The past five days have been heavy. Worthwhile, meaningful – but weighty. I was away in the countryside – I guess I could call it that – visiting my 90-something year-old paternal grandpa and his decade-odd younger wife – I have… narratives, stories, and reflections about him and this visit but I think I need some time before I’m ready to write and share.
The bulk of these five days were also spent trying to adjust to my newly-covered head. I admit it: now that cat’s out of the bag, finally, after an entire year of mulling over this in private – away from virtual world – and to my closest confidants, I’m glad I’m finally executing the ‘do’ part of ‘doing‘ because my god, for a second there I worried over being all-talk-no-show.
But. In all seriousness – I don’t actually know if I’m doing ‘the right thing‘, so to speak. I think of this as a transition though and I like that word; I like what it carries. In just ten letters, one-word, it’s telling everyone on my behalf that I am a work in progress – I am not ‘there’ where I hope and intend to be but I’ve begun my first steps; I’m damn right walking that path.
I like the sound of this. I like it a lot.
Because I’ll be honest: 24 hours after making this move, I struggled a lot, internally, with my decision.
On Saturday specifically, I spent practically the whole day feeling morbid, angry, annoyed and just… regretful. “What the hell did I just decide?” Over and over, my mind kept asking that single question. For two nights in a row, I had nightmares about headscarves – the first dream had me on the verge of being strangled and the second had to do with a basketful of scarves and there I was standing in front of it, dumbfounded. Though both dreams were blurry, they were vivid in parts – enough for me to wake up feeling disoriented and fretful but above all: tasked with serious, straightforward questions.
One: Why am I – again – choosing to do this?
Two: What do I actually feel about this?
Three: What are the sources of my annoyance and anger that’s causing this frustration?
Despite my limited internet connection, I desperately and furiously typed away to Eldest Sis and Cousin Sis. “I’m not feeling this,” I wrote. “I’ll be frank: I’m actually indifferent about the scarf. Because when I wasn’t wearing it, I don’t actually feel like I was a bad person – I’ve never felt like I am a lesser Muslim because I wasn’t fully covered up. But I understand where I’m trying to head towards by opting to put this on. I understand what I’m trying to accomplish …but anyone who said it’s effortless? Bullshit. It’s anything but. I don’t know how other Muslim women do it, honest-to-God. Respect.”
They were forgiving and just – really, really nice. “You don’t have to wear it if you feel you’re still not ready. It’s okay to retract your decision and wait it out like before…” Both of them replied – surprisingly in tandem though in separate threads. “But I feel like I’ll never be ready!” I pounced back, still furious. “Because I don’t really feel much for it – I think I’m okay as a person and Muslim woman without it, as it is, you know? If I don’t do this now, I feel like I’ll never want to anymore.”
(Inside voice: “You’re not supposed to quit at the first signs of struggle!”)
Both, hilariously, decided to try a different strategy with me. Ever-patient and kind, Cousin Sis went, “Actually, I don’t think so. You’re already halfway there; you’ve been showing interest and desire. We’ve spoken and discussed this at length. You’re invested but you just need some time to gel and groove with this change. You’re halfway there.” On the other hand, Eldest Sis asked, “What is it that’s making you angry and resistant? Trace the roots and source of this anger – what is it?”
So I looked deep – hard, down, inside. Then I laughed.
“I can’t stand my stray hairs that keep coming out and showing themselves. Like ohmigosh hair, enough already!”
When I woke up the next day, I thought to myself, “I guess I am keeping it on for another day.” And so it’s been five days now and I’m still very much – very, very much – trying to get used to this new normal. Looking back, I think what transpired on Saturday was necessary – because the internal struggle and resistance that I felt forced me to probe deep to ask honest, serious questions and likewise, dig even deeper and be even more painfully honest about the answers.
Today, I posted a new profile photo on my Facebook – which, like I’d said before, is another cyberspace where I exist and actively participate without the veil and safety net of anonymity. I put up a behind story, so to speak, so friends and family would know that no, I’m not all cool and automatically holier-than-thou what-have-yous about this …but I’m sincere and serious about this. I’m nowhere near ‘there’ yet, but I’m damn well going to stay on the path and walk through it.
In other words: the headscarf is staying on.
“I’ll be honest and say that whoever said this sort of change is effortless needs to chow down their words – it’s anything but. Anyone who also claims that “once you’re ready, it’ll all fall into place” should also sock it because …nope. It’s effort and thought and lots of consideration, at least on my part, but it’s also transition and again, on my part – a sign of progress.”
Not gonna lie, thus far it’s a true learning curve that includes day-to-day internal question-and-answer session of “What do I feel about this?” mental exercise. (Inside voice: “You’re not supposed to quit at the first signs of struggle!”) But I’m also feeling a kind of buzz simmering from inside; the kind that appears whenever I find myself doubted and thus adamant to prove otherwise. It’s like all my misaligned bones are correcting themselves, excited that I’m put into the fire, finally genuinely challenged, because if it’s one trait that I take after my mother – it’s adaptability. Hey, life – challenge? Accepted.
Let’s do this – let’s redefine ‘normal.’ Game on.