In Which Nadia Tries to Find her Voice

[A note:  I haven’t used this blog in the way in which I intended, and I have a number of reasons for why, but the events of this election have helped me find my voice again.  This blog will hopefully remain apolitical, but since it’s my space to express myself as I wish, I’m also not going to restrict myself when the muse to write strikes.  So below are some of my thoughts/feelings about the election, and coming soon will be a wrap-up of my year as a triathlete and some of my plans, goals and intentions for the months and years to come.  I’ve built some momentum over this year as it pertains to sharing my story/journey, which was the initial intention for this blog, so stay tuned for that! xo – Nadia]

I have a love of words and language:  written, spoken, read, whispered, shouted; my love of words has been a constant companion throughout my life, a vehicle with which to express myself, a refuge in which I could get lost, a canvas upon which spectacular things could be demonstrated.  As a lover of words, I have also learned to be in awe of their great power, and as with any powerful medium, I learned of their capacity for use and abuse.  Over the last number of weeks and months, I watched in disbelief as powerful rhetoric transformed relationships, divided communities, and ultimately altered history, as the, now, president elect used words to inflame, incite, injure, inspire (yes, even inspire.)  His use of words created the tempest in which we all now find ourselves in, as some valiantly stay afloat in stable vessels and others feel utterly lost in the churning wake.

 

In the early hours of November 9th, I felt voiceless, my words stripped away, replaced by heaving sobs.  The rhetoric of the president elect, had, in me, incited great fear, a familiar fear that has followed me at various points in my life as an immigrant, Muslim woman living in America.  Despite this being my home for thirty years, those descriptors throughout the campaign became less and less things that lent uniqueness to my identity, and increasingly became labels that enhanced my otherness and denoted that my presence in this country was unacceptable.  It was as if, somehow, in assembling the ingredients to go into the Great Melting Pot, the head chef decided that a blander, more homogenous mixture was desired, instead of the complex, spicy, rich creation that had been simmering away over the last 200+ years.

The voicelessness I experienced, and even the hot tears that burned my face, were not new experiences, but my retreat yesterday was.  For the first time, I felt a great need to hide away, utterly defeated and incredibly afraid, and I did so, seeking refuge in the company of a friend, largely ignoring my phone, responsibilities and the fall-out carrying on in social media and other corners of the internet.  It wasn’t until this morning that I felt my voice return, felt capable of sharing my emotions and stemming the flow of any ensuing tears.  Which is why I’m now writing this.  Because I am a lover of words, and I wish to use this medium to express myself.  Because in this great country that I call home, as beautifully flawed as it is, and decidedly fractured, expression is one of the freedoms I am ensured.

We have a new president elect, who represents so very many things to so very many people.  While I know that there are those who are celebrating, there are a large number who are mourning, and worse, afraid.  And I think that was the greatest victor in the election:  fear.  Say what you wish about any of the candidates running, analyze the reasons why, run the numbers, read the polls, but I think it ultimately comes down to fear, and that language and words were used as weapons, to confound and confuse and divide.  This was done not just by the president elect, but by many who ran on all sides of the race.  Fear won on Tuesday, because the population is afraid.  Afraid of each other, of poverty, illness, instability, the unknown, and more than I can even wrap my mind around.  And powerful rhetoric was used to highlight and solidify our fears.

Which brings me back to words.  Here we are in the wake of the election and words are still being brandished as weapons.  But not by a demagogue standing on a platform, or politicians of any variety.  Instead we are using words against each other, as if the campaigns that were run eroded our ability to speak and relate to one other.  If this election teaches us nothing else, let it be that words are powerful and and even more-so when we are afraid.  So why not respect their power instead and harness it to begin the process of healing and (re)building?  I wish to restore integrity to the language we use to speak to one another, to show our leaders and the world that we can rise above hateful rhetoric, and instead create meaningful dialogue.  My hope is that we can use our words to comfort, to heal, to understand, to protect, to respect, to assure, and reassure.  To create, to build, to inspire.

On my part, I refuse to ever feel voiceless again, to ever mute myself on behalf of anyone else.  My love of words has been a gift in my life, and I have grown tired of all the instances that I ever felt ashamed to speak or write or share what I thought or felt.  To that end, as it pertains to this election and it’s results, to the president elect and anyone else who cares, I wish to state that I am an immigrant, Muslim woman who calls the United States her home.  This is my home, and I will kick and scream before I am made to leave.  And yes, I am unconvinced of my safety here, but not in the immediate community that surrounds me, that has demonstrated to me their love, respect and compassion, and vowed their support of others who share descriptors with me.  I am someone who loves language and understands its power, so I vow never to use words to intentionally harm, because I can rise above the example that has been set for me by my, “leaders.”  I will use language to love.  I will use words to inspire.  I will be kind, compassionate, and build community.  To be constructive and instructive but never destructive.  I will be unapologetic in the words that I use, because my words will be above reproach, they will carry with them integrity. I will lend my voice, my words to those who do feel voiceless, marginalized and disenfranchised.  I will do all I can to demonstrate that words that carry with them truth and beauty are by far the most powerful kinds of words that exist.  I will use language to elevate into light the things others have tried to obscure with fear and darkness.  And it is my hope in writing this, in sharing this, that others feel empowered to do the same.

Speak/write with kindness.

Speak/write with integrity.

Speak/write with patience.

Listen with understanding so that the words you share are meaningful.

Create new rhetoric that flies in the face of rhetoric used to confuse or divide us.

I don’t care where your political affiliations lie, or any of the other ways you wish to demonstrate how we are different; if you cannot find any other common ground to emphasize our shared humanity, then at the very least allow our words and our language to be what we have in common.

In Which Nadia Tries to Blog

Recently my commitment to an active lifestyle fueled with whole foods, and my zeal for sharing it with others was called into question rather bluntly by an observer who, among other things, told me that, “maybe if you lose weight someone will take you seriously.”  Fortunately, I am blessed to have garnered the respect and trust of people who do take me seriously, regardless of what my current weight may or may not be.  And I respectfully discontinued the conversation with this individual.

This is not the first time I have received this type of remark.  In fact, it echoes a sentiment that I myself held for many years, and internalized so completely, that it contributed to a disordered pattern of eating and struggles with my body image, sense of self-worth and personal identity.  It was not the first time, it likely won’t be the last, but it was the final push I needed in a series of events that have led me to actually begin writing this blog.  I have been sitting with the idea of this blog for quite some time, so in some ways writing feels overdue, but I suppose in something like this, “better late than never,” certainly applies.

Sometimes I think I must be out of my mind to even think of entertaining the desire to share my thoughts in the very public forum that is the internet.  But there is a dialogue regarding real food, health, obesity and activity that is occurring in this country and in the world today, that is legitimately lacking.  There are stories that need telling, experiences and knowledge that ought to be shared, and while I think there are certainly voices being lent to the discourse, at an increasing rate I might add, I feel strongly about lending mine.  As my knowledge of food and nutrition, my passion for athletics and my desire to make a difference in this world grows, I think it’s about time I start sharing what I have to say beyond the safe environments I’ve grown used to.  Watch out world, Nadia has something to say!

And yet, it’s a very scary thing to face up and share personal things with people who will form an opinion of you without really knowing you.  But as I reflect on the past 6 years of my life, and beyond, I have realized that not only have I faced scary or difficult things and survived, and even triumphed, but that my mere existence opens me up to judgement on a daily basis.  Fear of being judged simply isn’t a good enough excuse to keep quiet anymore.

So here I am.  I find that not only do I have things I want to say, but at this exciting crossroads in my life, I want to be able to capture where I’ve been and where I am going.  At the end of 2013, I decided that in 2014 I would complete a triathlon.  The idea to do this actually came a number of years before when I made a fitness bucket list, a story I hope to share another day.  Little did I know that in training for, pursuing and completing my goal last year, I would fall in love with a sport for the first time in my life.  And not only that, but this sport so completely seemed to complement other aspects of my life and the lifestyle that I had been striving to develop over the last 6+ years.  Finding triathlon has helped me change my perception of myself, gave me access to a community of support, and is a framework within which I find new ways to challenge myself and grow.

It is my hope to use Nadia Tri(e)s as a forum to share anecdotes of my life as I try to chase down optimal health and wellness, to document the highs and lows of triathlon training and the other pursuits I try along the way, and to share my expanding knowledge of food and nutrition by way of fun, healthful recipes and ideas.  And while all of this is my aim, I’m not entirely certain where this road will take me.  Thus far, it’s been immensely rewarding, but not without its challenges.  So I am going to try to take it one day at a time and welcome any readers to come along for the ride with me!

Thanks for reading, stay happy, and keep trying!

XO

Nadia