Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Anonymous AnonyMouse

It's been a long time since I've blogged, whether in this long-neglected first cyber home of mine, or at my previous (pseudo)professional position at I've missed it, writing for an audience, although I wonder if it's vain of me to feel my writing validated only if witnessed by others. My husband asked me once, if I needed an audience to write, and then reminded me that the pious predecessors in Islamic history preferred to remain completely unknown if possible. The right answer, I suppose, is that no, one should not need an audience in order to write; my own honest answer, meek and somewhat ashamed, is that yes, I DO need an audience for my writing. It makes me feel like I matter. Is that presumptuous of me? Arrogant? Insincere? Insecure? Hmmmmmm.


What happens to a Muslim in the West if s/he leaves the West? That's the question I find myself pondering as I twiddle my thumbs in my domestic abode in Cairo, Egypt, feeling completely at odds with myself. My entire life has been structured around being a Muslim in Western society; creating my identity and fighting for it, striving to serve a specific community with all its religious, social, cultural, political issues. Now that I'm in a completely different environment, playing a completely different role - domestic, not activist - I am at a loss as to what my identity is now.

Is that a sign that Muslims in the West are way too obsessed with identity issues? That we're so busy struggling to define ourselves that once the issues we fight about constantly are removed, we suddenly feel a gaping emptiness at the lack of conflict? Hmmmmmmmmm, again.

Perhaps it points to the need for us to stop thinking about ourselves in terms of WHERE we are, and to start thinking more about the very basic WHO we are. Maybe we need to stop thinking of ourselves as Muslims in the West, and simply as... Muslims. Strip away all our over-inflated psycho-socio-political conflicts to reveal the primal, basic spiritual vulnerability we should really be dealing with.

Nikaah-ed at 17, Waleemah-ed at 18, and now pregnant at 19, these last few years have been quite eventful, to say the least. I learned a lot about the world... and during these last 10 months, even more about Life As It Really Is (and not just Life As It Appeared In My Overactive Teenage Mind).

I've learned that while I used to mock those who idealized marriage, spouses, and life in general, I was the bigger fool by being both naive and idealistic about all those things and worse, about myself - and the whole time thinking I was realistic, world-wise, and disillusioned by fairytales!

I constructed a persona for myself, building upon the foundation of "Sheikh's daughter" and expanding outwards. In some ways I took advantage of that foundation, in other ways I rebelled against it, but I admit that I almost always used it as my base. It's been both an amazing advantage as well as, I realize now, a hindrance to my own personal development.

While I'll always be my father's daughter, I am no longer known as my father's daughter. And that makes all the difference - to me, at least. It shouldn't be that way, I know. I'm not supposed to depend upon my parentage for any advantages, or as the basis of my identity, or as the motivation for my life choices. But I'm so used to thinking of myself in those ways, and of assuming that others see myself that way too, that it was (and still is) a shock to my system to find myself in a place and amongst people where my family, myself, and my 'history' are completely unknown. Nobody knows and nobody cares about who I used to be; now I am on my own and have to construct a new identity entirely.

In the beginning, for the first many months of marriage and the move overseas, I was absolutely devastated by the loss of my old identity. Not being involved in community work as I've always known it, not being able to observe and interfere, made me feel invisible and as though I didn't matter. I still feel that way, in many ways, although technically I know that thinking that way is ridiculous and that I simply have to forge a new path in my life - that I don't have to give up my dreams and ambitions, just adjust them to my current situation and take advantage of what's available.

One of the harshest lessons I've learned so far is just how quickly one's faults can be revealed. Even if I believed in the character I imagined myself as, which other people saw and admired, which I took pride in... well, I learned how much I'd overestimated myself and my so-called maturity, and shocked myself at how quickly I regressed into childishness. I know far less than I thought I did; I have much less wisdom than I presumed; I am still, it appears, very much an adolescent in my thinking (the irony of having written an article denouncing adolescence does not escape me).

Alas, though I wake every day vowing to get a grip on myself and work on putting together a new facet of identity (ah, that identity obsession again - I do think it's inescapable), on getting those life lessons through my skull and applying them to my daily life, I continue to slip backwards and allow homesickness, sullen resentment, and sheer laziness to prevent me from achieving my potential. Even spousal encouragement, punctuated with meaningful insinuations that I won't be able to achieve my dreams if I don't actually GET STARTED, haven't been able to prod me into action yet.

For now, I remain an anonymous AnonyMouse, complacently nibbling on cheese and avoiding acknowledging the fact that one of these days, I'm going to have to deal with the fact that the scenery outside my mousehole is different and that I need to stop being such a lazy rodent.

Please forgive the ramblings of someone who wrote this merely as a therapeutic exercise and in the hopes of curing a dreadful case of insomnia and writer's block :)


illuminatingfaith said...

Assalamu alaikum sista,
I'm listening ;) Very interesting observations about life, subhanAllah...I will have to think about them for a while.
It's good to know your writing will continue! I look forward to it :-)

sapphirical said...

You are not presumptuous, arrogant, insincere or insecure but beautifully and eloquently honest - a trait most lack. Good Luck. :)

kanadiyah said...

I enjoyed reading this post and btw an overdue ALF ALF MABRUK~!! May Allah bless you with a smooth pregnancy, delivery, and cute happy healthy pious children :)

Anonymous said...

whoa i cant believe you are pregnant so soon. what about your studies? i thought you had very high ambitions? are you planning to graduate? just asking, dont take offense.

AnonyMouse said...

@ Kanadiyah
JazaakiAllahu khair, and ameen to the du'as :)
AlHamdulillaah I gave birth to a baby girl, named Khadijah... she's now a month and a half old.

@ Anonymous
Yes, well, life happens! And yes, studies are still high up on my list of priorities... I've already graudated from high school, have taken a few Arabic language courses and more to come, insha'Allah. My ambitions remain sky-high!

Anonymous said...

Will you update us soon? It's been so long.

Anonymous said...

Who said being a righteius mother is not an ambition?!

Akkah musta'aan

F.Kathrada said...

Ahhh, yes. I always wondered when you'd ease back into blogging. Seems like I picked up that trait, too.

Opulence. I has it. said...

You know what honey? I'd give a lot for what you have going right now. That's just the way it is. None of us are EVER completely happy with where we are... And that's not a bad thing. It's what gets us going! Love you sister, and congratulations on your beautiful baby girl!

welcome to islam said...


Mabruk on the birth of yr baby girl May she be an inspiration and coolness to the parents eyes InshaAllah.

loving yr great blog,keep writing, true it is a thereaupactic experience, and true what the pious predessors said about remaining anonymous before an audience yes, its best to remain anonymous for the greater benefit of my community:)during boring days jumping on my laptop and share with the world whatever in my mind lol:)

take care massalama

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the writing exercise, it was therapeutic to read something so well-written. I haven't enjoyed reading language flow with life and without cliche in so very long a time.

Arif said...

Same sentiments shared. I find myself regularly wishing I could write somewhere completely anonymously and then build up a different audience that has no relationship with the current one. I've tried it before and it's definitely very fun being the vigilante but then I realize that my writing is as much the expression of thoughts as it is influencing others for the better. That kept me going in the public domain.

Mabrook on the marriage and child. I hope my own disdain of adolescence is justified in the future as well :)