One of the things that I have had to admit to myself in recent years, is that I had often mistakenly handed over the responsibility for my happiness to another human being, namely my other half. BIG mistake.
Today, I have that wonderful thing called ‘hindsight’ which allows me to answer some stark questions which I had asked myself back then.
- Now that I was no longer a wife, what status did that leave me?
- Who would be responsible for me, my children, my happiness, my safety, my wellbeing?
- How was I going to face the world as a deemed failure?
- Would society pity me or blame me?
- How does someone move on?
- Had the role of wife really subsumed everything else I had ever been?
That last question was perhaps, surprisingly, the one that resurfaced frequently in my mind. Not so much because I didn’t know the answer. Quite the opposite, in fact. I always knew I had an identity before marriage. I existed in my own right before, during and after and it was that conviction that sustained me in my otherwise chaotic mind immediately following my divorce.
The fact that a Muslim woman should not take on her husband’s surname upon marriage speaks volumes about her right to exist alongside him and not become a part of him. Perhaps it even hints at the impermanence of marriage itself. Great female figures in Islamic history have not only been wives and mothers but they have simultaneously occupied so many other labels such as entrepreneur, warrior, educator and public orator. These are not post C20th Muslim women but women around the prophet (peace be upon him) himself!
The irony is that modern Muslims have forgotten the amazing legacy they inherited. I now see that, like so many other women, I had fallen into an emotional dependence where my husband had become the source of my spiritual wellbeing. Had I really pondered deeply over what those early Muslim women taught me, perhaps I would have had a healthier outlook on all the trials and tribulations of life. However, the status quo of 18 years of marriage had inadvertently led me to give responsibility for all aspects of my wellbeing to someone else. It had blurred my vision of reality. What was that reality? That we encounter people along our own journey of life. Some stay for the whole ride, some join us midway but many get off. It is a fallacy to think that the route to bliss lies in the hands of another human being. Maybe it is even a sort of arrogance on my part to expect them to want to commit their whole lives to me. It is a lesson which many daughters would benefit from being taught by their mothers. The book of life can end with “happily ever after” but the narrative that precedes that ending does not have to be the same each time.
From my own experience, I have learnt that contentment in your lot is found only through knowing Allah. In the vicissitudes of life, He is the only unwavering constant. Human interdependencies are very much like spiders’ webs – complex but tenuous. It doesn’t take much to dismantle them. Our ties to any person, especially our spouses, are inherently tenuous not simply because of mortality itself but, because individuals themselves are always evolving in their own desires and aspirations. Quite literally, it is a process that may lead to ‘uncoupling’. I have learnt that post-divorce, I must not voluntarily throw myself onto the scrapheap of society. There are a myriad of reasons to live even beyond a failed marriage. Alhamdulillah (praise to Allah), I look forward to watching my children grow into young men and be part of their journeys and achievements. Then there are my own personal goals, however big or small. Where one door has closed, I have been able to walk through many others instead.
Islam teaches us that we belong to nobody except Allah, our Creator. That Quranic ayah (verse), like so many others, can only be understood in its entirety when life puts us through the grinder and delivers us on the other side of tribulations, wretched but strangely purified. It is usually associated as a condolence to offer a grieving person after the death of a loved one. Yet it is a truism that we should be mindful of at all times. We were only ever destined to return to Allah. We do not own anyone nor are we owned.
So, whilst I no longer exist as a wife, I still exist nevertheless. I am a mother, a sister, a daughter, an aunt and a friend. I am still me. With or without any of those labels, Allah has put me on this earth to live in a multi-dimensional way. He created all of us as wonderfully complex and creative beings; it has always been our choice to exploit the best of us in any given situation. So, as the pain of divorce ebbs and flows over time and the realisation that I actually have so many reasons to embrace this beautiful life, Alhamdulillah, (all praise be to Allah), I find myself silently carving out a new niche for myself.
In the post-mortem report of my marriage, records may point to natural causes for demise. The truth is that sometimes we don’t have the answers we are looking for. Nothing in life is guaranteed.
Yet from the embers of that past life, I learnt the most valuable lesson of all – I needed validation from nobody but He who created me. There are opportunities in every situation we are in, however seemingly difficult they may be. However, recognising them must come from a place of gratitude first. If we start from this base point, the only way is up.
The name, Mymotherhalf, is clearly a deliberate departure from ‘my other half’. For me, motherhood forms a hugely significant part of my life; it is a label I cherish. As it is, there is no longer ‘the other half’ in its commonly assumed sense. I understand now that the other half always lay within me although I was searching for it in someone else. I am my other half. How I wish to express that part of my identity is for me alone to decide.