Purpose

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I started this blog hoping that I may be able to finally be open, honest and real. I’ve blogged for many years before under anonymity and it was easy. Now that I’m open about who I am, blogging has proven to be much harder than it once was. 

I truly believe that it is important to be open and honest about my experiences and past. I’ve lived too long in hypocracy that even now there are people who once “knew” me who refuse to believe my story. I guess we were that good at hiding our truth. 

What makes me special? Nothing. 

But I have a story to share and if my trials and tribulations, my past endurances and suffering could help one person who feels alone no longer feel lonely, then everything I’ve seen and done and lived through would not be in vain. 

Am I nieve? Yes, I may be idealistic in my views of what my life’s purpose may be. And that could possibly be one reason why I became a teacher- to try and help others navigate this big bad world we live in. Hopefully, my blog will be another tool in helping me help others.

Namaste. 

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Spring Break Anxieties

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This spring break I’ll be visiting my sisters in southern California. It goes without saying that I’m really excited to see my three sisters. 

So why am I also dreading this family reunion?

I’m anxious mainly because I know we will be judging each other. Whether we like it or not, we have always been competitive to the point we revelled in our siblings’ failures. Though our lives are so different today and there is no reason to judge, the residue of the habit is hard to get rid of. 

I think I’m most anxious because I wonder what they’ll think of me. Will they comment to one another when I’m out of earshot that I’ve gained weight? That my hair’s too thin? Will they remark on my outfits? Will they comment on how deep the circles under my eyes are? 

I think each of them is just absolutely gorgeous and since the last time I really spent time with them was back when they were much younger, I really don’t have much to compare them to. And I don’t want to compare them to begin with. I want to get to know them as adults and work on building a stronger relationship now that we’re older. 

Maybe we’re just more critical of ourselves and I’m projecting my insecurities on to them. I hope I am. Because I just want to have fun with them and build our relationships anew. 

Mini-Memories

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Talking to my students brings so much insight to my life. They’re always so inquisitive and curious about what brought me to their school and how my life has turned out. 

This last week, I had them writing mini-memoirs. As is to be expected many students just looked at me and were like, “We don’t have anything to tell”. Which is obviously untrue. 

So I dug into my experiences to give them ideas. I told them about the video tape my dad made of my two older sisters waiting for me to be born. My mother was in the bedroom with the midwife and they were in the other room. There was a whiteboard on the wall with a few names scribbled on it in Arabic. One of those names was خلود Khuloud. And even though they were still deciding on what my name would be, they kept calling me by the name they eventually gave me. I like to believe that that was when my family started our tradition of all of us having a hand in deciding the name for the next baby. 

Or like the time I almost drowned when I jumped into the deep end of the swimming pool as a little kid. Or feeling like I was drowning when we were at the beach in Malaysia and my father kept throwing me into the salty ocean and scooping me back up again while everyone laughed and enjoyed the warmth and beauty of the day.

Or the time when I was hit by a motorcycle as my sister, our friend and I were crossing the road heading home. I remember coming to this road, looking both ways and noticing a lone motorcycle in the distance. It was a warm and sunny day and our friend had her bike with her. We decided it was safe to cross. And this is when everything gets hazy. I don’t know if I tripped and fell or if the motorcycle just hit me and then I fell. All I knew was that my face was smashed into the hard concrete and gravel ground. I was crying and the motorcycle was on top of me and then it was gone. I don’t remember hurting- my body was numb. My sister and friend lifted me up onto the bike and each grabbed one side of the handlebars, keeping me balanced between them as they ran to our house. I remember not being able to see infront of me. The tears made everything blurry. For some reason that is beyond my comprehension, I felt bad that they were pushing me and so I tried to use the peddle to help. I think my sister yelled at me to stop. 

In no time at all, we were home and I was lying on the floor of the living room. I think my mother decided to change my clothes, but I can’t be too sure. I swear I was above my body watching everything happen in a blur. Everyone was screaming but they were all muffled. My sister was telling them what happened. I don’t remember where our friend went. My father lifted me and put me in the back seat of the car and raced me to the hospital. 

I don’t think I broke anything, I was badly bruised and needed stitches and a cast on my leg. I don’t know how long it took for me to heal. The last thing I remember is being in the car going to the hospital. Everything after is a black void in my memory. I could easily have misremembered the details, I was only five or so years old. 

How did we get off topic? The point was to get my students to write about themselves. The point wasn’t so that I could captivate them with my own stories. But sometimes it is important to go somewhat off topic. To make yourself human in front of your students. To captivate them with your stories. I like to believe my honesty and opennes helps them trust me and open up to me. 

It’s difficult to ask students who lead rough lives to share their stories with us. They often don’t want to share their truths even if I’m the only one reading it. I believe building a relationship of trust and honesty helps make it easier. 

Reliving my experiences helps me appreciate the life I’ve lead and who I have become because of my unique encounters. It also reminds me that my students are currently experiencing encounters and events that will forever shape who they will become. And I pray everyday that the time they spend with me are timrs that have a lasting and positive effect on who they grow up to become. 

Coming Clean

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After my latest post, a person dear to me asked me to stop. I know why she asked, but I couldn’t share her sentiments. She’s dealt with all this and has put it behind her. Call me a late bloomer, but I’m just now beginning to deal with my childhood. So I’m ready to open up this Pandora’s box. I’m ready to face the abuse my mother, sisters and I experienced at the hands of our well-respected Sheikh of a father. I’m ready to open up about it to not only myself, and the faceless readers that happen upon my blog, but also to my family and my friends. I’m ready to share my experiences in order to maybe help others who are still dealing with what I had to deal with. I’m ready. 

But she isn’t. If it were anyone else, I would laugh in their face and keep on going. But this person means the world to me and so keeping on isn’t going to only hurt her. But it will also hurt me. 

Though I tried to explain to her why I need to write all this here, she doesn’t get why we should stir up what’s already done. And I can’t explain to her how this is helping me heal. 

So my method of healing isn’t convenient. But my upbringing wasn’t either. 

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I must continue writing. I won’t lie about my experiences or make them fit a G-rating. I won’t live a double life like I was raised to. I have to be honest. And honesty often hurts. 

Beauty Standards

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Beauty Standards

Like many girls, I grew up wishing I was skinny. My parents helped destroy my self image by praising the sisters who were skinny and criticizing the sisters that were the least bit overweight. As a kid that grew up in the 90s, the images I was surrounded by were of tall, lanky, athletic (verging on anorexic) models and this became my ideal of what is beautiful. 

I am the complete opposite of these “beautiful” people. I wasn’t exceptionally tall or lanky and my curves were anything but athletic. Sure I have a smaller waist but my legs and thighs are massive in comparison.  And so I developed an unhealthy dislike towards my body. I knew deep down that no matter how much I worked out or denied myself foods, I would never be as “beautiful” as those models. 

Now, I’m seeing a shift in what society considers “beautiful”. It’s all about the hips and the big asses and boobs. It’s all about the curves, as long as they’re in the right places. The ideal beauty now has an incredibly small waist and encredibly large breasts and bottom. And though I fit more under this ideal than the ideal of the 90s, I still find myself hating my body. 

I truly believe that the “beauty standards” of the world have nothing to do with making women feel beautiful and empowered, but more to do with making us feel like we’re rats in a maze always out of time trying to find the prize that is a skinner and prettier you. 

These unattainable standards are destroying women. We have grown mistrustful of one another- she’s prettier or uglier than me. We’ve become more critical- what the hell is she wearing? We’ve become too judgmental of one another- she’s a slut!

I know of many women who don’t tend to have close female friends because they’re too “catty” and “full of drama”. I wonder if our beauty standards have any role to play in this phenomena. 

I really doubt I’m the only one who’s had these thoughts. And I feel that if we don’t do something now, we’ll continue on this women hating trajectory to the point that our daughters daughters will all but hate and mistrust one another. 

I refuse to believe that women have always been this way. 

And it’s not just about the weight or body type that we obsess over. It’s also our hair, our skin, our features, our voice, maybe even our thoughts. Are we, as women, just highly conscious of our beings or was this implanted into our psyche through our environment? I have no idea. And to be honest, it’s really wearing on me. 

I spent the better part of today, refusing to allow myself to think negatively about any aspect of myself. And it’s hard. And I Just barely succeeded. It doesn’t help that I’m back to my heaviest weight, my hair won’t grow, I’m bloated and have broken out in zits all over my face and chest. But I refuse to allow myself to obsess over any of this. I’ve had enough. I have to accept my body, the sensitivity of my skin, the stubbornness of my hair and the fact that as a woman my body likes to do crazy things like get bloated.  

I have to live in this body for the rest of my life. It’s time I treat it like a friend and not a prisoner. 

We have to interact with one another keeping that in mind. We didn’t choose our body shapes, we didn’t choose our skin or our hair, we didn’t choose our physical features. We decide what is most important to us and go about our lives focused on that (whether it’s our beauty, careers, families or a mixture of all). It’s time to be more accepting and loving towards our fellow women. Kick the judgement, the criticizing, the mistrust, the hate to the curb. 

Balance & Blessings

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Balance & Blessings

In light of what happened recently, I have grown more focused on the blessings I have in my life. I truly believe that there must always be balance in our lives. Otherwise, we’d be thrown into turmoil that often presents itself as stress. And since my uncle and father reached out to me attempting to shame me, I feel surrounded by a lot of negativity.

My effort to balance the negativity out is to focus on the good that is happening around me.

First of all, the astounding supportive response on social media has overwhelmed me with the realization that I am surrounded by positive loving people. For that I am truly grateful.

Second, I have the best boyfriend in the world. Through everything we’ve experienced together, he continues to be understanding and supportive. I have not met and I know I will not come across a better man than he. He is so much more to me than just a boyfriend, he is my partner, my companion, my supporter and my comforter. For him I am truly blessed.

Third, I have a job that I love. This is something I didn’t even know existed last year. Working at the school I did, brought me to the verge of quitting teaching completely. The students at the school I work at today are the best anyone could ask for. I love them very much and if it were up to me, I’d be their English teacher next year and the year after. For them I am truly honored.

Fourth, I have family that are quick to respond and always have my back. Our relationship may not be the best, but I’ve grown to be very appreciative of my sisters and my mother. They have shown that no matter the path I take, and no matter what others may think of us, we are still family and will support each other through the ups and downs. For them I am truly humbled.

Finally, I am reminded each and everyday how blessed I am to be who I am, to have the healthy body that I inhabit, to be of sound mind and clear judgement. This is what affirms to me the existence of a higher being and makes me feel complete. I am grateful for what many take for granted (my health, wealth and wellbeing) and others wish they had. For that I am very thankful.

Shaming

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~Updated~

First, my father hits me up. I haven’t talked to him in at least six years. Out of the blue, he messages me on Facebook. How is that possible? I blocked him on there. And last I talked to him, his message to me was the same:

“I never imagined that your intelligence would lead you to abandon your veil and modesty and to follow satan. Life is short and what’s in store in the afterlife is much better and everlasting. Who is that in your photo? Is he your husband and is he a muslim? I pray for your repentance.”

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No, “Hi there my daughter! I haven’t talked to you in years. How are you? I miss you. What are you doing with your life? How is your career going?” None of that. Because he doesn’t care about his daughter, he only cares about how she will tarnish his already tarnished image.

Then an uncle I haven’t seen or talked to in over eight years, and have never had a relationship with, hits me up on Facebook. (What is up with these relatives and Facebook?)

His message is the same, and much more hurtful: “A black slave is even too much for you (because you deserve nothing), change your name because hell needs more of your kind and his kind for preferring him over your own dad!”

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No, “Hey it’s your uncle in Jordan! How are you? It’s been so long! My kids are in college now! What are you doing with your life? Catch me up on everything you’ve been up to! Who is this handsome man in your pictures? I hope you’re happy together!” Nope, none of that.

My sister recently posted a selfie on Facebook- just a regular one shoulders up with beautiful smile. The same uncle sent her this: “I’m not honored to know someone who mistreats their parents, and those who mistreat their own, will not be of any good to others. You bit the hand that fed you (aka father).” (We’ve both blocked this uncle since these attacks.)

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It just boggles my mind that people who have nothing to do with me or my sister think they have every right to shame us. They were never there for us, so they do not deserve the right to even offer advice. The only thing I can do now is try to live my life and ignore the haters. Even if they are my own flesh and blood. There is no reasoning with them. They’ve never changed and never will.

Promise to myself: I will not be shamed, anymore than I already have, into doing things because “they” tell me. I will not be controlled by misogynistic, racist and sexist men any longer who twist their faith to suit them (I know my religion does not condone any of this behavior). I will continue to be empowered through my faith and lead my life as holistically and lovingly as possible.