Rituals

When do acts of respect become rituals and should they be stopped before they get that far?

About a month ago I visited my family in Glasgow. It’s been a while since I’ve been up and I wanted to celebrate Eid with them this year. It also happened at a time when I started to really miss my late grandmother. It’s been about 7 years since we lost her and I miss her all the time, some times more than others.

With that in mind I wanted to pay my respects to her grave. Now I’m not a big believer in revisiting the graves of our ancestors however I feel it is ok if it is just once in a while.

During my short 4 day visit my family decided it was best to go the graveyard on Eid shortly after our prayers. It was the only time that we were all going to be together as a family and as some of us didn’t know where to look it was helpful to go together.

What I saw when I got there made me question if I was doing the right thing or not.

In the graveyard there were other big groups of people, all of whom were also celebrating, hovering around the graves of their loved ones with offerings of flowers.

Was this a custom for people here to visit at celebrations? Religiously speaking we are not meant to visit graves at all. This to me seemed like a deliberate act on a religious holiday. I felt like people had added a custom to their beliefs that should never have been there in the first place.

Now expanding on what I mentioned earlier, I believe that you can pray for someone regardless of where you are in the world.

You are going to ask me why then did I feel the need to go to the graveyard in the first place, right?

Visits to graveyards are not essential although they can give a feeling of closeness to those gone.

After my experience that day I think my compulsion to go again has been subdued; for now. There is a part of me that feels that being near my grandmother’s grave brings me closer to her but, as I type, the other part of me tells me to think of how stupid that is.

I believe deep down everyone should remember their departed as they see fit. The only exception of this is when they make it a part of their religious duty.

I can’t say I won’t go back to visit the plot that my grandmother’s headstone holds, although I will be more mindful on how I do it in the future.

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We Represent

I believe that we all play the role of ambassadors. We represent our social group, religious beliefs, gender identity, political views and so much more. When someone sees how we behave they are inclined to judge all people akin to us in the same way.

The other day my sister told me about a conversation she had with her hairdresser. It’s not clear how the conversation started however the discussion about sexuality and religion was talked about. The lady mentioned how in the past her views on gay Muslims were that they couldn’t exist. She had struggled with accepting LGBT people in her life to the point that you might say she had a prejudice towards them.

“It’s a very difficult to accept,” she told my sister, further explaining how she struggled with understanding her daughter’s boyfriend’s gay mother. “How would your mother deal with it?”

“Well now you mention it,” my sister answered. There was a moment of realisation when the hairdresser discovered that she knew me as well.

“I love him,” she exclaimed enthusiastically.

Over a year ago we had a whole conversation about how (even though I am gay) I pray regularly, fast throughout the year and some other details I fail to remember that reflect my religious devotion. I remember her being shocked by this but clearly something about our meeting hit her in a positive way.

She told my sister about how her daughter now had a two year old son and how she had un-friended someone who was gay fearing that it would influence her child.

“I told her,” she began. “That it doesn’t matter who he falls in love with I will still be there to support him.”

When my sister told me all of this I was truly humbled by it. I couldn’t believe how much of an impact I had on that brief meeting with the hairdresser. It made me wonder how many others I have also influenced in the same way.

There are times I question what importance I have here on this world. I’m not the best/greatest/most anything. However, knowing that I can make such a positive impact on peoples lives (even if it is just one every so often) then it is all worth while.

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#freehugsday

On the 18th of May I, together with a group of my friends, went out into our local town centre to give away free hugs and flowers all in the aid of Mental Health Awareness week.

The week, which started on the 14th of May, saw campaigners up and down the country encouraging people to talk about their mental well-being. But why?

Well we talk about our physical health openly so why not our mental health. If you have a cold everyone knows about it (especially in the case of man flu) . Broken bones are not hidden away in shame, we get everyone we meet to sign the cast. And the plaster industry make millions with the funky prints they now sport.

Cancer, HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases were all once thought of as taboo topics to talk about but now we discuss them more openly than ever. By doing so we are also more likely to seek treatment which can lead to a fuller life as well seeing the symptoms long before they become dangerous or even life threatening.

With the event I hosted through my campaign, @TrueMinds2017, we were trying to show that a small act of kindness can go a long way. A single flower can make someone smile which in turn can change their perception of the day.

This simple gesture was enough to start a conversation which is something my friends found out.

Raff, pictured below, had the following to say about the day.

“Today helped show me how a small act of kindness can inspire and influence others. Happiness is infectious , by making someone happy they in turn would spread that positivity to another person and the cycle continues. E.g: I make a person very happy by giving her a rose , she goes to the shop to buy milk and is extra happy so would be more polite and happy to the cashier , the cashier would take note of that and can be inspired so the next person who she serves : she will be extra nice / polite to and the cycle can continue.”

He also noted the following about negativity.

“This is also true for negative energy but negative energy is less likely to spread further as it can stick to a person and ultimately do them some harm.”

Some people even took the time to sit with us for a wee chat and one man even bought us a drink, which proved to me that what we were doing was working. For me it was wonderful to give people a little bit of happiness in their lives, inspite of my own anxieties of not giving them enough indivdual attention.

Overall the day was a great success with the public being empowered to talk about their own mental health journey or about those they support. I also heard from local store owners about how their customers were positively effected by our work.

My team were only there for one gloriously sunny day but I think we have made an impact on our little town.

However you decide to start the conversation on mental health remember that support is always at hand.

For further guidance check out the Time to Change website.

https://www.time-to-change.org.uk/

You can also follow my campaign.

https://www.facebook.com/TrueMinds2017/

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In the eye of the beholder

I have lived with the feeling that I am not good looking for longer than I should. Through my years it has led me to try and alter my appearance. Some were harmless, like wearing make up or changing my fashion style, others more dangerous.

(As I looked in the past – a once frequent gym goer.)

I spent much of my teens and early twenties with an eating disorder. Skipping meals days in a row or making myself sick felt like they were just normal things to do to lose weight.

No pain, no gain.

The agony I was in meant nothing if I wasn’t thin and if I wasn’t thin I wasn’t attractive.

It got to the point I lost 3 stone in one month. Too weak to move I was taken to hospital. That was the turning point for me.

The sad truth is I’ve done loads of damage to my body as a result. I put on weight now quicker than before, for a long while my immune system was shot meaning I got every bug going. My teeth used to hurt ( I assume that’s because I damaged them with all the vomiting) and I’m tried so much of the time.

It’s been years since I officially had an eater disorders but the effects still remain.

Recently I’ve noticed traits coming back into place.

For one I am again watching what I eat. Not just health consciously but to the point I am counting calories. I’m monitoring the how many of them I burn and consume. Now I know for most people that might sound normal, especially if you are a gym goer, but this is different. I am fixating on the pounds that are coming off ( or sometimes on) and stopping myself from eating or exercising more to compensate.

The second point is that I sercutinise every picture I’m in. My eyes honed into the fatty bits and nothing else.

It’s getting me down so much.

Why is it that my appearance is so important?

Media has a place to play but I can’t blame it only on them. It’s also our social concept of beauty that tells me only buff men and slim women are worthy of our admiration. Gyms with these creatures pop up everywhere beckoning them in like moths to the… Well you know.

Have you ever tried going to the gym as a regular person? It’s intimidating as hell. I feel like a fraud whilst I do bench presses next to a man who has arms the thickness of my waist.

Over the years I’ve tried to take note as to why I feel like my appearance matters so much. Why it matters if I’m toned or handsome or my hair is properly style to fit in with the latest trend. The only thing I come back to is that it’s because I’m single which in turn makes me think that no one wants me because I’m unpretty .

Having spent so much of my life on my own I question why that is. I like to think I have an nice personality, only people don’t get to see that as they take one look at me and ‘swipe left’. That is if they look at all. So I concluded that it must be my appearance.

(As I look now.)

The strange thing is I don’t think I do the same. Of course I recognise conventional beauty and admire it although I have seen beyond that point too.

There have been times that I have met someone who is unquestionably handsome and then got to know them to find out that they are arrogant, rude or conceited. All of that veneer melts away to reveal their true nature and I’m totally turned off.

I think it’s really important to see beyond the profile pic and read the profile itself. After that make the decision on what you want to do next.

If only, eh? Maybe then I would stop questioning whether I am handsome or not and just move on from it.

It might be a bit late for me, seeing as though I have had a few decades of it drummed into my head. Maybe the next generation will have a better shot at it.

We can only hope.

So tell me if ‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ what do you do when you look at yourself and all you see is something ugly?

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Don’t Look Back

For almost a decade I have struggled with an element of my obsessive compulsive disorder, (OCD) that involves me looking back as I walk to ensure that I haven’t dropped anything. This being so much the case that I seldom pay any real attention to where I am going or what might be coming my way. Getting anywhere is slow as well as really stressful.

So why do I do it?

Let me begin with telling you a little bit about OCD.

The obsession part is often connected to a thought that plays on the mind. These ideas are normal and most of us have them but the meaning that a suffer puts on them leads to the compulsion. The compulsion, or reaction, varies from person to person but the need to do them are usually the same. To protect yourself and others from harm.

So where did all this looking back come from?

Well about 10 years ago I was burgled. Someone let themselves into my house and raided my bedroom and study, the only rooms in the house out of so many other possibilities. As a result, from that point on I started to panic about things going missing.

I would question myself about what would happen if I lost something important. How would I know that I lost it it? Was it my fault? What if it belonged to someone else? Did I lose it outside? What would be the results of this?

The list of questions are endless. As is the amount of anxiety it causes me.

After all these years I have struggled to move on from the incident. I know it’s not necessary to do these checks as I have yet to see any evidence of me actually dropping something without my knowledge however I need to do them. Until I can let go of the past and stop looking back into what happened, consciously or not, I don’t think I am ever going to get over it.

Fear holds a tight grip on me and the fight to break free from it is one of the hardest. Having said that the desire to rid myself from it is strong and one day I hope that I can stop looking back giving me a better view as to what is coming. Until then I’m going to ‘just keep swimming.’

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If There Was A Pill…

It has been asked of me countless times in my life and the answer I have given has always been the same.

‘If there was a pill that would make me straight would I take it?’

Why should I have to consider this at all? I hear you ask.

Well with the struggles of being gay in my walk of life it would certainly be easier if I wasn’t. I wouldn’t be marginalised by my own ethnic, religious and social community, not to mention being subjected to racism within the lgbt world.

I wouldn’t have to struggle with having to come out over and over again. To tell people (family, friends, co-workers) about how I finally came to the acceptance that this was my life and that I hadn’t chosen it but rather it was bestowed upon me.

You must understand that we never just come out once. Every new person we meet eventually demands to have an expilantion at some point.

So yeah being straight would certainly be easier. Although I must admit all the drama I have faced has shaped me into the person I am today. Not prefect but worthy of acceptance.

What I don’t understand is why this question is never presented to heterosexual people. Why is that the standard why of life? And should we even have a standard way of life? Why do we not expect straight people to come out?

I guess it is just the way we have done things for so many years that it is now habit.

Habits can be broken.

Apart from my sexual orientation I am no different from any of my heterosexual counter parts. I work a 9 to 5 job. I have friends and family. Socialise when I can and just… live.

If there was a pill out there I would want it to make the world see me for me. Treat me kindly. Love me beyond the superficial elements that I’m, and in fact all of us, are judged by. I would want the pill to be given to everyone, gay or not, in the hopes that it would uncloud their eyes to what is truly to be seen. A pill that would attack the virus that is prejudice so we can just accept each other as we are and love.

It would be the most powerful pill out there. The trouble is it’s no where to be found. Instead we have to fight our own faults ourselves hoping that with each new generation we evolve into some thing better.

If you haven’t guessed it already my answer is no. No, if there was a pill out there that would make me straight I wouldn’t take it. Also, I wouldn’t want anyone else to either.

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Changing my Medication – Week 5

It’s been a full week taking Sertraline, 50mg, a day. My anxiety is still very high and the intrusive thoughts that rule my life haven’t gone either.

I have noticed that I’m not as sleepy as I once was. Although I do still take naps they are not as long as they used to be or as frequent. Maybe this is the change in motivation that I’ve been looking for to start losing weight again.

On Monday I had something of a disastrous appointment with my psychologist in which only one of the three people that were meant to turn up did. It didn’t help my anxiety and nothing was achieved of it. A complete waste of time.

The sunshine has also given me something of a mental boost. I’m going to use that as much as I can in the hopes of getting things done as well as making me feel better.

We are still on the early days of this new programme however I’m going to keep hopeful.

I won’t update you now for a while. I want to see how things go, but as soon as the meds have settled I’ll post about them again.

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