“Come as you are and bring your laundry.”

After a year or two of living in New York, I was planning a trip to Virginia to visit one of my older sisters. She’s been one of the crabs that have pulled me out of the bucket, helping me to sharpen my claws so that I could climb out on my own. Still, I projected my doubts, not fully allowing myself to be accepted or believe that anyone really wanted me to be myself.

While packing, I texted her and asked her if there was anything  I could do to make everyone more comfortable with my new changes, since this would be my first visit to her post-hijab.  I held my breath, not sure what to expect.

She responded:

“Come as you are and bring your laundry.”

I read the text once, twice. My heart quickened and my breath came out as a wooooosh. I smiled.

Of course.

Not only did I not give her enough credit to take me in as myself, I once again let my own fears prevent me from understanding that would be her response in the first place.

Granted, it was not easy getting to this place, and I understand that not everyone will have this same support. This wasn’t my conversation with everyone and it took courage to approach this subject with even dear friends, let alone, my parents.

But, here was an integral support who found a balance of questioning and challenging me all while knowing when to step back and say— “at the end of the day, be you, and know that my love for you never centered around you wearing the hijab or what you believed in.”

It’s important to find and hold these people close. This journey can feel isolating and lonely. Not only was I still processing my changes, but I grappled with letting others in.

Find one. Then two. Start small, or go big. Every thing matters. The more I practiced and took those steps, the easier it became to share and I started to worry less about reactions. Even when it never felt like enough and I felt dishonest, I always knew I was doing the best I could.

Sis, this post is for you. You blazed the way, and your fire leaves a beautiful glow around you.

4 thoughts on ““Come as you are and bring your laundry.”

  1. The Girl in the Little Black Coat says:

    Although I am not Muslim, I can definitely relate to what you write about. I often also find myself questioning my beliefs and the way I do things and I can completely understand the fear of being judged by others for not going with the way things are traditionally expected to be. I look forward to reading more of your posts and joining you on your journey of self discovery 🙂

    Like

    • Fatimah says:

      Thank you for your kind comment! I agree that we can relate, despite different faiths. I’m happy to have you join my journey! Please feel free to continue to share your story.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Sherien says:

    Living one’s truth is so much easier when you have loved ones who tell you to just bring your laundry!!!

    When I was in the 8th grade, I borrowed my parents’ camera to take pictures of my classmates. I was going to be moving to NY and knew I would never see them again. I took one picture with one of my male classmates. Nothing inappropriate. He was simply standing next to me. There were no hugs. As a matter of fact he looked like he didn’t even want to be in the picture!! My mother discovered it while rummaging through my bookbag one evening and snipped him out of it. She then spent 30 minutes lecturing me on how I should never be in a picture with a boy. What if this boy used the photo to blackmail me (????) or, worse, superimposed my face over a naked a woman and sold it (!!!!!?????!!!!!).

    I lived most of my life with fractured identities and I can always trace it back to this one moment. I understand, now, that my mother was struggling with immigration, culture shock, change that she’d never even dreamed of. But from that moment on I compartmentalized my life.

    When I was in my late 20s began to unpack some boxes that had been gathering dust for years and found a batch of pictures that I had wanted to put in a photo album but just never had the chance.

    As I was organizing my pictures I realized that I had inadvertently placed them into two piles, which I subsequently named the “halal” and “haram” pile. The “halal” pile included pictures I could keep out in the open. My roommate and I unpacking boxes, friends at the top of the Empire State Building, innocent pictures that couldn’t get me into any kind of trouble. It represented the side I revealed to my family. The demure, dutiful daughter who knew her place and never dreamed of straying from it.

    The “haram” pile consisted of pictures that needed to be kept locked up in the closet. Pictures with cleavage, hugs with famous singers, sitting on (male) friends’ laps. Pictures that would horrify my parents. I once told my friend that if I were ever to die in a freak accident, the first thing she would have to do was burn it all. No traces of this side of my life can be left behind!

    It’s hard when we “come out of the closet”. Staying “in” is a radical act of self-love, but the ability to live one’s truth AND have family who can just hug you and ask you to bring your laundry…that’s beautiful.

    Like

    • Fatimah says:

      Thanks so much for sharing. This resonates so much. We used to hide pictures as well and got sneaky…It’s so true that you begin to compartmentalize. I did not post photos of myself for years. It’s taking me time to unpack all of that and integrate, if that makes sense. Thanks for sharing your story and reading, as always.

      Like

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