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. 

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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.

Tedium My Enemy

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Tedium My Enemy

It scares me when things get like this. When my day becomes my everyday. I wake up, get ready, go to work, clock in, teach, spend my lunch break with depressed and unhappy coworkers, teach some more, go on after school duty, clock out, face traffic, go to the gym, go home, eat, watch an episode of something while I prepare for the next day’s lessons, then finally go to bed. The next morning it’s as if I just hit the reset button.

It feels like a never ending rat race to no where. The sun rises everyday whether or not it shines on us and sets every evening to render us in the darkness only to rise again. We rise everyday whether or not we are in the best of spirits and return to our homes even when the day’s work is yet to be completed. Only to awaken the next day and continue. Is this what life boils down to? Work to pay the bills, work to survive?

In an odd way, there is a sense of beauty to this cycle. A terrifying beauty.

But not beautiful enough to make me feel content. This stagnancy does not sit well with me. It makes me twitchy. It makes me antsy. It makes me want to look for more. To explore more. To discover more.

On days like this, I am not satisfied with my life. I must continue my journey forever striving for more. For better. For change.

How Not To Raise Children

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It is no secret that my 8 siblings and I grew up in an abusive household. My childhood is one of the reasons I never want to have children of my own. However, I still do put a lot of thought into what I would do if I did raise a family. I do watch families closely to see what is working and what isn’t. My career is one where I must interact with children on a daily basis.

Through these varied experiences, I’ve developed some points that I believe are non-negotiable. A lot of my insight is based on my childhood (being the 3rd oldest of 9) and the repercussions of the way we were raised that I continue to see affecting myself, my siblings and the relationships we have now as adults.

1. I will not allow my children to tell on one another. Nor will I ever reward tattle-tailing. This causes a rift between the siblings that will carry on to their adulthood. Ratting out one another encourages disloyalty and distrust. These are not building blocks to a strong, loyal and dependable relationship.

2. I will not discipline my children via text, email or any indirect methods. We live in an increasingly disconnected world. Of course, I’ll communicate with them via text, snapchat and whatever new app is the next big thing, but I will not allow my disciplining and any resulting discussions or arguments to take place anywhere but when we are face to face.

3. I will not focus on punishments, but instead I will focus on good intentions. Growing up, we lived in fear of being beat, of being told on and, more often than not, the good we did went unrewarded. Or if it was rewarded it was at the expense of putting down a sibling. We learn from our mistakes and I believe children should analyze their mistakes to find the lesson hidden within it. Turn the mistakes into learning moments and a point of progress instead of as another reason to punish.

4. I will not have the “I’m the parent, you’re the child” relationship. That only leads to mistrust and disconnect. I will be open. I will invite a level of understanding and I will always explain myself to my children. There is no place for “because I said so” or “because I’m your mom” in my family.

5. I will not shelter my children. I didn’t know the exact mechanisms of sex until I was 17 and a friend of mine from across the world was the one to break it down to me. I believe adults need to stop treating their children as though they’re better off not knowing what’s what until it’s too late to reach them. The first people a child should hear the realities of life from are their parents. Not their friends, not the TV and definitely not the Internet.

6. I will not put them down. I will not criticize my child for something they have no control over, such as their height or cognitive abilities. I will not obsess over what is wrong with them or how they should be. Instead, I will always try push them to be better versions of themselves, by (you guessed it!) always striving to be a better version of myself. When I says “versions” I am taking into account the abilities and capabilities of each child as an individual.

7. I will not force them to see things the way I see them. I will value their views even when they are different than my own. I want my children to grow up in a household where their individuality, opinions and beliefs are welcome. I grew up in a family that didn’t value any of these things and the result is a painful battle of esteem and confidence issues that I am still fighting. Obviously, I will be there to guide and mentor them, but it isn’t my job to force my views on them. I want my home to be an environment where my children feel free to communicate their thoughts and opinions without fear of judgment or disapproval.

8. Ownership will not exist in our home. This is not my house, this is our home. This is not my candy bar, it is ours to share. We never shared as siblings and had this extreme sense of owning what we had even if it was a Barbie doll or a small bag of chips. This mindset has no place in my life. Yes, we have responsibilities, but we also have each other to help and share with.

9. I will not beat my children. Don’t give me your shit about how physical punishment works. I was beat as a form of punishment for almost every mistake I made. It got to the point where I’d rather be beat than hear a lecture, because it was over faster. Just like the lecturing, the beating did nothing to make me feel bad for what I’d done. It made me more in contempt of my parents. And guess what, I was hurt most when I realized I’d disappointed my mother and she did nothing but make her disappointment known, than when I was lectured for an hour and beat.

10. I will not lecture my children. This kind of piggy backs off of #9. As a teacher, I’ve been told not to “lecture” because children don’t learn that way. They tap out pretty quickly. And I got so used to “tapping out”. I became such a pro at it that when I took an Arabic course in university, I struggled to “tap in” to the lectures because the man had a similar voice to my father and he would just talk and talk for the duration of the class. What does this have to do with that? As a teenager, I figured out how to deal with my father. I would let him rattle on about what I was doing wrong and would just nod from time to time. During his lecturing, my mind wandered on to better things, like what I was going to blog about, or what I was reading or a number of other nerd related things. Of all the things I did while he lectured, listening to him was something I did not do. I also realized that if I acted like I agreed with him I had less of a chance of being physically punished. This doesn’t mean I won’t have long discussions with my children. Of course, I would. But these will be discussions that foster communication and understanding. They will understand why they are being punished. They will understand why I’m disappointed. They will not be physically harmed or lectured at.

Many may disagree with my views, but I know that I lived through each and every one of the rules I’ve set for myself and they did not work for me or my sisters and brother. I’ve also watched my friends raise their children. I began to formulate my opinions and views through what I’ve experienced as well as what I’ve observed. I’m not sorry for my views and don’t tell me “You’ll change your mind when you have kids” if you even think that then I feel bad for your children.

A Letter To My Mom & I Hope She Doesn’t Read It.

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A Letter To My Mom & I Hope She Doesn’t Read It.

My mother asked me a question recently that I conveniently ignored. However, it’s been weighing on my mind for quite some days now.

She asked me why my sisters are straying from our beliefs and faith so much. She asked it as if she had no idea where she went wrong. In my mind, I wanted to shake her and my father as well. Yet, I had no idea how to answer her.

The conservative in me still cringes when I see my sisters’ Instagram posts. Pictures of them in various states of undress- yet no more undressed than your average American. Just in a state that my religion (or those who follow it) would balk at and have a hissy fit. But I couldn’t blame them. They were free to finally make up their mind. To do things their own way. To follow what they chose. Yet, a part of me still cringed at the images and I didn’t know why. I wasn’t any better than them. I wasn’t more religious or conservative.

Then it came to me. In my mind I whispered to her, Do you not see? You and father crushed us. You oppressed us. You took away our sense of individuality. You made us feel shabby and ugly. You made us wish we were like “normal” American families because they had simple freedoms- like the right to formulate their own opinions, like the permission to wear makeup. Don’t you see? You pulled the rubber band so far back that the only path it had was to the ultimate extreme opposite of what you were trying to teach us.

As I spoke, I became more confident in what I was saying, as if the lightbulb of my brain went Aha! I continued with a steadier, stronger voice, We weren’t being taught humility as you thought- we were being taught conformity. We weren’t being taught pride in our faith, we were being taught contempt of others. We weren’t being taught love, we were being taught fear. How else do you expect us to respond when your punishment for not memorizing a passage from the holy book was to threaten taking away our education and marrying us off young (and though you’d never have done that we still believed it)? Isn’t our religion one that preaches balance and peace? Why did we turn our noses up at people who were “less religious” than us, then? Why did we not have balance in our views and our lives? Everything was haram, or forbidden. Everything fun and happy. Even when it really wasn’t. We still turned our noses up and condemned those acts as “weak”. Secretly, I envied them; I wished I could go to the movies with my friends and wear a little bit of makeup and trim back my eyebrows. Yes, these may seem petty and insignificant, but when you live everyday in fear that your mother will tell your father and then you’d get beat, it means a lot. These are just some of the reasons why we have turned out the way we have. It’s time to just accept it and keep us in your prayers.

Though I do not have the heart to tell her this face to face, I know she’ll read it here even though I wish she wouldn’t. I know it wasn’t all on her. She tried. She thought she was doing right. But she still bears part of the responsibility in how we turned out. Yes, my father prophecied, almost every day, that we will become infidels and follow satan. And to a child, hearing that daily, well obviously will negatively affect a child’s psyche. No one ever reassured us and said, “You are wonderful, God would be so proud of you.” The damage is done.

Fin.