Advice for someone like me

I was recently asked what advice I would provide for younger women who are like me. Dissecting “women like me” could be turned in an epic graph as I am made of many layers and levels – each with their own barriers to overcome. 

First generation British; eldest daughter – not son; born to two brown migrant parents; one of whom was an abusive predator; the other who was practically a single parent and stay-at-home mum; growing up on welfare; being a visibly Muslim women of colour. 

When it comes to giving advice, I thought about the feedback I received throughout my (short) career on things I can improve. And one thing that has come up time and time again is I don’t show what I’ve been doing. 

I am the type of person that will do what needs to be done, and I never understood the need to do a song and dance about literally doing your job. But I noticed how others around me would. And that meant I consistently looked like I was doing less, even when I wasn’t – and often I was doing more. What struck me also was speaking to people who would describe the work in such positive light – work that I would always consider to be average at best. 

The mix of being a women and expected to just overcome combined with humility being so ingrained into the cultures of many people of colour – we often do not even have the skills to describe or recognise our achievements. 

I realise we are our own worst critics. Not just about what we have done, but when it comes to believing we are capable of so much more. 

And so if I had to give advice to women like me – I would say to recognise this. Do not change your character but recognise that this particular characteristic may not necessarily translate well in interviews and applications, or the work environment. When people give you positive feedback, write it down if you have to. Internalise it. Learn to use it when required. 

You can have humility but also have faith in yourself. 

Ramadan diary: day 30

And here we are – the last day. So I failed to keep a daily diary. Very apt since I kind of failed doing Ramadan this year.

Yesterday I found myself having to literally convince myself to get up and pray. It was an internal battle between my body and soul – I could physically feel myself having to rip away at whatever was holding me down. And once I stood it was a battle to keep standing. And every time I completed a section I had to fight to stand back up.

And I am terrified. Terrified that I won’t be able to keep steadfast. My soul won last night but barely.

When I started this month I knew it would be hard. When you have stayed away from prayer and His words for so long of course there will be some resistance. But what I found was my heart yearned for it. There was nothing I wanted more than to feel tranquillity and complete submission. There was however an almost physical barrier holding me back. And even after all these days I have not been able to break through.

And I know exactly why. I don’t think I have read even a page of the Quran. I have slept more than I have ever slept before. And I have spent more time on my phone than I have ever before. I wish I could say I was being productive – but no. I have literally been hooked to “watch me draw” videos – and I can’t draw and have no intention of getting into it so I have reached new levels of procrastination.

I know what I want but have not worked for it. And we all know the path to change is not easy. Essentially my insides feel hard and cold. And even though I know exactly how to change it, I haven’t. It’s that barrier – some sort of resistance that I have not been able to succumb the strength to smash.

As I write this, once again I am reminded of the power of words. Writing provides a clarity that no amount of shower thinking can give. I know what I have to do. I am currently in the process of deep cleaning my room – preparing for Eid. So, I can play out loud the surahs I have memorised already and read along. A small little action but a win for me nonetheless.

I pray you have all had a productive Ramadan. And if you haven’t then don’t loose hope. It has just hit me that I should be focused on doing little things – crawl before I try to run. Ease my body into it. Chip away at the barrier rather than smashing it immediately. Perhaps this method will be more sustainable?

“He who comes with a good deed, its reward will be ten like that or even more. And he who comes with vice, his reward will be only one like that, or I can forgive him. He who draws close to Me a hand’s span, I will draw close to him an arm’s length. And whoever draws near Me an arm’s length, I will draw near him a fathom’s length. And whoever comes to Me walking, I will go to him running. And whoever faces Me with sins nearly as great as the earth, I will meet him with forgiveness nearly as great as that, provided he does not worship something with me.” (Muslim)

And of course Eid Mubarak. Hope you all have a day full of blessings, fatty foods and surrounded by family. I will be spending the day at my “aunt” (mum’s best friend)’s house where all the family and friends will come together. The day will typically involve me dressing to the high heavens just to sit around and eat all day. And of course taking a new picture to finally change my social media display pics.

selfie

Being visibly faithful: sabbath 

One of the members of our team is Jewish and he will be taking the afternoon off for sabbath.

As I spoke to him about sabbath, I realised I don’t actually know anything about Judaism. In school we concentrated on Christianity and Islam as our two R.S. topics. I have a two Jewish friends – both who are spiritual but not what they would call traditional Jewish. One is gay. And the second leads the pro-Palestinian BDS movement. (I would just like to point out here that I am not equating being Jewish with being pro-Israeli).

As I asked him about the sabbath he described the prayers which are followed by meals with the whole family.  The idea touched me as being so beautiful and grounding. I am very close to my family and though we spend hours chatting, our schedules mean we rarely eat together. And there’s something unique about eating together in the way it brings people together. It reminds me of Ramadan when we would all sit in a circle on the floor, sharing stories about our day, patiently waiting to break our fast. How lovely to be able to replicate that weekly.

He is visibly Jewish and I am visibly Muslim. Even though we never discussed it, I feel like a sense of solidarity with him. It must be hard to have to explain why you’re taking time off followed by the same questions again and again. I, too, am guilty of putting him through that. I respect him for his patience and the smile on his face as he explained – again. It’s nice to be around someone at work who’s faith is just as important to them as mine is to me.

On the Paris bombings: the terror

My heart is heavy mourning the 158 lives lost so far and the many more lives shattered. The families and friends, the communities, the businesses and livelihoods. I remember the 7/7 bombings here in London – the absolute shock that rippled through and tore away so much.

And I am terrified for my brothers and sisters living in France, and to be honest – the rest of Europe. Paris is already a difficult place to be visibily Muslim and I can only imagine how much worse it can get. When you had a man pushing a women dressed in hijab onto a moving tube a few days ago in London and none of the mainstream newspapers reporting it, it makes you wonder what else will happen now. And at a time with so many Muslim refugees stranded in the jungle, what will happen to them?

How has this become so common that after such a tragedy which should consume all my thoughts, I think of the terror that will come after it? Waves and waves of terror – children bullied, women attacked, people who will be unable to get jobs.

And once again I am terrified at the capacity of humans to hurt other humans. I do wonder if the mental health of the men were intact. And I pray it wasn’t. For to think someone with good mental health could plan and execute a massacre on innocent humans does not bare thinking about.

I pray you all stay safe and those affected will have their faith restored.  

Staying hopeful

me to myself when I’m procrastinating. Source

Ramadan is amazing. I could write pages on how blessed this month is and how it magically transforms our souls. But people have already done this and they’ve done it way better than I ever could. So this post is about me.

My heart feels void. Even after 10 days I do not have the Ramadan feeling that it so desperately earns for, that feeling I have basked in before and that feeling I hear people talk about now. My prayers feel empty, my mind distracted and my body reluctant.

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