Where to start? I have been a revert now for over six months, though unofficially Muslim for a year prior to that. I am just now reaching a point where I feel really comfortable with being Muslim, which surprises me, given how uncomfortable and unsure I was at the beginning. It has been such an experience. It is so dynamic, such a mosaic, to have made this choice and be living in it. It is also lonely. I have experienced so many things, had so many thoughts about all of this, and yet I don’t really share them: partially because I have no one to share them with, partially because I am unable to form the words and make them come out of my mouth. It is all still such a foreign thing. Less foreign than it was at the start – I am no longer brought to tears in overwhelmed frustration thinking about everything I do not know – but it still a constant, quiet anxiety. Like living in a foreign country where you can now speak the language enough to get by, and feel accomplished and enmeshed in the culture most of the time, but are still set back by minor things that, when they catch you off guard, wound you disproportionally.
I started this blog just after formally taking my shahada, a week or so after the end of Ramadan in July 2016. At the time I was swirling with ideas about writing exhaustively about my experience; as it turned out, I was too exhausted by the experience to write anything at all.
It has been several months since then, and here and there I have felt a need to write about how I feel being a Muslim, a secret one, in these times. Each time I have found a way to suppress my thoughts, cognizant of how thinking too much about it tends to drain me of emotional energy. I am a perfectionist, and I put too much pressure on myself. I also doubt, severely and significantly, other people’s interest in me. Yet I require other’s appreciation, deeply. It makes me yearn to tell my stories and connect with others, while I fret over the sharing of intimate details of my life. I am anxious that I will bare my soul and people will not find it very interesting. Perhaps that’s the essence of my insecurity: I do not think I am very remarkable, even though my experiences, discretely, may be.
It was this past weekend, spent in a rural part of New England, effectively cut off from the news and social media, enjoying a slower pace, existing in quiet in the way only possible in remote areas, where I found my voice again. I found myself praying in my grandmother’s living room as she slept in the next room. My grandmother, whom I love dearly but whom I expect never to tell about my conversion. It was such an odd moment for me – rising and falling in sujood for each rakat – thinking about my relationship with my family, especially my grandparents, my presence as a daughter and granddaughter, the stark contrast between my existence with them and my existence as a Muslim. Those existences are so different and separate, and yet there I was praying in the living room, blending them.
Of all the moments and occurrences I have made note of since converting, that one is probably the least poignant. There have been so many others, which I am sure I will write about soon, that evoke stronger emotions and are more noteworthy for their uniqueness. But there was something about its plainness, the simple act of salat in the living room of my grandmother’s apartment in her assisted living facility that gave me pause. My journey to Islam and with Islam to this point has been anything but ordinary, so the moment stood out precisely because of its easy straightforwardness. I want to write about this journey – how I got to this point, cherishing the seemingly uninteresting accomplishments discovered while being a revert to Islam.
I will be honest – I am very much certain I will lose my voice again: I know when I get stressed I compartmentalize, and triage the parts of my brain that tend to over-analyze, critique, and worry. My relationship with Islam is saturated with things that can be over-analyzed, critiqued, and worried about. It is often, though less frequently than before, the first thing I find myself avoiding thinking about. It is not yet a clean, easily sorted or stackable item in my life, and so sometimes I have to ignore it. Despite that, there is so much I want to say. It truly has been the most profound, challenging, and rewarding series of decisions and experiences in my life to date. It is a driving force behind a majority of my personal growth. I am content in a way I have never been in twenty-four years of my life.
So I am going to write about it.