Narcissist? Megalomaniac? Egoist? The very mention of the phrase, “me, myself and I,” suggests self-indulgence and a kind of selfishness at the expense of everyone else.
As a mother constantly in the driver’s seat of life, steering my children through their academic, emotional and spiritual journeys, I know it is not only recommended to take time out, it is actually necessary. To always be strong and dependable takes its toll. With a relentless routine of monotonous household chores punctuated by a working life, sometimes it all gets a bit too much. Every now and then, my mental energy begins to wilt closely followed by a decline of physical energy. The two are inextricably linked and it is a cyclical sequence which I can’t break free from. Inside, I can feel the cogs of the wheel beginning to grind to a halt. That’s when I need to step off the carousel of life and be still. Time out.
I make no apology for taking care of me. If the foundation of a building is precariously poised, it is only inevitable that everything built upon it will be unstable. Therefore, when I detach from the humdrum of life and deal with my own well-being, I know that it is essential, as others are also depending on me to be there for them. Alhamdulillah, I wouldn’t want it any other way. It is a deeply satisfying feeling knowing that my existence makes – and has made – a positive impact on the lives of others, even if they are my own children.
However, I consciously acknowledge the times when I cannot go on. It is not that I am anticipating an internal breakdown. (Alhamdulillah, by His grace I have not reached that nadir yet. Perhaps that is testimony to the strength I have – more than I care to admit.) The low moments usually emerge when I am floundering in the midst of trying to manage too many things at once. Something has to – and often does – give. There are days when multitasking simply does not work. For example, a trip to do the grocery shopping, though necessary, will delay my cooking which will, in turn, delay other responsibilities within and without my home. It isn’t that I haven’t taught my boys household chores but sometimes it is not realistic to ask them for help when they are bogged down with their own work. To be perfectly fair, they are largely forthcoming whenever I do ask for help. For the most part though, I simply push on and as a result there are occasions when I become overwhelmed.
So why am I unpacking seemingly irrelevant details about my life in public? The purpose of mentioning all this is to help others understand that self-preservation is an absolutely necessary thing. It is precisely because I remind myself to reward myself, that I am able to recharge, reflect and return to the grindstone. To achieve that goal, I need to surrender the reins on life sometimes and let events unfold for themselves. It is exhausting to always try to have the answers and pre-empt every inevitability. It is an impossible task and likely to lead to a sense of failure.
When life moves at a maddening pace, it is so easy to become swooped up in the whirlwind and become breathlessly lost in the myriad of things that constantly need doing. I consciously try to allow myself a regular detox from all my responsibilities and let my head empty itself of everything. How do I do that? I enjoy the simple things which force me to go at a slower pace. For example, I revel in going for walks in silence. I am truly grateful to be living in a place that is surrounded by beauty. The river runs just behind my home and riverside walks allow me to enjoy uninterrupted silence and nature. My thoughts unravel and the water graciously carries them far out to sea as a gesture to me to be free for that time. I am completely absorbed in my present surrounding where I reminded about what really matters in life. The peace which nature brings is unlike any other. It is at these times that I am effortlessly drawn to reflect on my relationship with Allah.
In awe of Allah and His creation
To be aware of the need to look after the physical and emotional self, is to be aware of the spiritual wellbeing. Arguably, these cannot be separated. In my own experience, my spiritual enervation has often been a direct result of feeling I cannot continue with the monotony of keeping the cogs of life turning. I am constantly running between those cogs, making sure each is good functioning order so as not to lead to a breakdown of the whole machine. I have, in recent years, trained myself to know when I must say “No” to tasks on which the returns will simply be exhaustion and more frustration. That includes not always putting others before myself. To respect oneself is to earn respect from others.
Alhamdulillah, I recognise that now with the boys being that much older, more independent and tuned in to my needs, I have been fortunate to have been spared an implosion. There have been many times they themselves have persuaded me to step back and let them take over where possible. It is these gestures that have gone a long way to allowing me to endure till now. The reciprocal relationship is a blessing I do not take lightly, Alhamdulillah.
Throughout my life, I remind myself of ayahs (verses) from the Quran that speak of perseverance in the face of adversity, the reward for patience, the knowledge that Allah knows what I can bear. All these things combined have helped me remain positive and grateful. I also know that He recognises that worshipping Him comes in many forms. It goes well beyond the prescribed five pillars which are the absolute bedrock of our faith as Muslims. In addition, He has created a beautiful world in which we find precious moments to contemplate His greatness. Those opportunities make us realise that we need to loosen the grip on this life just a little and even not take anything too seriously. After all, it is only transitory. In those moments of solitude, we should awaken our sensory receptors and appreciate the blessings we have been enjoying all along.