"Speak now or forever hold your peace in pieces."
From 17th to 23rd August, I was a participant in a workshop on CVAW (Culturally-justified Violence Against Women): Resistance and Sustaining Our Activism in Jakarta, Indonesia organized by WLUML (Women Living Under Muslim Laws). Although I wish to touch on the topics that we had learnt, being there for a week and away from the people that I love gave me time to think some things through. It made me think a little more clearly. So I have decided to pen down my reflections.
Every morning before we start our training, Ginger, one of our trainers, would guide us in performing some yoga and well-being exercises. In these exercises, we are always told to “check-in with yourself” and to reflect on events in our lives. And I guess these exercises have much more of an impact on me than I had expected. Being told to remind myself of the things I am thankful for, and being brought back to the reason why I started this journey, is really enlightening.
I am thankful for my parents.
For all the support they have given me, and for reprimanding me when I was wrong. You might not always agree with what your parents think, but believe me when I say that what they want for you is usually what’s best for you (or at least in my case). There was a time in my life where I refused to listen to my parents’ advice at all and I was rebellious and a pain for my parents to handle, but I finally gave in after falling into a state of slight depression. Right now, I couldn’t be more thankful for the advice and harsh truths they threw my way. I cannot be happier with who I am, and where I am. Now, whenever there is a life-changing decision that I need to make, the first people I will consult will always be my parents. They will always give me their honest opinion, while at the same time reassuring me that no matter that I choose, they will always support me and be there for me no matter what happens.
I am thankful for loss.
For breaking me down and giving me the chance to rise again. Sometimes we just have to accept the fact that some people are not meant to be in your lives forever, and that they were put there by God as only a lesson. For all the people that came into my life, and left, there is always a piece of them that stays with me. I don’t necessarily need to miss the person, but I know I always learn something from my experiences with them. The times I spent with them, I choose to not call it “wasted”. I don’t regret the people I meet, even those I deliberately choose not to be around anymore, because I believe everyone that I meet has moulded me into the way I am today, some way or another.
I am thankful for sadness.
How could you measure happiness without sadness? Only when you’ve been low will you know how it feels to get high (and I don’t mean drug-high). All the pain and hurt that I’ve gone through in my life only makes me stronger and stronger. I do, however, understand that I will only grow from it if I choose to. It’s normal to dwell and fall into a state of depression, but I have never agreed to let sadness take over my life. I once read somewhere, that sometimes, you have to let all your tears out before you can let happiness come in, and I believe this is a good way to rejuvenate yourself. Let out a good cry once in a while. Think of all the things that make you sad. Cry, cry and cry until you can’t cry anymore. Believe me when I say, it makes you feel better. Crying is not a sign of weakness. Even the strongest soldiers fall sometimes.
I am thankful for love, in whatever form in may come in.
Be it my mother’s warm homecooked food, my father’s hugs, my little sister’s wishes, my brother’s greetings, my boyfriend’s morning texts, the way my cats clean their kittens or the way my neighbour waters her garden; to me all form of love is beautiful, and it makes the world a better place to live in. It’s always nice to have a moment to yourself, and soak in all the beauty of the world around you, and realize that there’s so much love to go around. I am a firm believer that if you feel like you’re not receiving enough love, always be the one to give, and automatically, you will be at peace. Love can do wondrous things, and one of the most amazing things it can do it heal a broken heart. You don’t even need to be in love, but just love. Love your family, love your neighbours, love the animals, love the way the birds chirp in the morning, love the smell of the road after the rain, love the way the sun shines so bright, love the way the clouds move. Just love, and you can feel your whole life change.
Also, don’t only love those around you, but learn to love yourselves too. Don’t overwork, don’t cause unnecessary stress, and get rid of the venom that poisons your life. Make yourself a promise, and work hard to achieve it. Remember, that your well-being is important, and if you’re the only one who will be taking care of your body. If you want to make a change, you have to make sure the vessel you’re running is in perfect condition. Love yourself deeply, and understand your worth. Never let anyone tell you otherwise. Everyone has their own unique skills and abilities, and even if you feel like you don’t have any, that’s only because you have not discovered it yet. Take time to learn yourself, and don’t be afraid to try new things. For all you know, your skill is somewhere out there, undiscovered. Be brave, be bold.
I am thankful for my friends.
For being the ones to pull me back when I get lost. There are no words to express my appreciation for the friends that always remind me of who I am when things get a little dark, and for friends that always lend me a shoulder to cry on when I’m down. I will forever hold dear to me the friends that make me laugh when I am at my lowest, and the friends who know that they don’t have to offer my advice to make me feel better, but they only need to listen. For all the last-minute hangouts, phone calls that can last for hours, text messages that make my day a little brighter, friends are one of God’s best gifts to me and I can never ask for a better group of people in my life.
When you remind yourself of the things you are thankful for, you automatically feel yourself relax from all the stress in the world. You start to realize that this isn’t such a bad place to live in after all, and everything feels so much better after you’ve counted your blessings. Whenever you feel like you’re having it rough, just close your eyes, say a little prayer, and think of all the good things around you. It is impossible that there is nothing that makes you glow. And when you start thinking of all the things that still keep you going, you also get reminded of the reason why you’re chasing your dreams, and you will want to achieve it no matter what.
As for me, personally, most people would know that I am activist. I am a human rights activist, a women’s rights activist and essentially, I am a feminist. I’ve had many people tell me that I speak too much on women’s issues, but I have my reason why I do this. Yes, reason. Just one reason.
My little sister.
Everything that I do today, and from now on, to fight for the wellbeing of humanity and to eradicate violence against women, is all because of my sister. As a woman, I know how it feels like to be catcalled, and being told that you asked for it because of what you wear. I have been told that I have to be submissive in order for men to treat me nicely, and I have been told that I have to be obedient, or else I will be cursed by God. I want my little sister to know that she can be strong, she can be a leader, and she should be allowed to empower herself in whatever way she sees fit. She should have the freedom to flick off the man that sexualizes her in public, she should have the freedom to say “no” when something is making her uncomfortable, she should have the freedom to do what she wants, because she is talented, beautiful and is worth so much more than “a piece of meat”.
But also, I want her to grow up in a world that is less violent, more peaceful. I want her to grow up surrounded by good news, and stories of love from all over the world. I want her to grow up in a generation where change is happening, and things are a little easier for her to deal with. I want her to grow up under conditions where she will not be afraid to walk alone, at night, if need be, and I want her to grow up with a healthy state of mind. I want her to grow up with friends from all walks of life, and not discriminate against others. I want her to grow up full of love in her heart, and an ambition in her head. She deserves all this.
The fact that I want a better world for my little sister to live in, is the reason why I started this journey. I let myself be the one to face the harms, just so that she can be safe, and I don’t mind that. She is my foundation in what I do, and she forever will be.
So, what about you? What are you thankful for, and what is your foundation?