I am therefore I think

Positive thinking flowering into a great blossom.

SubhanAllah. All great things start with a budding thought; a seed that needs to be planted, germinate and allowed to grow. Whilst we may take credit for an idea in the first place, I would argue that we need to go back even further and ask who inspired us to think that thought at all?

We may often find ourselves thrown in the deep end in life, in situations we never saw coming. It is very normal to feel overwhelmed and even want to throw in the towel when it all gets a bit too much. However, for myself, I have recently found the fighting spirit within me takes over and the demons of self-doubt are eventually overcome. I can only attribute that success to my firm belief in Allah; that nothing He wanted for me was arbitrary; that it was always His plan for the events to unfold in my life as they have.

I have resigned my fate to His mercy and yet I also know that He has given me the human intellect to go figure things out for myself. For instance, I would not sit unperturbed in a house where a fire is raging, hoping for divine revelation on what to do. Innate instinct tells me I must get out quickly! It’s important to know the distinction between accepting desiny or the will of Allah and trying to intercept where you have been given the intellectual capacity to do so. This is not to say the two are always diametrically opposed to each other. No. Yet there are occasions in life where we must resign ourselves to an outcome despite having tried our best to avert it. To know that all life’s tests are part of a bigger plan to see if we emerge a better version of our former selves, is where the proof of the pudding lies. One of the most beautiful things of Islam is knowing that we are only accountable for our intentions and efforts. The outcome per se is not what we are soley judged upon.

Overflowing with Gratitude

It is very easy, when you realise you have most likely lived more than half of your life, to fall into a state of languishment. When the outcome is not quite what we expected, it is often tempting to hang up our boots. The experience of a divorce is traumatic enough to knock the confidence out of most people. However, I have had long enough to reassess what in my life means the most to me. Alhamdulillah, I have found that I had them in my midst all along. The obvious things in that list would be my health, my children, my sanity, my family, my friends, financial stability and a place called home. What more could I ask for? Anything above that is superfluous. It is time to focus once more on the glass half full and simply watch how Allah would pour more into it if I start from a base level of gratitude.

Having liberated myself from the defeatist attitude of apathy and self-pity, I have rekindled a deep desire to set myself higher goals – to move out of my comfort zone to a place where I am now constantly challenging my own self-imposed limitations.

Armed with those thoughts, I have set about making modest but determined changes to my life. Writing this blog has been one of them! I finally understand that of all the people in the world who need to value, love and respect me, is first and foremost, myself. The result has been contagious and no, I am not a megalomaniac high on regular doses of self-adulation. What I mean is this… I have noticed how, holding my own, standing up for what I believe in, refusing to be a crumpled mess on the floor, has positively impacted my boys. Implicitly or explicitly, they have drawn strength from me knowing that they too cannot afford to put the breaks on their own lives but to keep going. Actions speak louder than words. I have noticed how finding the courage to keep moving forward has permeated across to my boys. It has been a wonderful phenomenon watching them watch me and has raised my own self-awareness about my actions and their implications. Not only am I answerable to my Creator but I see how my own children are looking for answers in my actions too. Insha’Allah hope I have not failed anyone – including myself.

All this I have quietly taken on whilst the world continues to reel from the shock of the coronavirus and all the unprecedented changes it has brought to our lives. In our own microcosmic way, my boys and I have already been through and emerged from a lockdown of sorts of our own. We know the feeling of being ostracised, of being mentally stuck in one place, of having liberties taken away from us, of having to exercise extreme patience in the face of adversity and especially of not taking things for granted. We have already run that gauntlet. It has mentally prepared us for yet another lockdown should that be on the cards again.

Positive thinking is that key ingredient which every broken person needs to have before they can set sail again in life. Is there any magic formula for it? I would argue there isn’t. Positive thinking can only truly start after a lot of pain and anger is purged. That takes time and it can’t be forced. But once all that has been flushed out, thereafter we need to develop a receptacle stripped of arrogance. We need to turn to our Creator once more and ask Him to guide us. The ego must be emptied out completely in order to start from ground zero and work upwards. We must be sincere and humble in our efforts. Once those egos are emptied, we will simultaneoulsy notice a lightening of the burdens in life. We can delete, reset and focus. It is a periodic process that needs to be revisited and is necessary to keep us in check. If we hold Life at arm’s length and don’t allow ourselves to be subsumed or consumed by it, for sure we will always be able to view missed opportunities, failures or sadness with a more discerning and healthy detachment. Even if that half full glass gets knocked over and its contents drain away, we will be ready to refill it once more.

The immortal adage coined by Descartes, “Cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am),” is one I like to turn on its head. As I exist, so I am blessed with the ability to make decisions, good or bad.

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