A few thoughts on community


I’m often humbled by God bringing people into my life who truly care when I least expect it.

Just this morning, when I logged onto Facebook (I’m just as surprised as you all are – sometimes Facebook does accomplish that whole “bringing people together” mantra), I was humbled by the extent of this care and concern.

I suppose it’s no surprise that the place I’ve most often felt a sense of community has been online… or with people I have only known for a short while, relatively speaking.

I suppose it’s the chance to present who I am today and be shed of the past that has been ascribed to me, whether justified or not.

That’s not to say that I don’t feel a sense of community from people I’ve known my entire life. I’m blessed to have these individuals, truly.

But I grew up thinking “family” was all that I ever needed.

Recently, I’ve realized that having known someone your entire life doesn’t necessarily mean that they really understand what you’re going through right now. And that’s okay. I think I’m finally learning to accept this.

But being able to connect in some ways with people that I’ve never met or have only known for a short while makes me feel a) that there’s nothing wrong with me per se and b) the vastness of God’s creation, in this case, human creation.

Breaking out of my bubble has been the most beautiful thing in my life. It’s not been easy, but the people I’ve met have given me a sense of hope and reinforced my commitment to the following Qur’anic verse:

O mankind! We created you from a single (pair) of a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that ye may know each other (not that ye may despise (each other). Verily the most honoured of you in the sight of Allah is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And Allah has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things). (49:13)

A great way to start my Friday! :)

Oh yeah, happy new year! ;)

I must say that reducing my social media “presence” (I can’t think of a better word – it really felt like I was hovering and not really a part of it) has been so freeing.

The irony is not lost on me however that many people who will read this (paragraph) will chance upon it through Cake & Cows’s Facebook page (but if I am aware of the irony, is it still ironic?). I considered deleting it because “I don’t like being a hypocrite” (future blog post… if I ever get around to it). But given that I am a writer, I do want to be read. Otherwise, my journal would be the only place my thoughts are transcribed.

It’s a tension I’ve struggled with for many years and one which has not been resolved.
But regardless of whether it’s resolved or not, I no longer feel the need to write “bloggy” topics anymore. What do I mean by that? Posts that always have a neat ending. Posts on topics people expect to read. Sure I’ll most likely do those from time to time, but my last unfiltered post felt so good to write. It took me back to 2003, when the few people who read my blog were people that knew me through my words only. There’s something beautiful about that.

I don’t mean to say that I want to project a false image of who I am. I’ve never been dishonest, but I can’t say I’ve been fully honest either. So many times I’ve had this urge to blog, but decided it wouldn’t make for a “good” blog topic, because it would make reference to something most people wouldn’t get or would find boring. Well, you know what? Screw that! Being able to be myself is why I latched onto blogging in the beginning and why I picked it up again last year. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t wish to “be myself” at the expense of another person’s privacy, which I have never done by the way, but I am so over being damn PC. Maybe it’s because it’s a new year, or because I’ll be turning 30 in less than a month, or because I currently feel like the Phantom of the Opera. I don’t know what it is, but it doesn’t really matter. If I want to write about the mundane everyday things of my life, like how I’m currently suffering through an outbreak of perioral detmatitis and how it’s making me hate my life right now (hence the reference to the Phantom earlier), I’m going to. If no one reads it, fine. I’ve been there before and it’s not the end of the word. I’ve never gone viral and I’m completely okay with it. That’s not why I started writing in the first place!

I’ve been reading a lot lately and one thing I’ve gleaned is that each writer brings with him/her a unique voice. If I filter myself to be some cookie-cutter, I’ll never be satisfied and perhaps those of you who do take the time to read my stuff (which I appreciate more than you can imagine) would be missing out on the full range of what I can offer. Is that confidence? Well, I need it, so I’m keeping it! ;)

If 2017 is the year Rafia gets back to her roots of being her unabashed self, then that’s the best resolution, albeit unconscious, I would have made for myself in years, if not ever.

Haha, so this post ended up being a disclaimer, but that’s fine. Hopefully it’s a beginning of something new and more raw.

Encounters with strangers

I have received a hug from 5 different people I’ve never met before in just 2 days. It’s amazing what a tiny little gesture can do.

I’m not one to be overtly friendly with strangers. There’s always the fear that people might be suspicious of me. When you’re a visibly Muslim woman living in a post-9/11 world, you learn to be especially cautious about everything you say or do in public. I can’t blame 9/11 entirely though. I’ve always been shy. But 9/11 sure kept me in my place.

I think I’ve gotten to the point in my life however where I just don’t care (as much) anymore about what people might say.

It dawned on me yesterday that that might be exactly the reason why I’ve struggled with self-confidence my entire life. I’ve never given myself the time or space to truly own my opinions or viewpoints, because I was always thinking about other people’s opinions and viewpoints. But why are theirs more valid than mine? By silencing myself, I was implicitly acknowledging that people who don’t give a crap about me are more important than I am. I am all for respecting people, but I need to respect myself as well.

Like I told Mr. Rafia today, while recounting the story of just moments before when the manager of a boutique I had visited prayed for me and gave me a much-needed hug, I am done with being apologetic.

I know it’s easier said than done, but I am going to start.

Sometimes, a hug from a perfect stranger is just what you needed.

I bought myself a domain & other things

You may have noticed that my URL has changed. As of this morning, Cake & Cows’s permanent home address is now officially cakeandcows.org. I know .ORGs are typically reserved for non-profit organizations, but why are .COMs accepted as the default? Don’t they signify companies? In that case, I’d much rather be an organization, Canadian socialist that I am.

I resisted buying a domain for so long. You might even say this move was 13 years in the making. The main reason I resisted is because I didn’t feel like my blog was worthy of a domain. Domains are not free and while I understand that I live in a capitalist society, I don’t believe in buying things just because I can. I do believe that certain things (like my new not-a-tote tote) are investments, but I wasn’t sure my blog was. In the 13 years I’ve been blogging, I’ve been through the following names: Precious Barnacles, Precious, Whimsical, The Indecisive Planner – and those are just the names I can remember! If I bought a domain for Cake & Cows, would I regret it because the second I did the fickle pickle that I am would want to change the name to something like Ruff Draft?

I actually thought of this name the other day and was like “DAMN, that’s a good blog name!” I spend a lot of time thinking of names for things.

I’ve been different lately. It might be the hormones. But in the past week or so, I’ve been more impulsive. Usually, being impulsive is NOT a good thing. But I’ve spent a good deal of my life always second-guessing myself that maybe I’ve just gotten sick of it? I really don’t know what’s gotten into me.

I know that something is off though (and “off” in this case might not necessarily be a bad thing) because I kinda-sorta asked my way onto a panel. Yes, you read that right! Shy old Rafia who is afraid of public-speaking asked to speak in public! Did I really do that? Such hubris for me to think that people want to hear me talk! I’m going to regret this, aren’t I? 

I’ve been reading this self-help book that I received as a gift from a friend called The Artist’s Way. While I must admit some of the exercises were a little too new-age for me, I trudged through to the end. I didn’t gain any valuable writing instruction, but I did come away from my reading with greater confidence in my artistic interests, if you will. In the course of one particular exercise in the book, I realized something about myself: my deepest and most secret desire is to be on the stage!

Not sure what I was doing here – pretending to be Mickey The Director’s Muse or something.

WHAT? It all makes sense now. All the fireplace singing and dancing that I used to do as a little girl! THAT’S ME! What happened? Where did that girl go? The Artist’s Way told me to unleash my inner child artist. And I guess that’s what I’ve done, unconsciously.

I think I have a tendency to shoot myself in the foot before I even get started. I have these whimsical visions, but then I hear those voices in my head and ultimately choose to play it safe. But maybe I’m not as bad/foolish/unworthy/etc. as I think I am? I guess that also partly motivated my decision to finally buy the domain. A domain, in a way, is taking ownership of this blog. It’s like saying, “I’m not going to give up on you. You are mine. You are a part of me. You deserve to exist. You deserve to flourish.”

[End Scene]

The pants that got away… and an email to remind me

First of all, new layout! I know the previous one was only up for a month, but my amazingly talented sister (FOLLOW HER ON INSTAGRAM!) drew this beautiful illustration at just the right time. I fell out of love with the last layout rather quickly; it lacked personality and made my site look a little too drab, I later realized. So when Baaj emailed me this adorable and Rafia-esque illustration, I didn’t care that I physically felt like death, the new layout was going up ASAP!

Look at it. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? I am not ashamed to say that because I did not make it ;)

So, what’s this whole business about pants, you ask? I guess you could say that I change my layouts as often as I change my pants. Har-dee-har-dee-har.

Okay, that analogy was a forced attempt to string together what will be a rather haphazard post. But bear with me. The layout and pants do have some sort of connection, which I will attempt to explain presently. Because along with this new and beautiful header image, my sister also sent me this pic from July 2012.

Me and my little nephew – The Nizmaster – at Gairloch Gardens in Oakville, Ontario.

This must have been a few months before I stopped wearing pants completely, a three-year period of my past that still haunts me.

If this is not the first blog post of mine you’ve read, then you’d know that I’ve started wearing pants again. “Whoop-dee-doo! Rafia, you really weren’t exaggerating when you say you always make a mountain out of a molehill. But this is a bit much, even for you,” I can hear your thoughts loud and clear.

See, my decision to stop wearing pants was made out of fear and being pants-shamed (it’s a thing, at least among Muslims). One comment from a parent at the Islamic School I used to work at is what triggered, what I can finally call in retrospect, an entire negation of my sense of self. I stopped wearing pants – that was the external. But I also stopped listening to music, I stopped singing, I stopped eating sugar around this time, too. In essence, I stopped being myself.

I look at this photo now and am angry at myself for allowing that woman to enter my mind and convince me that I ever dressed immodestly. Her actual words were “Haraam dressing,” which made me feel like I was committing a sin for wearing pants.

Though thankfully I eventually left that toxic environment – it literally took a seizure for me to make that much-needed change in my life – I still encounter this warped kind of thinking occasionally. Her words have stayed with me unconsciously ever since.

No more. It’s been about a year since I’ve started wearing pants again, but it’s been a slow process. This photo emboldens me to start wearing them metaphorically as well. In a mad dash, I made it my Whatsapp profile, uploaded it on IG. It moved me so much that I had to blog about it.

So, yes. Thanks, Baaj – for this new layout and for the photo. My sister is a catalyst for positive change! See? It all came together ;)