I’m trying to find myself.
Cliched, I know. But bear with me.
Here is the breakdown: Over the past 1 1/2 years, I’ve had to rebuild from a leaving a global marriage where I raised five step-kids and my son with a husband who lived abroad. I didn’t work (how could I, the only adult in the house?). I wrote some books. I made friends with some reality TV personalities. I hunted ghosts. Once I left a marriage where the husband provided everything, I had to find a job after being out of the workforce for twelve years.
Oh my God. I was so scared.
After I left my marriage, I feel in love with a man who no longer talks to me. That kind of stuff happens when you are transitioning. You search for something to hold on to, and I found it in someone who was the first I’ve ever met to “get me.” His platonic presence in my life showed me the depth of my ability to love, and I am grateful for this.
On top of that, I had to face decades old insecurities about being overweight, not being able to provide for myself, eradicating internal scripts that told me that I sucked.
I’ve had a hard eighteen months. Bear with me.
A few wonderful Muslim women recently pointed out that my struggles are not so different from other educated Muslim women. Someone I know had a similar “relationship” with a man that she connected with who told her that he could only be friends. Another Muslim woman shared her experiences about being smart, successful and geeky, and how that places a barrier between her and marriage. I am not successful — my first job post-divorce is a blessing but one that keeps me living from paycheck to paycheck, but I am smart, and I know what it is like to have men look at you funny because you use big words.
Not once did I think these things were “Muslim girl” problems. I thought they were insecure white-girl issues. (Look up “insecure white girl” and my picture is there. I am the poster child.) I thought the problem was my own weird existence. But how I can think I am like other American women? I’ve been Muslim half of my life. I’ve lived and traveled all over the Muslim world. I raised step-kids; six children if you count the one I had with my ex.
Why do I think that I’m like normal white American women? Hell, no.
There was this moment a few days ago that I realized my solutions aren’t the normal solutions. Maybe my paycheck is small. Maybe I don’t yet understand my professional value. Maybe I like hanging with poor artists and queer kids at living museums. Maybe I love men I shouldn’t love. Maybe I don’t honor the magnitude of my personal story. But one thing I do know is that I am not your average white girl, and whatever solutions you have when it comes to me finding love (“Just go online, you’ll find someone there!”) aren’t going to work.
I am a complicated, smart Muslim woman. Apparently, I am in good company. There are smart, beautiful, artistic, complicated Muslim women all over the world struggling with the same issues that I do.
We are women of faith, and we live in a way that bends the stereotype. We bow down in prayer when we can, but maybe not in the way that appeases everyone. Don’t question our belief. We believe fervently and without reserve. We submit the best way we know how, which is often with insecure, yet sincere effort. We ask Allah (swt) why things aren’t easier for women like us, and we mean no disrespect when we tell Allah (swt) that we think the current status of things sucks. If anything, we resent others telling us that we aren’t good enough for God.
You know what we want? We want someone to see us, to acknowledge how wonderfully powerful we are and to say “I love you just like this.” We want someone to bear witness to our life and say “You are magnificent, just like this.” We want to love our partners with every ounce of our being, to hold them tight, and say, “I love you like Khadija loved Muhammad (pbuh).” We want our orgasms without guilt, our intellectualism to be revered, and our lovers to look at us and be moved by so much love that the only words they can say are “Mashallah, Subhaan Allah, Alhumdulillah.” We want them to mean it. And if we marry a non-Muslim — because some of us will — we want the experience of Us to bend the curvature of his/her earth.
We want to be seen. We want to be loved. We want to be powerful in this experience.
I am a Muslim woman. I am searching for myself. This is my jihad. I am not alone.