A few weeks ago, I felt an ultimate low. Just imagine your heart dragging across the floor with the weight of helplessness and the stain of despair trailing behind it. I remember standing in prayer, at work, completely out of focus and shocked at the tears seeping out of my eyes. What is this broken-ness? A few days before that I was angry. I felt voiceless- a rare and almost disappointing feeling for this once rather politically vocal human.
The political madness ensuing, paired with the absolute inundation of the inspiring but also intimidating activist culture saturating social media, left me feeling rather suffocated and in silence. Read: I have no idea what everyone is referring to, does that make me less informed and therefore inadequate as a fellow Muslim in this narrative?
I kept mulling over why I felt so subdued, a passiveness that felt absolutely toxic, and my conclusion was simple: in the cyber world of know-it-alls, there was no room for me and my confused self; or at least that is how it felt to me.
It reminded me of a different time in my life when I first began to consciously practice Islam. I didn’t have the whole practicing thing down, but being that I was born into a Muslim family, it was assumed by many friends that I had all the basics down. A few comments here and there confirming my insecurities and it became very difficult for me to find a space to just admit my ignorance and learn. I found myself starting to drift down the path of stagnancy and lack of growth because it was much easier for me to pretend like I had it all together than to just ask for help. Asking for help meant risk, outing my ignorance, being ostracized; all things that can hurt in an ego driven world. Religion is a big deal and very personal, much like politics.
Eventually I realized the self-harm I was engaging in and slowly the courage to be true to myself was born: a transformational journey in and of itself.
Along the way, I realized that I am not alone in this sentiment. And admitting it usually led to others letting down their guard as well. A beautiful thing, to find strength in being vulnerable, to find camaraderie in very human imperfections. Sometimes we are so focused on seeming like we have it all together, that we miss opportunities to truly understand, connect and get it together.
I just wish I saw as many voices on various social media platforms sharing their UNawareness. This culture of instant regurgitation of any opinion, political view, emotion, etc. is but a shallow footing on all things world view. Once you step into that hamster wheel, it is really hard to get off.
It is not an easy task to create safe spaces, but it is necessary. Our community needs more room to be curious and without an opinion; where healthy discussions can take place, informed opinions can be developed and community can be built. Foundational is the space where one can be completely lacking in knowledge and be unintimidated to say so. Community is embracing that curiosity and rewarding it with friendship and a space to learn.
A few weeks ago, I felt sad and angry because I felt lost and alone. I was flooded with negative emotion and no outlet. I had fallen into the trap of cyber-community — the illusion of connection, where the majority of my exchanges with others on the political madness directly affecting my family and I was reflected with a thumbs up sign ironically, absolutely void of the human touch.
But something about the depth of sadness moved me to action. It is a slow process, but I am determined to create spaces within my immediate sphere of influence where people can share how they feel safely and free of judgement. I can’t be mad at others for not trying if I am not trying myself.
How do you create safe spaces in your community?