My Unplanned Sabbatical Year

2016 turned out to be, what I now call, my unplanned sabbatical year. A year that was by far one of my best years yet.

After relocating to Cape Town from Johannesburg at the end of 2015, I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to do with my life. The two things that I did know was, 1) I do not want to get back into the corporate world and 2) I want to be a housewife (very ambitious, I know). The housewifery wasn’t my long-term plan, but I figured what better way to start the new year in a new city.

So how did I spend my year?

Doing the things that I love.

The Kitchen
The one room in my home that makes me completely happy. I’ve spent day in and day out cooking up a storm and experimenting with new tastes and flavours. I must admit that it didn’t always work out, but at least I’ve tried it by putting it through the test. Over the years, I’ve developed a love for cooking and it to be the most therapeutic “chore”.

Spiritual Enhancement
2017-02-17_12-45-52For many people spirituality does not coexist with religion. I consider myself to be quite fortunate as I was able to explore my spirituality through religion. Last year, I’ve experienced the best Ramadaan ever. Even though we were nowhere close to family, the whole experience was moving. I looked forward mostly to Taraweeh (special evening prayers are conducted in Ramadaan, during which long portions of the Qur’aan are recited) and I longed for it most when Ramadaan bade farewell. The highlight for me however, was a ladies programme I attended, where I was in an audience of 4000 women! Let’s just say that once I’ve left the veils from my eyes were lifted!

Me, Myself and I
When you’ve been married for as long as I have been, you never really have reason to do things alone. Besides, I was never really comfortable with it anyway. With Mr. M at work, I didn’t have a choice but to do things alone. There was no one around to grab a coffee with or take up yoga classes. I’ve learnt to enjoy my own company. When I had weekends to myself, I would meander through markets by myself, as if it was the most normal thing for me to do.

Stop, Drop and Yoga
I’ve always had a keen interest in yoga practice. I’ve just never had the time to take it seriously. I’ve started under a yogi while in Johannesburg, but the enthusiasm soon fizzled out.

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With all the time I had on my hands, I decided to take up classes, which I’m pleased to say is still part of my life. In the beginning, yoga was just about the poses and trying to fold myself into pretzels. Until I realised that the goal is to create space where you were once stuck. To unveil the layers of protection you’ve built around your heart. To appreciate your body and become aware of the mind and the noise it creates. To make peace with who you are. But mostly, it was about going to my mat and feeling, not accomplishing.

A Book or Three
My deep love for books stems from when I was a child. The first book I’ve ever owned was “The Gingerbread Man”, which was gifted to me at my pre-school graduation. My favourite book would have to be the children’s classic “Heidi” by Johanna Spyri. I still sometimes dream about living in the Swiss Alps.
I’ve spent so much time reading last year, that at one point, I felt like the characters in my books were my friends. I’ve made a little reading nook in my bedroom, and winter afternoons became my most treasured moments when I was lost in a book.

Take me to Nature
There is a wealth of natural wonders to see and experience in this city. From hiking up mountains, chasing waterfalls, swimming in dams, long walks on the beach, Cape Town is definitely a city worth showing off its natural beauty. I’ve always been in touch with nature, but my first year in Cape Town really connected me to nature.2017-02-17_12-49-00

I’ve had to deal with many frustrations. Not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life. Doubting whether or not we made the right decision to move. In hindsight, I should have savored every minute of that time, as I now believe that I was exactly where I needed to be. My unplanned sabbatical year prepped me for my new journey, even though I had no idea at the time what that was…..

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Journey to Hijab

After spending the past two years on my version of a “spiritual journey”, I have found comfort in a place I never imagined I would……my hijab.

 Earlier days

Being born a Muslim, dad was pretty strict but we were never forced to wear hijab. We were told that it’s something we should do as Muslim girls. But of course it was in the one ear out the other. Growing up in a pretty modern society, hijab was never a first choice of clothing that I would adorn. “I’m still young” was the average response to my dad when I was encouraged to adopt a more modest form of dress. I was also never a fashion follower or trend-setter. I’ve always been and still am a jeans, t-shirt and sneakers kinda girl.

From Miss to Mrs

Thank  goodness Mr M never forced me to change my dressing. I do however remember him asking me to at least wear a scarf on Fridays, but that too never happen. Being not young anymore, I couldn’t use the old excuse any longer, so it changed to, “I’ll change when I have children”. Then five years pass by and still no children……By this time I found myself spiritually dead. Not even knowing how I got to where I was. I’ve neglected my religious practices over the years and I was nothing but an empty shell….walking dead. Two years ago I rediscovered my path back to Islam and embracing hijab has been part of my spiritual journey. …..for the best……to be my best.

Oppression vs Liberation

I recall putting my head scarf on (about two years ago) for the first time and going into public, and that was the best feeling in the world. For the first time in my life I didn’t care to “fit in”. I didn’t need to be dressed according to the standards of society. The best part of it all was being able to walk down a street and not getting any unwanted stares or attention. I now know what liberation is….I understand it. I live the life of a liberated woman everyday I step out of my house in hijab.

All too often women in hijab are looked at as if they are not normal people. It’s as if they are not living full lives or missing out on something. I had a conversation with a much older woman and we spoke about hiking. I mentioned to her that I really enjoyed it and then she asked a question……”do you hike with the scarf on?” My response was yes. The response in my head however, was far from a simple yes…..

Wearing a scarf covers my hair, not my brain. I’m able to think and make decisions all by myself. I live a normal life like every other 30-something year old woman. There’s nothing an unscarfed woman can do that I’m incapable of doing. I go the the gym, I go to the beach, I practice yoga, I go out with friends….Everyday I live

Life is short…..

imagesCAFKQ0BJOne of the most common clichés of all time right? Right. It’s short, simple, and when overused, we sometimes stop realising the true meaning of it….it’s truth.

On January 2nd, I lost a friend. 30 years young. And although we stayed in contact, I haven’t seen her in 7 years. We lived about 50km apart, and every time she wanted us to get together, I always had an excuse. There will always be next time right? Wrong. The next time I would see her, was at her funeral. Her passing made me realise, that time should not be taken for granted. No one knows how much time we have left.

Over the past two months, there has been very few days when I scrolled my facebook feed, and didn’t come across a young life that was tragically lost. Young people. People like us. People who have their whole lives ahead of them, who has all the time in the world to chase their dreams. But they never had that time, none of us do. It’s an illusion. Our lives are short. We think we really grasp this but we don’t. It should terrify us, as  it terrifies me sometimes in the stillness of the night, when it seems no one else is terrified but me!

Every day, that we are given, is a gift. Regardless of your religious beliefs or lack thereof, our time on earth is limited. Nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is permanent. We spend time and money as though we’ll always be here. We buy shiny things as though they’re worth the stress of attachment. We put off the “once in a lifetime” activities/adventures/trips because we believe we’ll be around next year to do it. We don’t tell the ones we love how much we love them often enough because we assume there’s always tomorrow. And we fear. Oh, do we fear. We stick it out in miserable jobs and situations because we’re afraid of the risk of stepping out. We don’t reach high enough or far enough because we’re worried we’ll fail, forgetting – or never realising – that it’s better to fail spectacularly while reaching for the stars than it is to succeed at something we never really wanted in the first place.

imagesCAKG2G42We think we’ve got forever and that these concerns that weigh us down are so pressing. We worry about the trivial, to the neglect of the most precious thing we have: moments we’ll never see again. We talk of killing time, passing time, and getting through the week, forgetting we’re wishing away the moments that comprise our lives. We say time is money when in fact the time we have is ALL we have. Money can be borrowed, time can’t. We fear taking risks, unaware that the biggest risk we run in playing it safe is in fact living as long as we hope and never doing the things we dreamed of. And then it’s too late. We watched our favourite TV shows, we fought a losing battle with our weight, we picked up the guitar once in a while and never quite started the spanish language course we wanted to do. We managed to get a large flatscreen and new cars once in a while, but the list of things we would have done if we could really, truly could have done anything, kept growing. And we never did them.

Life is short. Don’t just exist, Live! Treasure every moment. Tell the people you love that you love them. Be aware of who and what you spend your time on. Make the most of every day. Lastly….be thankful that you’re alive, and that you have another day to live your best life.

 

In memory of Farzahnah Patel. RIP my dear friend.

 

The Swimsuit Edition, Where Sexism Knows No Size

The Melissaverse

Apparently we’re all supposed to celebrate the fact that an average-sized woman will appear in this year’s Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition.

I’m told it’s some kind of triumph that, of the many women pointlessly objectified on the pages of a magazine that’s supposed to be about sports, one will be somewhat heavier than all the others. Sexism is so deeply woven into the fabric of sports in America that this, incredibly, is meant to represent progress.

Never mind that this year’s cover model, in addition to being exactly the size you’d expect her to be, is also waxed to within an inch of her life. Never mind that only average-sized model in the magazine appears not as part of an editorial layout but in an ad. Never mind that both women appear to have been liberally airbrushed, unless you believe neither of their bodies has a single stray hair, birthmark…

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Let’s talk; Islam and terrorism do not go hand-in-hand.

districtyellow

Let’s talk; Islam and terrorism do not go hand-in-hand.

Now I’m not saying that no terrorists believe in Islam, but I am saying this; not all terrorists are people of Islamic faith, they are not all Muslims, and the religious beliefs espoused by the Islamic faith do not condone terrorist action.  PhD M Amir Ali asserts that terrorist actions are condemned in the Quran and that it is also asserted that such action should be met by severe punishment. When we see terrorism enacted by individuals claiming they are doing so in the name of Islam it is important to keep in mind that these people are in the minority; they are extremists, they do not represent the belief of their religious community as a whole. These actions are not sanctioned by Islam; media coverage and fear mongering encourage us to see such terrorist actions as representative of a religion…

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31 Life Lessons I’ve Learned in 31 Years

imagesCA5E29WHIt’s almost that time of the year, where I bid farewell to me being just 30 and saying hello to “30-something”. I remember my pre thirty meltdown I had last summer. (Looking back, I think I was just a tad bit too over dramatic). With that being said, this year, I’m embracing this change of age thing. I am not anywhere close to where I thought I would be at this age, or wanted to be. However, I do believe, that I’m right where I should be.

A week ago, I’ve decided to write down what are life lessons to me, that I’ve learned over my 31 years of life. This was way easier than I thought it would be, given that most of these lessons were really learned in the past year.

1. We must love….with all your heart. If you’re afraid to love because you might get hurt, then you might as well not live because you are going to die. Love is beautiful and free.

2. Love is not enough. It’s important to not just love, but also show love. The people we love needs to see it as much as they need to feel it.

3. Forgive not just the people who has hurt us, but forgive yourself. For past mistakes, past regrets. We would not be who we are had we not made those mistakes. If God can forgive us, why can’t we forgive ourselves.

4. Happiness is Internal “Happiness is a journey, not a destination; happiness is to be found along the way not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it’s too late. The time for happiness is today not tomorrow.” ~ Quoted by Paul H Dunn [read more]

5. Value family I might have not had the opportunity to choose them, but we are perfectly placed together. We have disagreements, we are all unique in our ways, but this bunch of people are the only ones who are going to be there for you when no one else will be. Cherish them.

6. Treasure friendships/relationships these people are my family, with no blood relations. They’re the people I don’t have to see every weekend to keep our friendship alive, and when we do see each other, nothing has changed, the friendship has not struggled because of time not spent together.

7. Quality over quantity I’ve learned that when it comes to friends, I’ve learned that less is more. A few close friends offer more support than a crowd of acquaintances. There are only a handful of friends I keep close to my heart and who truly understand and support me without a trace of judgment. Anyone else usually just joins me for happy hour. I don’t really need no new friends….

8. Give generously My dad always said to us, “Give with your right hand, in such a way that the left hand doesn’t even know”. Give with your heart, no one needs to know how much you do or for whom.

9. Energy is palpable be the positive! Have you ever met someone who is so negative, that you can feel your energy being drained when they speak, or a person who such a great aura to to them, that you can feel life being blown into you with every word that they utter? Be that person. Think only positive thoughts, and speak only positive words.

10. Define Success on your own terms ignore the standard one-size-fits all approach and live from a place of truth and knowing. Success might mean money or power to some. That doesn’t necessarily have to define your success. To me, true success means finding and living out my unique life’s purpose.

11. Take care of your health now, or prepare for illness later. Truth is, all the money in the world cannot buy more or new health. It’s our one principal capital asset, invest in it wisely.

12. Not everyone will like you, and if they do, they’re not necessarily your friend.

13. I am not the center of the universe, it’s incredibly difficult to think about the world from a perspective other than our own. We are always worried about what’s going on in our lives. What does my schedule look like today? What if I lose my job? Why am I overweight? Why am I not happy with my life? What did I do to deserve this? If you can consciously remove yourself – remove your perspective – from a situation, then you can see the world through a different set of eyes. Thus, the world can take on a different meaning.

14. Do not carry the past with you. It has everything to do with forgiveness. Carrying this burden with you, does nothing but weigh you down. It makes you a bitter person. You have the choice to let it go, or letting it haunt you for the rest of your days.

15. It’s Ok to not be Ok No, really, it is Ok. I know bad days don’t last forever, so it’s Ok to have an off one.

16. Embracing Silence is a way of developing a deeper connection with yourself and with others. Shut off the phone more, turn down the radio volume, or simply spend more time listening instead of talking.

17. Be thankful….. for everything. Count your blessings, and by blessings I don’t mean material possessions.

18. Live in the moment, the here and now, that is all that is guaranteed right? We have no assurance of waking tomorrow.

19. How you speak of others is how you feel about yourself. In fact, your perception of the entire world echoes how you feel about your own life. If you have nothing good to say about others, then best keep quiet.

20. Never go to bed angry with your partner. A piece of advise that came from my mum. And I fully agree with it. No argument or difference should be carried overnight. Clean out each day as it comes along, so when you shut your eyes at night, everything has been cleaned up. Life is precious….and uncertain.

21. Slow down! What’s the rush anyway. Life moves at such a fast pace that it seems to pass us by before we can really enjoy it. Slowing down is a conscious choice, and not always easy, but it leads to a great appreciation for life and a greater level of happiness.

22. Let go of past hurts, the past, clutter, grudges, toxic people, negativity, anger, guilt, worrying about the future, stress. Again, these things just pull us down, it poisons our souls. Let It Go!

23. Don’t do things you don’t like just to please someone else or because everyone else is doing it. I hate watching movies at a cinema. It’s cold, uncomfortable and dark. I don’t go because I don’t like it. However, if there’s a movie I really, really want to watch, I make the sacrifice.

24. Have a bucket list and as you scratch items off, add new ones

25. The power of prayer. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Regardless of your religion, or manner in which we pray, every day should be started in prayer.

26. Learn to say No! True freedom is experienced when we’re able to say no without feeling guilty. Stop being the people pleaser by committing to more than you’re aware of.

27. Live simply. Simple? no, not that simple. Living simply is paring away – stuff, obligations, expectations, people. It’s removing all the glut and rubble from your life, making space in your house, your heart, your brain and your life for exactly and only what you need. It’s getting down to the core of things and returning to a way of living that most of us can only vaguely remember; pleasures that don’t cost tons of money, rewards you don’t have to buy in stores, amusements that don’t require a screen.

28. Turn off the TV and read a book. In the Last Lecture Dr. Randy Pausch makes mention of how TV is mankind’s greatest time-waster. Cut your Tv time in half and start making time to do the things you love. Read a book instead. Not only do you stimulate your brain, but you learn more about things that interest you. No better place to find inspiration than in the pages of a book.

29. Judging people is harmful….to me. We do or have done this from time to time. I have now just become better at noticing when I’m doing it. What I’ve found is that when I waste my time on judging people, I am robbing myself from enjoying my here and now. Judging becomes harmful to me because in judging others; I’m ignorant of what the person is going through, I have unrealistic expectations of people, I think I’m superior to other’s. When I’m overcome with these feelings, it stops me from judging, sort of keeps me grounded.

30. Enjoy your own company and you will never be lonely. I enjoy my own company now more than I have ever before. I recall seeing people having lunch by themselves and always felt sorry for them….for being alone. I now realise what a privilege it is to be at that point of comfort with yourself, where sitting down to a cup of tea, in a crowded cafe is absolutely normal.

31. I’m still trying to figure it all out…And while I do that, I will live life beautifully

 

Happiness Is Internal

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination; happiness is to be found along the way not at the end of the road, for then the journey is over and it’s too late. The time for happiness is today not tomorrow.” ~ Quoted by Paul H Dunn

This is a lesson I’ve learned quiet late in my life, but all too grateful that I did. I’ve been searching everywhere for something that was right inside of me. I just needed to have my windows cleaned, the windows to my soul, that looks internally, to where my own happiness lies. Nothing and no one is responsible for happiness but you, cliché I know, it’s so easy to say those words, but living it is another story all together….

Two months ago, I attended a workshop “Discover Yourself” and that’s when I experienced a true paradigm shift. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, I see the world differently, and finally I can give meaning to life, my life. Attending that workshop was the best gift I could have ever given to myself.

We sometimes put our happiness in things, or times. How many times have you not said to yourself “I will be happy when…….[fill in the blank]” or “I will be happy if I have……[fill in the blank]. I’ve done this over and over. I also know that when that time arrived or things materialised, I was not fulfilled, that void was still there. It’s sad,  how we wait all week for Friday, all year for summer, all our lives for happiness, when all the time it was right there, we just never looked inside.

I choose to free my mind of worry….
I choose to free my heart of hate….
I choose to live simply…..
I choose to be happy!