we think of love. 
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Love these days feels like such a weighty topic. Perhaps, that's because we have all these ideas on how love should be while also trying to drag things that aren't love into love. Situations that should have expired already. 

There's also this recently hollow way of looking at love and women in particular. That we're bigger than love itself. That our feminism doesn't sit right with seeking romantic love. That we're so full with the rest of our lives that we don't have time for love. That may be true for some, but I think it's such a shame that we both expect love to come in a package exactly how we imagined (when did anything happen exactly as we imagined?) while anticipating the disappointments first.

I often circle back to the quote, "We accept the love we think we deserve". I know that may sound controversial as if
Stephen Chbosky,
when writing The Perks of Being A Wallflowerwas implying that the love you have received so far is your fault or a reflection of your worth. Yet what I take from that sentence is the simple reminder that we are our foundations for how we want to be loved. And Valentine's Day is actually another opportunity to readdress what we deserve.

If we do not think wider, if we are not honest about the requirements that it takes to love us, without feeling like it's unromantic to have 'requirements' in the first place, then we end up with a love that feels more like a loss.

The romantic in me frankly doesn't understand the concept of avoiding love, wherever it may come from. My mind asks, how can I deprive myself of such experiences? Though the more broken and curing parts of me get it. We have all put our efforts into something or someone that have made us feel dishearted and become lovesick over what we thought 'was it' and felt like home.

There has been so much personal unlearning I've had to do when it comes to the romanticisation of love. Whether that's thinking you have to work hard in order to be loved entirely, 'struggle love' itself or that to be needed is to be loved. I've also learned the hard way that just because someone doesn't love you in the same way, doesn't mean they love you any less. 

Complex and knotted feelings can make it impossible to work out what's a rough patch versus something that's just not meant to be. And my god, I just want to tell the women around me all of the time that when it comes to the topic of romantic love, that they don't need to meet their own ideals of perfection in order to be loved.
What I'm trying to say, when attempting this enormous feat of writing about the L-word is that we need to let go of this idea that we need to be a type of way, say the 'right' kind of thing, wait for the right kind of moment, all in order to have the love we want. That may be to yourself when you look into the mirror or to the person you think about when watching the kettle boil. 

Rumi once wrote, “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it," so when I say we need to value the depth in which we want to be loved, that means we also need to ask ourselves what standards we are not carving out and cementing in the first place. Who has time for the half-way type of love anyway?

Because what I do know about love, is that love in its element? It is both the most energising and most freeing. It allows us to feel both courageous and petrified, at the same time. It humbles us while asking what we're really about. It makes our skin glow and our palms feel warm. It reveals what our cores are and teaches us to get back up again. It is patience personified and we all know that's a virtue for a reason. It's a reminder of how we got here and what we're made up of. It's
cliché but it's the backbone to most things, the essence of why we fight for change and the undeniable reason behind most of what we do. 

Love begets more love, just like hope begets more hope and desire begets more desire. I hope on this love-day, you're requiring the whole love you deserve, regardless of where it's coming from. And even if you have someone beside you, you adore yourself with that kind of love that makes you sit up and pay attention to who you are.

Sending aram & bhalobashi,
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As it's my birthday month, there will be a weekly edition of The Aram in February inshallah instead of fortnightly. In honour of my late grandfather, I'm also raising money for those who can't afford their own funerals. You can donate here.

The Aram is a bi-monthly newsletter that explores our relationship with ease and joy. In "Getting Aram With...", I ask a woman of colour and/or Muslim woman I admire, three questions surrounding her comforts.

#8 is Sasha Sabapathy, founder of Glowbar, a wellness company, cafe and space and creator of the ez wellbeing newsletter. Just off Oxford Circus, Glowbar saunas, facials and moon milks are some of my favourite treats. Plus, whenever I'm in Glowbar, I learn about women-led businesses like Hanx, who have been featured in The Aram before. 

What's currently bringing you aram? 

To be completely honest, this has been so hard lately with yet another lockdown affecting my wellbeing and impacting my business.

However, I have been working really hard to practise mindfulness in this difficult time, and I've found it to be so helpful in bringing about aram and peace into my life. Mindfulness is about really living in the moment and not stressing about what is to come and what is out of our control.

During the last lockdown, I was really keeping tabs on how long I'd been in my flat and was constantly checking for updates on when we could expect things to be lifted. I'm actively trying to not do that and live each day and each moment without worrying too much about tomorrow. It's definitely hard to do but I've noticed that I feel happier and more at ease when I've spent the day being more in the moment. 

In terms of self-care, are there any new habits you've cultivated during the lockdown?

I have two new habits and wellbeing related hobbies that I've cultivated this lockdown. I say this only because the last lockdown I was on this huge self-improvement journey and took up lots of hobbies to help me feel calm and had a million and one different wellness rituals. This time it's just two new things and they've been really purposeful.

Firstly I've been drinking mushroom coffee every day. I always took medicinal mushrooms, sometimes in coffee, sometimes in matcha, but not every day. At Glowbar, we recently launched an adaptogenic mushroom blend called Immunity Shrooms, that have five different mushrooms in it that are all really great for helping to boost your immune system.

I was given an espresso machine for Christmas so every morning I make an oat flat white and stir in half a teaspoon of shrooms and honestly it's just a wonderful ritual and makes me feel great. I also started running! I'm not sure if what I'm doing counts as running yet but I started one of the 'Couch to 5K' programs and it's been a really great way to clear my head and also spend more time outside. I've never been a big runner, definitely more of a spinner, however, I'm really enjoying it and I'm getting in a much-needed endorphin boost!

Spread the maya and tell me about a platform or person you'd like to bring light to. 

There are honestly so many incredible women that I know through work or that I work with or that I'm friends with it's genuinely so hard to pick.

However, I think Julia Doubko the founder of Juice4Thought really deserves some serious maya right now! She makes raw juices and nut mylks, all delivered in glass bottles, and does all the London deliveries herself at like 4 AM!

She's a one-woman team and an absolute hustler. Plus her juices are delicious, nasty free, organic and affordable and I am obsessed with her nut mylks.

I don't think people ever realise how hard you have to work to make your dreams come true and to also still be passionate about what you do and also to stay positive throughout the highs and lows. Every time I see Julia (and it's mainly at 6 AM when she's dropping off ginger shots and green juice), she has a smile on her face, is genuinely happy to be doing her job and is always full of new ideas on how to innovate her business. I really believe that people like her deserve to make it, and to have people love their products as much as they do!

(Use my personal code TAHMINAGLOW20 on Glowbar for 20% off adaptogens and saunas. You're welcome). 

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Everyone knows buying books off Amazon isn't great for authors, or actually anyone involved, so launched in the UK to support independent bookshops with every sale.

You can 
shop for my recommendations here (I get a tiny commission fee). You'll find reads by Muslim women, my favourite titles, and the books that continue to shape my work. Mwah, mwah. 
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Hola! I'm Tahmina Begum 👋🏾 I'm a writer, editor and consultant. If you like The Aram, feel free to support my work and buy me a digital Ko-Fi. If you'd like to commission me for any work, feel free to check out my website

Images in order: @sayran @matildagoad @stefyloret @sashasabapathy @glowbarldn

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