2017 was a funny year for me. Very different than any other, but not in anything that anyone would see from the outside, well, mostly.
Sure, my oldest graduated high school. It was the end of an era. We had a party, it was fun to celebrate her accomplishment, but surprisingly it didn’t tug on my heart strings terribly because frankly, it didn’t change my day to day life, nor my daughter’s.
But what 2017 did bring was some clarity.
I started the year really feeling down, for no good reason. I was quite sure that the people around me didn’t enjoy my company and they wished I didn’t attend gatherings. My relationship with my young kids was chaotic with a back and forth banter of trying to keep the house relatively in line, but every time I turn around something is getting broken, or a half-clothed kid is running out the front door in the middle of winter.
I started this year thinking I was no longer going to reach out to people who made no effort to reach out to me. I was done with one-way relationships, whether that is friends or family. It takes too much of a toll on me to make a one-sided effort when I’m in the midst of parenting ages in which the relationship can sometimes be very one-sided as well.
At first it was lonely and isolating, but I knew this was a shedding. A time of vulnerability when my old skin is gone and before my new skin is properly in place. While it wasn’t enjoyable, I knew it wasn’t a new norm.
And throughout the year, I gained relationships with people that I hadn’t had before, or sparked new life into old relationships that had been neglected. Sitting here now in December, I feel the people that I have around me are genuine, and we all mutually enjoy each other’s company.
There are two things got me through the winter: taking online classes through Mishkah, and acupuncture.
I’ve always loved learning, even when I was in high school and I scoffed at my classes to the point that I nearly failed a few. I would still read on my own at home and devour a book in a day if I was interested in it. I’ve almost always read more non-fiction than fiction, and the fact that life slowed down just enough that I could really start reading in earnest again was such a breath of fresh air.
2017 brought a new vigor to learning for the purpose of learning itself. For seeing myself as one who can have worthwhile opinions based on facts and relevant anecdotes. For seeing myself as a valuable member of both the homeschooling community and the Muslim community at large.
But it didn’t come overnight. It came with hours upon hours of reading, studying, and reflection. It came with making mistakes and doubting myself the vast majority of the way. It came after thinking I was spinning in circles over things that had no consequence, or things of consequence that I had no control over (don’t get me started on the lack of early American history resources for K-2).
The fact is, I’m still a nobody in this big, vast world, but reading and self-care pushed me to a place where I feel I can at least have a positive effect at those immediately around me. Supportive friends have reminded me of the value that I carry, regardless of whether I recognized it. And my children have reminded me that I have a higher purpose, beyond my own personal drive for knowledge, but a duty to them as the future generation.
A few lessons I learned in 2017:
- Stop talking apologetically about natural and energetic medicine (I hate the term “alternative medicine”). My family has been helped in numerous ways that absolutely can not be explained away with the placebo effect. After visiting allopathic doctors (those are your doctors that insurance covers) first for various ailments and finding no answers, all the while suffering, we have turned to natural medicines and naturopaths and found healing. It is a disservice to others for me to talk down what has helped our family in such big ways, time and time again.
- While it is harder to go at things alone, it is not an excuse for inaction. Working on my personal goals by myself has brought much joy, even if I am sitting in our school room alone doing it rather than with friends or family.
- Mother culture is a nourishing life-blood of our homeschool. Areas where I feel self-doubt in my ability to teach do not need to remain so. I can learn Arabic, I can learn history, I can read literature. I had many years where this was nearly impossible with an over-filled schedule and two kids in diapers. Now that that’s not the case, I need to take advantage.
I don’t think I was particularly looking forward to 2017 when it came around, but I have high hopes for 2018. In sha Allah I’ll be sharing some of my 2018 goals in the coming days.