The Red Bible 

I’m not sure if schools are still allowed to do this sort of thing anymore but when I was grade 5 someone dropped off a box of little red hand held bibles. It was optional to take one and not everyone did – but I took one. 

It was the new testament and over the course of many nights I read it from one cover to the other. When my mom would come into my room I would hide it under my pillow.  I dont know why I did that. My mom made me show her what I was reading and told me I didn’t have to hide that, but I did. Why did I feel shy about reading the bible infront of my Anglican mother. I would read it in secret,  it felt private and I would feel embarrassed. Maybe because I didn’t want my mother to feel bad. I didn’t want her to know that I felt I was lacking something. I didn’t want to make her feel like I thought we were living a lesser life, that we should be more, that this life wasn’t enough. 

But I did want more…and less. I wanted less breaking up their fights, less calling the cops, less smelling drugs and alcohol,  less visiting the battered women’s shelter, less waking up to screaming in the middle of the night, less being fearful of children’s aid taking us away while simultaneously wishing for it, less toppled down Christmas trees, less holes in the walls, less broken promises,  less flying coffee cups, less death stares and silent treatments, less walking on eggshells,  and less making up lies and excuses . I wanted more of whatever would  replace all of that.

This little red book marked a pivotal change in my life and the beginning of over a decade of spiritual searching and seeking awnser to find peace for the life I was living. No one could have guessed at that moment I would be where I am now, but I’m not sure I would be here today if not for that little red bible.

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The Hijab 

The day I decided to wear the hijab full time was probably the worst day to begin. I had been Muslim for about 3 years now,  completed college and started my first job as a personal trainer.  I had always maintained and still do that wearing the scarf is a choice.  It’s my opinion that the Quran doesn’t as much ask women to wear a scarf of their head as it asks women to take that scarf they were already wearing and pull it forward to cover their chest. The Quran asks (does not demand) for modesty and then leaves it open for interpretation. 

It was a Sunday morning,  and the day of a fitness conference. I woke woth a strong desire to wear hijab. There was no hesitation, no thought of “should I really start today?” Only thoughts of “how do I make this work.”

The scarf I chose was red. Looking back at how often red was involved in the significant moments in my life – its serendipitous.  With a long sleeve shirt under my t-shirt and scarf pinned in place I headed out to meet my peers, still in my first year in the fitness industry,  as a hijabi personal trainer. 

The days sessions flew by, and even in a fitness choreography class I still wore my hijab proudly.  I  saw my boss sitting with her boss at one point between sessions. I saw her, mouth gaping as she said “Oh! There’s Paige!”with a little too much surprise bordering on shock in her voice. I  waved and said hi politely as I quickly sped passed.

At the end of the day I was hot, tired, but happy.  I felt secure in my new identity and knew I could still do or be anything even while wearing hijab. Especially while wearing hijab. I felt more free to be whoever I wanted to be. Free to be happy,  to be social, to reach high; free to be me.

Thoughtful Pose

Two writers on a bus, dressed in business attire, traveling to work, working on our craft. Notebooks in hand, pens fly across the pages,  over crossed knees. When out away we habitually assume similar thoughtful poses – fingers on mouth, chin braised against the hand,  looking down, or out,  seeing something other than what is physically present. 

I like your brown business shoes with sky blue laces. 

The shahada

“I’m ready,” I said standing at the cellphone kiosk in the mall.

It had been a season of discovery as I explored yet another religion. Always searching but not finding the right fit. 

In a twist of fate both my foster brother and my cousin began looking at Islam st the  same time.  We compared notes, shared experiences and debated findings.

My brother became Muslim first, saying his hahaha at a mosque potluck.  He shared stories of all the hugs and warm welcoming he recieved.  He always craved attention. 

My cousin chose Islam next, his deceleration of faith more formal. He has Aspergers so the imam and a few doctors in the community sat and discussed faith with him to make sure he truly understood the decision abd was making it of his own accord with sound mind. He has flourished and thrived on all levels since becoming Muslim. 

My journey of spirituality had always been a private one. I didn’t want a grand public deceleration of my faith.  I did not crave congratulations for finding “the rightful guidance”. This matter was between me and my God.

I met my cousin and foster brother at the mall. I was in a rush.  It was my first day of community college and for some reason I wanted to start this next phase with this phrase. Standing by the cellphone kiosk with my brother and cousin as witnesses I said 

“lā ʾilāha ʾillā-llāh, muḥammadur-rasūlu-llāh – I bare witness there is no god but God and Muhammad is hus messenger.”

Then I left. Off to start my new journey. 

The Singlet 

I raced to the back if the gym towards the personal training offices, package held tight against my chest. With an exhilaration thst only a long awaited delivery can bring I tore at the white plastic mailing envelope.  My singlet had arrived. Now before you begin imagining some variance on fancy lingerie allow ne to spoil your fantasy. THIS was a Powerlifting Singlet. Designed to be the most unflattering thing a woman might ever wear – and I couldn’t wait to try it on.

The singlet was black and red. It was the exact model I had my eyes on from the moment I decided to enter a powerlifting competition. Red was a must – it had to be red. Red makes me feel brave and confident. Any time I have done public speaking, gone to a job interview, in fact even at my wedding, I have always worn something red. This singlet however was only the beginning of my heroic costume.

From my bag I grab a pair of leggings and a long sleeve shirt. What is a hero without tights, am I right?  I had spent months trying to find the right material to fit the guidelines provided by the Canadian Powerlifting Union for female Muslim lifters. They had just amended their rules 4th months prior to officially allow for the wearing of hijab and a long “bodysuit” to be worn under the  singlet.  It was tremendous news for me as I thought I would never have the opportunity to lift ar any powerlifting meet. The only thing I had found which met the material restrictions was a pant and shirt set of runners thermals. At least I’d stay warm.
I rushed from the office to the women’s change room to try it on. I love how it felt, it fit perfectly! I felt strong and confident – I can do this! I looked in the mirror and my heart sank. I didn’t look like those photos I had seen on instagram. I looked fat, and my butt seemed dispoportionally large. The evil, negative,  self-destructive voices began swarming,  circling and screaming like shrill harpies. 

I noticed the red of my singlet. I look good in red. I look powerful in red. These strong legs and this squat booty have taken me far and helped me achieve things I’ve only dreamed.  I am proud of my strong body – societal pressures of beauty be damned!

So I took a picture of me in my singlet; curves, bumps, rolls, and all. This was the day I learned to love and accept my body. The harpies fled the power off my self acceptance and sell love broke the  curse of perfectionism. 

I carefully folded and packed away my singlet for a future date on the platform, and walked out of the change room – changed.