Knowledge Is Power: Anxiety, Fear of the Unknown, and Islam

“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family”

Kofi Annan, Where On Earth Are We Going

Today I have been facing a lot of anxiety.  The news reports are not pretty (when is it ever), and there seems to be so much violence and anger in the world as of late.  600+ deaths in Egypt yesterday, murders, rapes, kidnappings, etc stateside, and who knows what else that isn’t being widely reported.  The most widely reported news as of late are the events in Egypt, the bombings in Iraq, and other unrest among the Muslim world.  With all this negativity, it’s no wonder there is such a negative view of Islam around the western world.

I have always took pride in being accepting of other people’s religions, culture, etc.  I love learning about how other people live their lives, and why they do the things they do.  I used to want to major in Anthropology before I realized it was a dead-end field unless you had a PhD.  With that pride in acceptance came anxiety and guilt today as I tried deciding what religion I wanted to use for my project in my Sociology of Religions course this term.

In this course, we have been asked to choose a religion, and attend a religious service.  We must interview members of the service, and/or religious leaders of said service.  We must also study their religious texts, and write a ten page paper on the sociology of whatever religion we choose.

Now, I am not a religious person.  I do not agree with organized religion really, but I am very intrigued by it.  I have attended a Baptist service once, and have been to a number of vacation bible schools with friends.  However, I have never really participated or learned much about other religions, such as Judaism or Islam, at least outside of what Wikipedia or the media offers by way of knowledge.  I want to choose a religion I am unfamiliar with, and that I would imagine most Americans are unfamiliar with.  So I chose Islam, and from the moment of that decision, I have been racked with anxiety.crescent-200

It is not unheard of in this country to equate Islam with terrorism.  After 9/11, many Americans put the two together, and never separated them again.  The word terror has become synonymous with Islam, even though terror can be brought on by anyone, like Timothy McVeigh for example.  Regardless of this fact, when one thinks of or hears the word terrorism, Islam or Muslim is usually the first thing I hear come out of people’s mouths.

So, regardless of the fact that I know not all Muslims are terrorists, that fear is still in my mind.  I have always pushed it back because of the pride I carry of being an accepting individual.  When that fear came to surface today, my anxiety worsened.  How can someone who is so open-minded and compassionate feel such fear and anxiety towards a religion or people?  I found myself feeling disgusted with myself, all while battling the anxiety of having to put myself into this experience.

As the day went on, my anxiety dwindled for a few reasons.  One of those reasons is my reasonable mind.  I know not all Muslims are evil, so the chances of running into someone who is at this service are not very high.  Being in America, the chances are also not as high.  Sure, there are extremists everywhere you go, which can be said of any religion or culture, but since Islam is not as major in this country as it is in the Arab world, the chances (at least in my mind) are not as great.

Another reason is because I love the saying “Knowledge is Power.”  Part of my fear is the unknown and ignorance.  I only know what the media has told me, and what is portrayed.  In order to obtain a true understanding, I need to study and experience the religion for myself.  I need to meet the people, read the texts, and immerse myself in order to gain knowledge that will free me from the fear.  I was concerned about how Islam treats women, and worried for my safety or about being respected.  I understand women will be segregated from the men during prayers, and that I have to wear Islamic attire in order to attend, and that has given me some comfort.  I know what to expect now, and the man I talked to at the Islamic Center in Washington DC was respectful and understanding.  My mind has been put at ease by also discussing attire with a friend who has experienced it herself (Thanks Brooke!).

Brooke also gave me some good advice.  I should not be so concerned with being respectful that I would let the real experience pass me by.  I should relax, and completely put myself into it.  I should enjoy the experience, and learn what I can from the people around me.  My anxiety and fear got in the way of that at first, but now I am really happy with my choice, and looking forward to the experience.

I contacted the Islamic Center of Washington DC today in order to find out about times for prayer service, and if it would be acceptable for me to ask questions of the members.  He was welcoming, gave me the information I needed, and put my mind at ease, even if it was unintentional.  They seem welcoming of outsiders looking for clarity on Islam, and a letter on their website reinforces that.  This will definitely be an experience to remember, and I will share my experience after it happens.

Just remember, you can’t let the fear of the unknown keep you from doing anything.  Educate yourself, and that fear and anxiety will diminish.  Open your mind, and that is when you are truly free.

Knowledge is Power!

knowledge is power

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Let Kids Be Kids!

It’s that time of year again: Back to School shopping.  Samantha starts First Grade next week, and decided to grow like a weed over the past few months.  I’m not sure what we were feeding her, but I would sure like to figure it out so we can stop doing that.

This is Sam. She is 6, and loves art. This came costume came from an art project we did. <3

This is Sam. She is 6, and loves art. This costume came from an art project we did. ❤

Clothes shopping is a pain for me, as I hate trying on new clothes and then subsequently feeling poorly about myself.  Clothes shopping is a different kind of pain when it comes to Samantha.  She has an issue with certain types of materials touching her skin.  They make her itchy.  Like sequins on shirts.  The inside has the stitches to hold the sequins on, but it also has the material over the stitches that is supposed to help with the itching, but really doesn’t.  It sucks because she loves shiny and sparkly, but we move on with some kicks and screams.

The other issue is the types of clothing made available for purchase.  Skinny jeans are one thing, as you can buy them a size bigger and they wont be so tight.  However, now they make super skinny jeans.  For girls as young as mine, and younger.  Also low-cut shirts, mini skirts, midriff baring tops, and tennis shoes with wedges inside them (just to name a few).  When did our little girls become young women in the eyes of corporations?  OR, when did they become young women in the eyes of society?

This is Lauren. She's about to be 1 year. She's spunky, and loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. <3

This is Lauren. She’s about to be 1 year. She’s spunky, and loves Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. ❤

When I was a kid (yes, I went there. I also went there up hill and through the snow…one way), we didn’t have these kinds of clothes.  Sure, in the 80’s we had bright, obnoxious neon colors, with high tops, and scrunchie socks.  However, I do not recall ever seeing inappropriate clothing for my age, or clothes that read “Too pretty to study,” or some other nonsensical crap.

Why do we want our children to grow up so fast?  When did it become OK for young girls to wear shorts so short their butt cheeks hang out, or tops so low they would show cleavage if they had any to show?  I don’t want my kid to dress or look any older than she already is, but it’s so hard to find decent clothes out there for her age and size.  I miss the cute dresses with butterflies and ladybugs.  Now the clothes have stupid saying that make girls think it’s OK to be viewed as “dumb,” or clothes too short and make them think sexy is a good thing (Not for their age!).

I want my girls to know that smart is sexy AND cool.  That their looks should not define them, and that it is never OK to be objectified.  I want them to know that they are worth the same as any man, and should be treated the same, no matter what.  I want them to know that they CAN do anything they set their mind to, and that they should never let anyone tell them they can’t just because they are women.

I want them to know all these things…in time.

Right now, can they just be little girls?  Can they continue playing with My Little Ponies or dolls, and jam to Kidz Bop?  Maybe letting them be kids is the best thing for them, instead of pushing the world and all its problems on their shoulders.  They wont be little forever, so let’s try to keep them that way for as long as possible.

Stop Turning A Blind Eye

“You can turn a blind eye to people causing others to suffer greatly, believing God will choose who is worthy at the end of days, or you can bring down those who cause such horrendous chaos and God can still decide who had evil or good in their hearts.”

I am agnostic, so the part about God above means nothing to me, but the idea behind the quote is strong.  You can choose to stand by and watch atrocities happen, all while believing they will get their own against them in return, OR you can choose to stand up against the atrocities and those who perform them.  I choose the latter.

Recently, Russia has been in the news due to a law that was passed and upheld in regards to homosexuality.  From what I understand, the law was intended to prevent people from using homosexual “propaganda” against children, indoctrinating them and making them gay.  This has brought protests and supportive rallies for and by homosexuals, which has brought on arrests, violent public beatings, and shaming.  Carry a rainbow anything on your person, and you face the chance of an arrest, or being publicly beaten to a bloody pulp.  Support the gays, and you face the same consequence.  All in order to keep our children safe from the gay.

gayolympicsThe Olympics are coming up, and they are being hosted by Russia this time around.  Many are voicing their opposition to Russia’s laws and behavior, and fear for their own safety, or the safety of their countries athletes.  Many are even calling for a boycott of the Olympics in protest.  Russia has claimed they will not punish those from other countries who are gay, or support their fellow teammates who are gay, but come on.  Who really believes that?  They might not face criminal charges, but the fact remains that violence is being brought down on people who support, or who show they are gay.  Who wouldn’t fear walking down the street with a gay friend, or holding hands with their partner?

Stephen Fry was on Twitter this morning calling for a solidarity salute by the athletes, a salute to show Putin and his lawmakers that they stand by their fellow gay athletes, and that he can shove it up his ass (The hashtag is #sochisalute, in case you’re interested or have ideas).  In response, a fellow Twitterer has expressed that we should keep politics out of sports, and that we should confront the situation with more politics.  This person has also stated in a lengthy conversation with me that it’s just a law against propaganda against children, and that she has not seen proof that violence and oppression is occurring.  She’s Russian, and lives in Moscow, by the way.

Turning a blind eye.  Maybe she is doing it because the news in Russia chooses to not broadcast such atrocities, knowing full well they are horrible and should be condemned.  Maybe she really doesn’t have any idea this is going on, or maybe she is just part of the problem.  Knowingly turning a blind eye so that you do not need to stand up and fight against the problems is part of the problem.  Choosing to ignore the pain and suffering of those around you because it should be left to the lawmakers is part of the problem.  Standing by and not making your voice heard because the politicians and law enforcement can handle it is part of the problem.

How can anyone turn away from what is so obvious?  Maybe it’s a fear of getting beaten and arrested themselves, but even that shouldn’t prevent a person from speaking out.  Nothing was ever accomplished through silence.  Nothing was ever changed that way.

Stand up, use your voice, use any power you may have to stop the wrongs being forced on others.  Stand up to that bully threatening that kid on the playground.  Speak up and protest those politicians who are abusing their power to oppress others.  Stop those people beating up another just because of their skin color, or sexuality.  Even if you think it will change nothing, do it!  Awareness and a voice will bring light upon those performing the atrocities, and they will no longer be able to hide among the shadows.  They will be forced to be seen for all that they are.

Stop turning a blind eye, or you will become a victim yourself.

stand-up-speak-out-stop-bullying

Kids. They Grow Up Too Fast.

Samantha starts First grade in a little over a week.  Say what?!  Yeah, First grade.

samanthababyWhere did my baby go?  She’s lost in the jumble that is my PPD memories, and this makes my heart ache.  I remember her birthday, and our time in the hospital.  After that, much of it is a blur.  A dark, overshadowed blur.  Sure, I have pictures to remind me what she looked like, and a couple of videos, but those aren’t really memories.

Since I started getting help for my depression and anxiety a few years ago, things have been better.  What I wouldn’t give to remember those early years, though.  What her first words were, when she “crawled” for the first time (or what she considered crawling, which was really more of a crab walk of sorts), all those little momentous occasions that many parents write down in the child’s baby book are lost somewhere in my head.  They will probably never be retrieved, so the best I can do is remember and make new memories.

Last year, when she started Kindergarten, we were both so excited.  As the year went on, she faced some struggles with her crying and subsequent behavior, so it wasn’t as smooth as I had hoped.  Now that she is starting First soon, my anxiety is running overtime.  I want her to do well, and I want her to be able to control herself.  I want this year to be awesome.  I want her to enjoy school as much as I did.  She just needs to control the emotional side of her, and be confident!  The girl is a smartie pants, and I know she will do well if she can just rein it in.

She wants to ride the bus the first day.  It’s not even here yet, and I’m already nervous and sad.  I wont get to walk her up to the school, have a pep talk, and send her on her way.  Now I have to stay back, and just wave at the bus as it drives away with my not so little girl.  Sigh, this isn’t about me, but my anxiety is so strong about this, that it’s becoming about me.  In my head.  I suppose that’s the point of this blog, to get the jumbled mess of thoughts out.

Where did my baby go?  I feel guilty for not being “there” the first years, so maybe that is why there is so much anxiety about letting go.  Why must it be so hard?  Why must they grow so fast?  Why must I be crying about it already?  haha

All I can do is hope it turns out great, and that she has the best year yet.  It’s fun watching her learn new things, and discover who she is.

I think I just found the thought I need to hold onto.

mommyandsamantha

How Do You Raise Maturity?

This is Sam. She is 6, and a nerd like her mommy. <3

This is Sam. She is 6, and a nerd like her mommy. ❤

Raising kids is hard, yo.  Seriously, trying to make sure you bring them up knowing respect, love, laughter, discipline, and everything in between is a struggle sometimes.  I want my kids to be happy, but I also want them to know boundaries, and when getting emotional is OK.

I have always told my oldest daughter, Samantha, that being upset is perfectly normal.  We all have this feeling from time to time, but it’s how we handle it that’s important.  I want her to understand that it’s OK to cry, and it’s OK to be angry, sad, happy, or whatever you happen to be feeling at that moment.  However, there are times when it’s not OK to get overly emotional.

For example, Samantha has this thing where she scream cries.  At just about everything.  OK, not everything, but the things she chooses to get emotional at, which does seem like everything from time to time.  She doesn’t get her way: scream cry.  Loud noises hurt her ears: scream cry.  She gets in trouble for whatever reason: scream cry.  She falls down: scream cry.  A friend wants to go home: scream cry.  I can’t tell you the number of times I got a yellow note home from her Kindergarten teacher because she was scream crying so loud another teacher had to come in and check on her.  All because a kid called her a name, or she didn’t get to finish her work, or whatever.

I mean, seriously, it’s just about everything.  I feel like we are to blame though.  She was an only child for over 5 years, and I had no intentions of changing that.  After my experience with postpartum depression, I wanted to steer clear of babies.  So, we spoiled her.  Gave her everything.  Gave into her cries.  You name it, we did it.

I wanted her to feel loved and special.  I felt as if I wasn’t doing that with the horrible, intrusive thoughts that were in my mind, and the darkness that surrounded me.  The days that I felt good, I wanted to make up for the days that I didn’t.  The days when I screamed at her for no reason, raged for no reason, or just was smothered by the darkness.  There was a reason.  It’s because PPD is a bitch, and so is anxiety and any other form of mental illness.

However, those bad days were not the real me, and I felt the need to compensate for them.  However, giving into her wants, like toys every time we went to the store, were not things that make up for bad days.  Spending time doing what she enjoys, such as art, is the way to do it.  I know that now, but at the time I felt it wasn’t enough.

So, here we are, 6 years into her life, and we are stuck.  She’s an emotional wreck, a bit immature if you will.  Now that her baby sister is here, she doesn’t get the attention as much anymore, so it seems like the tears are here all the time.  Or she is trying her hardest to get my attention when it’s not on her, whether in a good or bad way.  I don’t know what to do, really.  Every child needs discipline and boundaries, so how do you do that with a kid who hasn’t had much of it until recently?

Honestly, and this is probably my guilt from the past 6 years rearing its head, but I feel like she is not her bright, cheerful self anymore because of the change in discipline and boundaries.  How do I know if it’s just an act to get her way (which I know she does quite often because the sudden lack of tears and joyful attitude show me that), or if she really is blue about the changes in her life?  How do I fix that?  How do I show her she is still loved and cared about without giving in to her?

Raising maturity is hard work.  We all want our kids to grow up well-rounded, and functioning members of society.  So how do we get over the parenting guilt?  I know I’m not the only one with the guilt, so how do you get past it?  How do you teach your child boundaries, respect, and discipline while also showing them that they are still loved over the moon?

#twittersilence

“Those Who Stand For Nothing, Fall For Anything”
– Alexander Hamilton-

I like to play around on Twitter.  A lot.  I mostly retweet things that I think are funny, or that I agree with.  I also get my up-to-the-minute news from Twitter, as it’s usually more accurate than the 24 hour news cycle.  It can also be a place for support, silliness, political discussion, and activism.

Today, there has been a trending hashtag called #twittersilence.  A woman by the name of Caitlin Moran (@caitlinmoran, if you wish to check her out on Twitter) has decided to use her platform by taking a stand against abuse on Twitter…by being silent.  Now, while I am sure her heart is in the right place, I have to wonder if it will really do any good.

Yes, her silence, along with many others, has struck up a conversation about bullying, abuse, etc on the internet and beyond, especially towards women.  However, what does silence really do?

In my opinion, the abuser wins when the victim falls silent.  They can’t win.  If they win, the abuse will continue.  Maybe not towards the original victim (I mean, if you ignore something long enough, it will go away, right?), but towards some other unsuspecting, innocent individual.  What if this new individual is at the end of their rope due to things they are keeping personal, and they are now being pushed to the edge.  That’s how some suicide sometimes happens.

No, silence is not the answer.  Sexual harassment is at a high in the military because abuse is allowed to continue.  Not only because the victim remains silent, but also because when the victim finally does come forward, they are silenced by the authority that is in place to protect them.  Fat lot of good that does them, or the next individual victimized, or the next after that.

What about the people being bullied for the color of their skin, or their sexuality?  Not only on the internet, but in the real world.  Racism is not dead people, it still exists.  Hate crimes still happen, far more often than they should.  Have you seen or heard about what’s been going on in Russia?  Men and women standing up for their right to love whoever they want are being publicly beaten to oppress their rights and their voices.  The people trying to take them down are trying to silence them, but the only way to push forward is to keep speaking out.

Silence is NEVER the answer.  We should all be standing up and shouting about the atrocities we see every day, whether it’s on the internet, or right in front of our faces.

We should all be taking a stand against the cyber bully who hides behind an internet persona because they do not have the guts to do it in person.

We should all be taking a stand against the prejudice slapping us in the face on a daily basis.  It shouldn’t matter if it’s against you.  Do not turn a blind eye.  Say something.  Do something.  Let your voice be heard.

It’s the only way to end abuse, whether it’s verbal, psychological, or physical.  Whether it’s online, or on the street.  Abuse of any kind is wrong, and should be stopped.

So no, I will not be silent, Twitter.  I choose to use my voice, and call out the abusers.

What will you do?

be kind

The Decluttering Begins

Hello Peoples.

It’s been a very long time since I have blogged.  Looking at this one in particular, one would think I have never written a blog post in my life.  However, those ones would be mistaken.  In case you’re curious, I used to write about my experiences with Postpartum Depression here:  http://nicolesoutlook.wordpress.com/

If you feel like it, take a look.  I used to write about everything I dealt with while suffering from PPD, and was very honest and straight forward.  It was incredibly hard, but also incredibly liberating.  Not only did it help me work through a lot of the thoughts I had on the topic, but it also helped some other women discover that they were not alone.  I think that was the most rewarding aspect of it all.

So, you may be asking yourself, “Why this new blog, Nicole?”

I’m so glad you asked!  My mental health issues now aren’t PPD, nor is it really depression anymore.  I deal a lot now with some major anxiety, whether it’s social or just plain old intrusive, mind altering anxiety.  The things that seem to help me move past them enough to function is music, and sharing.

So here it is.  My new blog, where I shall spend time emptying my brain of all the clutter that is streaming around in an attempt to take my mind back.  I liked my mind before it started changing.  I would like to think I can attempt to regain some of that back.

Will you stick around?  Will you follow me through this journey of nonsensical talking about whatever jumps into my head?

“What you find in the dark may surprise you.” –Chris Kluwe