There are many posts I've composed over the last few months. So much has happened in the world, and within my own little micro cosmos. I don't claim any political savviness, so I don't have much to share on Trump's presidency. Although, I will say: subhanallah! I don't think anyone ever thought it would come to this, but there are always silver linings. I think the silver lining here is that America is having the mask removed, and we are seeing the full prejudice, racism, fear, and arrogance at work in our government, culture, and general society. I think we'll be seeing things break down more and more. While it can be incredibly scary, its also bringing people together. Its reminding us that Allah will be testing us--and by us, I mean all Americans, but specifically, average Joe Muslim Americans who have basically been living a safe and somewhat comfortable life in America. I don't know whats in store for us, but I think EVERYONE is being shaken up, and hopefully, shaken AWAKE. My prayer is that we begin to re-prioritize our lives, our values, our time, and our faith. Fear can take hold if you let it, but so can FAITH. And faith fuels courage and strength even in the darkest of times. So I pray that Allah increases our faith one thousand fold, and that He, in His infinite wisdom and grace, show us how to behave as an ummah.
Other thoughts: anxiety! I was never super vocal about anxiety before, and that's because...well, its embarrassing. More than "oops, I just passed gas in public" embarrassing (I totally just went there!), its something that we try to deny, and feel downright ashamed of. And by we, I mean myself.
Anxiety is something I have secretly and not-so-secretly been struggling with for years. I had a bit as a child, b/c I was sensitive and was dealing with several transitions: as the daughter of an American and an Iranian, there's always been a cultural divide for me, though perhaps not every halfie went through this experience. Then there was the fact that I lived in a country that had gone through a Revolution, sanctions, and war. Those experiences live in the consciousness of society, and the fear, panic, struggles, and challenges they produced take generations to subside from the hearts and minds of the people. As a naturally sensitive person, I probably picked up a lot on the anxieties of others. I carried these with me but it was never problematic, until September 11th, 2001. All of the sudden, the Muslim world--MY Muslim world--was thrown into the lime light, and we were being portrayed as monstrous, blood-thirsty people, driven to destroy out of our own deep hatred for the West--> which could only mean our own deep-seated insecurity of Western values, because we are so inferior. I was never able to articulate that part of the equation before, but that must have been it.
The hypocrisy of the whole situation, and the distance from the truth--from where I stand and everything I have been taught about Islam, our beautiful Deen, really got to me. And I was sick with anxiety that year. Would half my family "back home" be attacked soon in war? Would I be forced to enlist in the army, or face jail? Would I have to flee this home to avoid being a part of this terrible warfare? These were the questions that plagued my mind that sophomore year of high school. But on a deeper level, I couldn't reconcile my identity as a Muslim American, b/c I just didn't feel like I belonged in this society: I didn't watch the same news, dress the same, eat the same foods, behave the same when it came to dating, partying, etc...Everyone was concerned with their grades and being popular, but my activities consisted of attending anti-war protests, finding the baggiest (men's) Adidas shirts (or any other long-sleeved loose shirts), and in general, resisting as much imperialistic, arrogant mindset and culture as I could in school. I just couldn't relate to my peers very much, and it took a yoga class to make me understand how much anxiety and tension I was holding in my body that year. Thank you, awesome yoga class!! (I did make a few cool, open-minded friends. But my conservative religious background prevented from socializing too much with them. Nice one, Baba.)
I'm going to skip a few years, b/c it seems like there were a lot of things that contributed to my sense of dis-ease. And a lot of was just finding myself, finding the balance of what I feel is appropriate for me, based on how I understand Allah's teachings. Like: do I shake hands or not? How tight, loose, long, short will my clothes be? How literally will I be taking different ayahs? How comfortable will I be with myself, and can I figure out who that girl is, separate from her parents and her masjid community?
So I'm fast forwarding to the time when this vulnerable yet strong and out-spoken, slightly tightly-would, and very much goofy girl got married and had her first baby. Suddenly, the immense responsibility of motherhood was on my shoulders and I started panicking about all kinds of things, from the pros and cons of vaccination, to the possibilities of illness and fever, to the slight chances of her getting lost or stolen or whatever. Prince Faramir and Lady Eowyn would rush into Princess Buttercup's room at the slightest little whimper, eager to ascertain whether or not she was breathing!
Now, these might be common new-mom fears. But let me tell you something: something happened those years. When I combined staying up late for grown-up time, and cutting myself off a little bit from community and from doing things for my own growth and pleasure, the results were not great.
Its taken a while to understand it but for the better part of these 5 years I have been living with a lot of anxiety. Fear would take hold of me in the night, and I would feel frozen and paralyzed by all the terrible what-ifs. My self-confidence seemed to depend on what others thought of me, and my appearance. These might seem benign, but folks, if you are living in fear, too afraid to try new things, and always flinching at the POTENTIAL of bad things...THAT IS NO LIFE! Its just not the way to live.
Motherhood will always present a set of challenges to women everywhere. And here I have been so blessed to have a relatively safe and comfortable life. But my anxiety cast a tremendous shadow over my blessings, and I couldn't enjoy my life with my daughter as much as I could have. So that is why I am sharing my personal journey here: if discussing this helps one mom life a better life and get help, then this is worth it.
How I got help
A close family friend cornered me one day and said: "you have too much anxiety, you need help!" I knew that I was always struggling, and feeling incredibly overwhelmed, but to have her articulate it so bluntly, well...that certainly was giant push. So here are some things I started to do:
--talk to a therapist
There is a lot of stigma associated with this, but a therapist just sits there, LISTENS to you, and points out some things that are obvious. They break down thought-patterns and provide insight. One super obvious thing I learned is that sleeping late every night just so I could unwind from my kids was making me feel like crap! (and it was probably giving me adrenal fatigue, no joke). That was part of the contributing factor to my anxiety: I knew that if someone were to get sick (hello, sudden midnight fever!) I would not be my strongest. Solution: get your booty in bed earlier!!!
--check your physical health
thyroid? Vitamin D levels? iron? magnesium and calcium? Vitamin B complex? Get all those checked out. Low Vitamin D can make you feel incredibly tired, which means you have no energy for your kids the next day, which mean DISASTER! Check out FLO Living by Alissa Vitti for fabulous hormonal health pointers EVERY WOMAN should know! She has great free resources, from phone conference seminars to email newsletters.
--empowering talks and resources
Another great close family friend lent me Kirk Martin's Calm University talk on CD and it has been life-changing to hear certain things, and to realize how I think and relate to others. For instance, thinking its MY responsibility to make others happy. ITS NOT! Whew! What a relief! Its only my responsibility to behave the way Allah instructed me through the teachings of Rasul-Allah. But I am not responsible beyond that. This is NOT an easy pill to swallow, b/c most if us just want to be admired and accepted by everyone--but alhamdulellah, I have been working to accept that not everyone will like or admire me, and that is OK. I am only seeking Allah's rezaayat, inshallah.
-get enough rest
-find things that nourish you
-draw lines around toxic people and situations, choose friends wisely
-give thanks for Allah's blessings, and CHOOSE TO SEE THEM instead of hardships/ dislikes
(literally, make dhikr to give thanks)
Its taking time. But inshallah I think I see a difference in myself from one year ago, and that is an incredible thing. I am still sensitive and vulnerable at times. But now I give myself permission to express myself as I am--goofy and quirky--without wondering so much what others will think of me. Its been humbling to know how much my flaws are visible, and how I might be viewed by others with all my countless mistakes and foot-in-mouth situations, but its also empowering to know that IT DOESN'T MATTER, not in the way I thought before.
Sometimes, my stomach still tenses up when I think of whats going on around me, whether it is personal, like a confrontation with someone in the community, or whether its more macro, like the new administration's ban on people from Muslim countries INCLUDING MY DAD'S!!! One year ago, I'm not sure how I would be handling all this. But alhamdulellah, this year, Allah has equipped me with sine internal strength to help me, and I thank Him for that!!! I leave you with this: