Tag: religion

Freedom – Autonomy – Independence

Lifestyle Blog July 11, 2018

This past week was a week from heaven. I know life is never perfect, but that entire week was just a series of moments I will cherish and hold close.

Canada Day weekend we drove out to Gros Morne National Park in western Newfoundland and met up with several of my friends. We hiked lots, ate a lot of junk food, explored the tiny towns and ate at some of the cutest restaurants. Every night, we slept like rocks because our eyes and bellies were saturated with so much goodness. It was nothing short of wonderful, until the very last evening when I received a very hurtful text. I cried, went to bed early, mauled it over in my head and wondered if I should continue to tolerate the verbal abuse I’ve been receiving for the last two years. It dawned on me that regardless of my intentions and I seem to always hurt people as I try to live my life with complete sincerity and honesty and to the fullest possible extent. It was just ironic.

 

When I was in grade 10, I wore hand-me-downs, had bushy eyebrows, a hint of a mustache, hijab and no friends. I blamed the cultural restrictions imposed on me had me trapped in an external body that I did not identify with. They wouldn’t let me be who I wanted to be. In a Civics and Careers class where we were asked to fill out one of those quizzes about what we valued most in our lives, most people got 1. Family, 2. Friends, 3. Careers. My scores were very different, I got: 1. Freedom, 2. Autonomy and 3. Independence! It was very telling of what I desperately wanted then and very true of what I value greatly now.

Those three things became the defining values that I strived for but they came with surprising virtues and life lessons.

The desire to live with complete freedom gave me the chance to set my own boundaries and my own rules. I learned the difference between being obedient to others versus being conscientious of life and decisions. My love for complete anonymity hit me in the face when I moved to Goose Bay, where everyone always knew everything about everyone. It taught me to check my internal compass whenever I did something that made me question if I would regret it later. I became completely honest with myself about my intentions and actions. My obsession for independence taught me my most treasured lesson in life, which was to ask for help when I needed it. I didn’t want others to control me but I learned that asking for help means you can also get many options and you can take the direction that accounts for a variety of solutions for different outcomes.

My relationship with myself has improved as a result of facing challenges on my own. I’ve learned to forgive myself for my shortcomings and to stop dwelling on the past and to instead to try and work toward a better future one tiny step at a time. I have so much more to learn and experience and I’m excited to see what the future holds.

Last week was the first time in a VERY long time I felt absolute bliss. We took an entire week off, made a massive spread every morning, packed our bags for the park and read our books in a hammock. Every evening we made supper and on the weekend we got together with friends. I couldn’t believe how I felt. The defining moment was when I brought out my praying rug and the abaya my mother made me for when I prayed and showed Ty how I pray. I was so happy that I felt so proud of my religious identity. It almost shocked me.

No matter what has happened in the last few years of my life that made me question everything, now is the first time in the entirety of it that I don’t feel ashamed of who I am. I own every part of my story and live and breath it because it’s where my strength and drive comes from.

Freedom – Autonomy – Independence

Invisible Rules for Women

Lifestyle Blog June 18, 2018

Something I often struggled with as a teen and then as an adult in an Afghan community was this massive fear of judgement and public scrutiny. As a result, I sensed that most people lived two lives. The first being the one they projected outwardly to the world and the person they wanted to be perceived as and then in a small way the person they actually wanted to be but lived internally or shared with a small group of people. This double life seemed to be more real for women and less so for men, men could get away with so much more and women often had to live up to standards and ideals that were practiced in Afghanistan but were still expected to maintain a certain level of modernity in their lives. It was an expectation that was placed arbitrarily and monitored closely. There was always talk of so and so’s daughter who strayed from the path and “ruined her life.” Public humiliation was the ultimate fear and the biggest deterrent that prevented women from being free agents. They were the ones burdened with the weight of the families honor at the cost of their own freedoms and choices.

Up until the time that I moved away, and began living in other parts of the country and in communities that were not Muslim, I began to see this pattern re-emerge in different ways. Living a life in fear of what others may think replayed itself in both Goose Bay, Labrador and then even surprisingly in St. John’s. As interconnectedness increased and community size decreased, there was a jump in the amount of fear that existed in being judged. The invisible rules reappeared and the gender roles I was exposed to as a child seemed to be alive and thriving in Labrador. Women had to live up to expectations that men seemingly could pass on voluntarily, albeit to a lesser extent than among Afghan/Muslim men who basically have a free pass on almost all things.

The most intriguing part of this experience was that I began to shape my behavior to meet the social expectations that were again imposed on women. Afraid of being judged for going out too much or being categorized in a negative light. What stopped me from going down another rabbit hole, was seeing mirrors of myself in older women. The fears they had and the judgement they internalized as a result of socially imposed rules that only applied to women. Like my friend who was in her 50’s, who felt the need to hide her bottle of wine when her mother came by. I doubt for a second that any man would have felt similar pressures to hide something as trivial as a bottle of wine. Instead, they men merely laugh off the idiocy of religious restrictions and bend and shape ‘rules’ whenever it suits them.

When I questioned these confinements, I was often told it was just the way things were. Just as I was told when I was at home. I can almost hear members of my family saying, “but you’re a Muslim and Muslims can’t do this or that.. what will people think?” It comes from a place of concern but it also ensures that we maintain a cultural order that is based on control. Gossip and rumors are the checks and balances of our societies and we ensure that we punish those who haven’t followed the moral order that we all somehow signed on to. The worst part about it, is men don’t do it to each other. Women do it to women and then men do it to women. We all have called a girl a bitch, and we all know plenty of guys who’ve called other women bitches.

It requires deliberate effort to recognize that these behaviors are in our control. That they manifest themselves because we have allowed them to and because they speak to insecurities and deeply unsettling belief systems that we forget we don’t have to adhere to. Our daily lives should not simply be a reflection of centuries worth of disturbing gender norms but rather a keen awareness of our troubled existence as a race and an effort to move in a direction of self-love and acceptance of others. I don’t want it to be a distant future that we imagine will be brighter and better, because starting this moment we can all choose not to hate on our fellow female friends.