Forgiving My Cultural Conditioning

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I asked Tanya to give me some extra time to complete my contribution because I didn’t want to force it – I wanted it to come through me.  Indeed, it has been flowing through me all day.  I have spent a greater part of the day journaling, meditating, and praying.  After taking a cleansing bath I feel prepared to commit to paper what wants to come through me today.  

Last night I tossed and turned in uncomfortable sleep.  Nightmare followed by nightmare.  I dreamt of an apparition; a blind woman.  She said she was losing her sight because they did not see. Followed by a younger version of the same woman. She said she was losing her hearing because they were deaf. Who are they? Who is she? Why did I wake up shaking from this dream? Am I her? Am I not listening? Am I not seeing? I think so.

Yesterday my partner brought up the subject of scheduling a couple’s therapy session.  My throat tightened and I shut down. “I don’t trust her,” I said. He wanted to know why because we had worked with her before. I did several one-on-one sessions with her. Why did I not want to work with her? I thought of the jealousy I felt. The envy. She’s a privileged white woman, she doesn’t get my story.  No reason I told him, we’ll talk about it later.  

As I put pen to paper earlier today trying to make sense of my thoughts I began to see how invested I was in being a Pakistani Muslim woman in relationship with a Jewish white guy.  The words that danced before my eyes – my thoughts, feelings, and fears — revealed to me that although I desperately want to just be seen as a human being, I myself see myself by the colour of my skin and the religion I was raised in.  

As my heart cracked open, the words spoke to me and showed me all the places I felt stuck and afraid.  In my pain I read the anger I feel towards myself for not knowing how to navigate this unknown territory of growing as a human being with another human being who is so beautifully different than I am.  

I began to see how I want to be met in understanding and acceptance yet I don’t meet myself in understanding and acceptance, nor do I do the same for my partner.  How can I be the space for myself to unravel and become beautifully woven into the intricate tapestry of my life if I am not willing to be present with who I am in this moment, in all my darkness and beauty?  

Since childhood I have been acutely aware of the barriers that separate us. I have dwelled on how to end poverty, hunger, racism, rape, war, and injustice.  Only today have I realized that I have been scratching the surface of what it means to be an authentic, accepting, and loving human being who meets herself and those around her with understanding.

My amazing partner has already helped me grow in so many ways and now I see that regardless of where our relationship goes, this is a beautiful gift and opportunity for me to see the spaces in my life where I can lean in and open.  The spaces in my life where I can forgive.  

Forgive my cultural conditioning.

Forgive my religious upbringing.

Forgive myself for being afraid.  

Forgive myself for being imperfect.

Forgive myself for not knowing.  

Forgive myself for not walking my talk.  

I am deeply grateful for the amazing woman who has sat across from me and my partner guiding us, being an ally in our love and growth.  I see now that the practice for me is to look at my partner and see the man I love – another human being – not just a Jewish white guy.  The practice is to see her as an amazing woman in her joy, beauty, and grace with which she supports us, instead of seeing her simply as a white woman.  These are my hang ups and these I release.  I sing them into a prayer and dance them away as I celebrate my freedom to be fully me.  

It’s no coincidence that this is what desires to come through me today.  During my very first conversation with Tanya, I told her that I was intimidated by white women and expressed that I would find it challenging and frightening to sit in a circle of white women. Much has changed since then.  I completed the Sistership Circle facilitator training program with an amazing group of women, and most of them are white.  These beautiful women held me, loved me, inspired me, and grew me into the woman I am becoming.  In the circle, I was met with understanding, love, acceptance, and compassion.  

I get goose bumps as I write this because I can see their smiling faces around me. I feel the loving strength of their arms.  The soothing resonance of their voices as they sang to me when I fell apart. I feel them because they are with me. They are me and I am them.  

If you ask what I got out of Sistership Circle, this is only a very small piece. The fact that I sit here typing this knowing that it will be published in a book read by many other women and men indicates how much courage and self confidence I have gained.  When I feel fear or doubt, I take a deep breath, lovingly feel into that part of myself and forgive myself for being afraid.  The sisters in my circle continuously said to me “I hear you, I see you.”  Aho sisters! I hear you and I see you too.  

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