Planning for Protection

I have spent years of my life hoping, planning, and trying to help women in small ways I felt were important. I’ve been willing to be very vulnerable to reach out to them. My own dignity mattered less than others’.

I have often been correct when I’ve sensed someone wants a friend to help resolve a problem. To help them feel comfortable and trusting enough to open up, I have shared a lot about myself. And, in many cases, my own exposure has helped sisters to start talking to me and think through their issues with support alhamdulillah.

Often I’ve shared personal stories with humour to help people feel like they fitted in — and to break the ice.

But in recent years my intentions have been completely misunderstood.

I reached out to someone, to try and help her feel ‘at home’ and accepted. I showed interest in her through questions and invited equality through sharing some of my backstories with her.

But she fantasised horrible intentions behind my behaviour, and accused me of them without paying any attention to my explanations.

I shared some personal experiences with another person who was going through a situation related and similar to one I’d endured. Hers required more patience than mine had so I offered my case as reassurance that it would be alright for her in the end. But she suspected me of withholding information she wanted, and of being untruthful.

Both were awful experiences. The latter person cut me off. Subhanallah.

About the former, I asked Allah SWT to keep her away from me until she was good for me. Alhamdulillah, He granted me enormous leave of absence.

Recently, I was in her company, however. I assumed she had stopped being judgemental of me. I let my guard down. I wanted to welcome her with open arms. To let her close to me, as sisters.

I was wrong to do this. Wrong that he had let go of judging me. And wrong to think I needed to let my guard down.

I had wanted her to accept my help at the outset of our relationship. She didn’t want it. I had wanted her to accept me. It wasn’t going to happen.

Alhamdulillah, at our latest encounter, she was good for me. Not as company in itself but through the lesson I learned from seeing myself with her.

I finally learned it is time to stop making myself completely vulnerable, in order to try and help others. I learned to choose wisely about when to sacrifice my comfort in order for me or someone else to progress.

I learned that I want to protect myself. I need to. I intend to inshallah.

Not every needy person I meet wants my help. But I do. And Allah SWT keeps on connecting me with people who do want my support. And people who want to support me. Alhamdulillah.

For my novel, I am currently planning the actions required of my protagonists to meet the story goal — to overcome the monster.

At the beginner of my drafting process, the free-writing pantser in me had wanted to discover the processes of their successes as I wrote. I was excited about that kind of discovery. But the survivor in me says no. It is time for me to put my guard up. To plan for success and deliver. To protect myself, my fictional characters, and the women in my tribe, and to be disciplined in so doing inshallah.

Inshallah, by planning my novel outline in detail early on in my drafting journey, I am structuring a strong space for awesome discoveries between myself and the women I work with during editing and publishing, and the women I connect with through the book. I am tremendously excited about that.

So I say yes to my uncomfortable confinement of planning when it is a foundation for positive expression and transformation, for myself and others.

Alhamdulillah I keep happening upon reading materials which help me to develop into a better helper. A sister who heals others without compromising her true needs. The excerpt below is from an article about practising self discipline written by Muslim life coach Sayeda Habib, mashallah.

‘We can sometimes let our ego or hurt get the better of us… keep the bigger picture in mind; this will help you to choose your words more carefully. Also, there may be situations where you felt that you shared too much with someone. If you have a habit of revealing too much, then ask yourself “Is it because I want this person to like me? Do I wish to belong?” Our need for acceptance can sometimes get the better of us. So, in situations where you may be feeling vulnerable, have a mental “cheat-sheet” of things that you are willing to share about yourself. This way, you will feel prepared and more in control.’
I love its suggestion to think in advance about what I am willing to share with others and to keep to my boundaries, mashallah. I want protection for all survivors, all women, everyone, including me inshallah.

And now I know how to action my new intentions inshallah. For myself, for my characters, and for my readers. I’ve got my pencil and my notebook, and I am planning for protection.

Leena Nasri is drafting author of YA suspense fiction, for women of faith who like London. She is a planner in pencil and a pantser in ink.

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