Undifference


Today’s post, as part of ‘The Beauty Of Difference’ series, comes to you courtesy of fellow blogger, friend and an all-round amazing person Thom Brown.  To quote the directly from the profile on Thom’s blog ‘To Gyre and Gambol: Reflections of Life, Limpidity, and Perches for Happiness‘, Thom Brown is ‘originally from Virginia Beach and has been a Professor of Psychology since 1975. JT told him the secret of life is enjoying the passage of time, and it made sense. That and a good book. And good friends. Music. Family. Oh … wine, cheese, olives, bread’. 

My journey with disability has probably not been typical, but at the same time, it’s probably just like everyone else’s. “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, … it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, … .” It’s whatever you want it to be.

I’m musing again, of course, about my Neglected Left. Twenty-five years ago I could still hold a nail with my left hand as I hit it with the hammer in my right. That is how most of the home in which I am presently sitting came to be. Even then, though, there was motor and sensory weakness, but the atrophy was not yet significant. It wasn’t really noticeable to those who were not already aware of it.

The vicious circle was whirling though. Because my left was weaker, I used it less and less, and because I used it less and less, it further weakened. As the atrophy advanced, it became increasingly obvious to others, and I was becoming increasingly different. Special. A close colleague who is legally blind knows me from afar by the way my left arm is different.

My disability developed so gradually that I don’t think I was ever really aware that I was losing something. That’s not to say I wasn’t disappointed that there were things I could no longer do that I once enjoyed, but I was already successful in life. If this were to become a stigma of some kind, it wasn’t going to be an obstacle in my life. I was unlikely to experience the discrimination or challenges that so many others have confronted.

Then a couple of weeks ago, a colleague told a joke that had a one arm aspect to it. It didn’t bother me a bit, but he was worried that he had insulted me. In fact, the one arm aspect of the joke had not even registered with me. Subsequent to that, I began to wonder how I would, in fact, feel if I learned that someone, students for example, were making fun of me and my Neglected Left.

Although I hope individuals with disabilities are always treated with respect, I have concluded that this wouldn’t bother me. I know who I am. I know what I have achieved. I know what I else I shall have accomplished before I retire in a few years. What these ignoramuses think or say or do is irrelevant to my quality of life. All that will result is that they will have embarrassed themselves, and I shall think less of them.

Yet … there is something in me wanting to know that I am still all that I once was. A close friend wondered if the more important question is why I might think that I am not, and I have no answer for that. I suppose I am not even certain that I do think that way, but if I do, I’m not sure I want to know. It would suggest that I have somehow let “them” get to me.

Most of those with whom I interact did not know me before I became different – a period to which I sometimes refer as the BeforeTime. They know me only as I am today. Whatever the case may be, if those who are close tell me I am whole (and they do), I shall know it is so, and other than my own, theirs is the only opinion that really matters to me.

Although still a work-in-progress, I’m almost there. I like me. I’m quite content with being different. It’s certainly much more interesting than not being different, and I feel for those folks who aren’t.

In fact, it seems to me that individuals without difference are the ones who are missing something. They’re difference challenged. They’re so … well … undifferent. Nevertheless, I’ll try not to patronize them, nor do I want to be indifferent to their undifference. Count on me to do all that I can to be supportive. – TGB

You can find more though-provoking and inspiring posts from Thom Brown at his blog ‘To Gyre and Gambol: Reflections of Life, Limpidity, and Perches for Happiness’.

Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it.


It is my pleasure to introduce you to Ambreen, a dear friend of mine.  

I got to know Ambreen through work, and during a 6 month-long Young Women‘s Leadership Program in 2010 (with 23 other women from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds). It was an amazing experience, of which I am thankful that along with learning a lot, the program resulted in the development of many beautiful friendships, as well as the strengthening of the friendship I have with Ambreen. It has also paved the way for the start of this series titled ‘The Beauty Of Difference’. 

Heritage

I have a fairly multicultural background. I am about 3rd or 4th generation born Kenyan, and my ancestry can be traced to the Middle East, Asia and even all the way back to East Europe.

Coming from a mixed background, and also not entirely ‘belonging’ in one particular place, I have chosen to take the principles of my religion as my culture (although background / culture and religion are two different things). I choose to be known as a Muslim first, because this allows me to be a human being first, and then sub divided into different races, backgrounds, etc.

Coming to Australia

I was born and raised in Kenya, and moved to Australia in 2004 when I was 19, with my Mum, Dad and elder Brother. Before coming to Australia, I had never been to another country – not even for a visit. So Australia was the first overseas country I ever traveled to. I came in peak summer and it was really warm and everything was brand new. I struggled with this for a while.

Perth, Australia

What I liked about Australia was how laid-back things were. Things are so fast passé even in Africa, but coming to the city of Perth, well – there was a certain peace.

The most challenging part about the move was trying to learn everything from scratch. From getting used to the currency, the roads (I can’t tell you how many times we have gotten lost), to some heavy Australian accents.

Cultural Beauty

The most beautiful thing about my culture is the importance the family unit plays. Our family members are always at the forefront of every decision, every occasion and every difficult moment in our lives. Children grow up knowing each other, and always have support they can rely on. Nowadays, where peer pressure, bullying, etc. are a challenge in society, I do believe that having a solid family support system allows children to grow up to become stronger adults.

Tradition

One of my favourite traditional events is a religious event, and that is the month of fasting. In Arabic, it is called Ramadan. It is a month where we give up food and drink during the day (day light hours only). This teaches us self-control, humility, empathy towards the less fortunate, along side being in the worship of God.

The reason it is my favourite event is not only because of the cleansing of the body (physically and spiritually – and subsequent fat loss), but because of the thought that every Muslim around the world is taking part in the global event at the same time, an event that brings us all together regardless of language, location, financial status, etc.

Cultural Misconceptions

As mentioned before, having taken my religion (Islam) as my culture, it is no surprise that the one thing that is a misconception is the idea that Islam is radical and that Islam preaches ideas of terror.

Fortunately, it is just that – a misconception. Islam actually teaches peace, and promotes intellect and reasoning. It also teaches the value of human beings, as is stated in the following verse in the holy book – the Quran:

“Whoever kills a person [unjustly]…it is as though he has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind.” (Qur’an, 5:32)

The Beauty In Difference

I share with you quote from the Holy Quran to show why it is important to embrace difference:

“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 God is (he who is) the most righteous of you. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things)”.

Knowledge Sharing

The one thing I believe people should know is of the respect that Muslim men and women have for the opposite gender. It is because of this respect that we avoid physical contact with people outside the family. It is the case of being aware of ones personal space and it is for that reason that many do not shake hands with the opposite sex. It is not out of disrespect, but on the contrary – out of respect and humility

A Picture Says A Thousand Words

The picture I am sharing is one of the grand mosque in Mecca. The reason I choose this picture is that this shows the celebration of multiculturalism.

the grand mosque, mecca

I visited this mosque several years ago, and stood shoulder to shoulder with people from different races and backgrounds, some who I could communicate with in English, while others spoke a different language.  However there was still peace and understanding. The picture tries to capture the unity celebrated in this vicinity; the white and black specs are in fact people. At one time, there can be about 3 million people gathered.

Words of Wisdom

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“Be kind, for whenever kindness becomes part of something, it beautifies it. Whenever it is taken from something, it leaves it tarnished.“

— Imam Bukhari’s Book of Muslim Manners

This quote for me is just a reminder of the importance of being kind to one another, and is a reminder of kindness.

The Beauty of Difference is coming soon…


Australian Painted Lady, Vanessa kershawi, fee...

Image via Wikipedia

8 days left till I finish up at my job, the thought of which leaves me a but nauseous this evening…perhaps from the growing butterflies in my belly?

7 days left until my new blogging series ‘The Beauty Of Difference‘ commences, right here on Reflections From A Red Head, the thought of which makes me very excited about sharing with you the many stories, interviews and photos of so many ‘different’ people throughout the world.

And 5 days left until I turn 34…in a way it feels like I am starting my life again. It also (and finally) feels like I have reached a point in my life whereby I have realised what the last almost-34 years were building up to, and in a way come back to the path I had wanted to head down so many years ago – but had deviated from.

My life is changing on this life-journey, as are the lives of the people who will soon share their stories with you. I hope that we manage to share something with you that will also help you along your journey, whatever that may entail.

Janine

x

The Beauty Of Difference kicks off on 1 September 2011, and will involve people sharing their stories and photos dedicated to championing all that is beautiful about being ‘different’.

Looking back through my blog: My 7 Links


Recently, an fellow Aussie blogger, travel enthusiast and red head – Vicki Potts @redheadedtravel (http://redheadedtravels.com) – nominated me to join in the #My7links project. My first thought was that I must have been living under a rock – as this was the first time I had heard of this project. The second thought was that I was impressed – Vicki had been paying attention and knew I was a sucker for these ‘challenges’.

Not one to rush into things, I had to mull this over for a couple of days, but I think I’ve finally managed to come up with my list. So here they are – my 7 links. What do you think?

My most beautiful post: It’s hard to think of my posts as ‘beautiful’, but on browsing through them, I will put this one forward to you: ‘Moments in Time.’ I published this not long ago, but I actually wrote it years ago. I found it when I was reading an old journal a few weeks back, and was a wee bit impressed at how I wrote back then. After some tweaking, I decided to share it on my blog. It’s about those beautiful moments in everyday life, that we often miss unless we are watching for them.

My most popular post of all time: (well – within the 11 months this blog has been in existence) is What do you do to maintain your mental health? There is no competition. With over 370 hits in the first week, I was blown away by its success – and it was all thanks to some kind soul profiling it on Fiveminute55 cool things for your 5-minute break! I actually have no idea who, how, why…you get the picture. But I am very thankful – especially because it was a post on depression and stress, a subject close to my heart.

My most controversial post: I don’t think I’m a controversial blogger. I tend to focus on things that will either lift people up, or make them think…along with the other quirky, artsy, daggy, self-deprecating stuff I may blog about. But there is one post that jumps to mind because it stimulated a lot of discussion – some of the best I have seen as a result of something I have written. ‘New Experiences at work – Drug and Alcohol test anyone?‘ was a post where I shared my encounter of being random drug tested at work. The discussions that followed were around the infringement of rights, workplace bullying tactics, and the change in company policies throughout the years.

My most helpful post: apart from What do you do to maintain your mental health? would possibly be the post I wrote on my experiences in dealing with Bullying in the Workplace.

A post whose success surprises me: ‘I’d rather regret the things that I have done than the things that I have not done. Lucille Ball‘ A simple post, referring to an awesome quote I had never heard before. It seemed to strike a chord with lots of people. I’m glad I could share it with you all, and that you liked it as much as I did.

A post I feel didn’t get the attention it deserves: I think it was ‘In the grip of fear‘.  I can understand though, as the subject (domestic violence) is something most people still struggle to talk about in this day and age.

The post I am most proud of: This is REALLY hard! I’m going to go for this one: ‘The greatest degree of inner tranquility comes from the development of love and compassion – Dalai Lama XIV‘. I chose this one because it’s one of the first times I really let loose and shared my own views on an issue I am passionate about – immigration, multiculturalism and compassion.

So that’s it. What do you think?

Oh, before I forget – I better nominate some ‘victims’ huah huah huah…so over to you (if you choose to accept your challenge:

@StuStoryteller,

@hajraks (you wanted something to write about!),

@AckermanRoy and

@LaliaVoce