I am at that point in my life where the family nest is slowly emptying out. The boys are flourishing into young men and I am watching them reach each pending milestone.
Ah, to be young and carefree again! I am excited for them almost as they are. I see their eager anticipation to grasp opportunities for their own betterment, be it academic, financial and spiritual. I am reminded of my own blithe youth and the innocence of expectant dreams. Some of those dreams did materialise, Alhamdulillah. Dreams of travel, education, marriage and having children. There are those that started well but didn’t end anywhere near the target I had imagined. Clearly, divorce was one of those unforeseen outcomes.
The end of a marriage is a bereavement no matter who tries to convince me otherwise. It is a death of a union; a cruel amputation of a part of a once healthy whole. Yet I have had time to learn to manage my grief. Only yesterday, I heard a Muslim scholar describe the journey involving grief as something one “gets through” rather than “gets over”. To me, that is such a profound statement. It correctly suggests that it is a state that perhaps we may never completely forget but simply learn to live with it as it ebbs and flows during the course of our lives.
For me, Alhamdulillah, I have started to invest into my own future (as well as my boys). The preoccupation with that collection of things has helped me immensely. I have little time to be still and be overcome by sadness. Being busy for most of my waking life enables me to keep negative thoughts well beyond arm’s length. When those unguarded moments do threaten to creep up on me, however, I remind myself of all the positive experiences I have had since being on my own. I have been the master of my own life; I decide where I want to go today, or not; I decide who I would like to see today, or not. The one major positive aspect of being alone is not to have to justify my actions to anyone else. Of course, except Allah. To be honest, I do also remind myself of all the positive experiences I had when I was married. I recognise it was an overwhelmingly happy episode of my life. Even though it was abruptly dealt a cruel end, I can’t deny the good that came from it. To lose sight of that too would be an ingratitude.
Having said that, the phase of life I find myself in now, without a husband, has actually been edifying. I have mulled over the purpose of my life in all the roles that I occupy at once – mother, daughter, sister, aunt etc. These are the roles which I have inherited. But I have also created new roles for myself outside the home. Teacher, for example. One of the most gratifying feelings in my role as teacher is knowing that I have made even a modest difference to someone else’s life, however small it may be. Rather than wallow in self-pity, I have made a conscious decision that I would try and leave an indelible mark on this world; I strive to be a positive influence on others and direct my energies there instead. It has been a fantastic form of rehabilitation.
Negative self-indulgence of any form, be it nursing our wounded pride, or material excesses, is damaging for the soul. Therefore, I try not to entertain it. My coping mechanism is to keep myself occupied in constructive things. As intellectual creatures, we are commanded to work hard. The beauty in Allah’s demands is that He asks us to continue to strive for our goals but to keep our niyyah (intention) correct. Even if I die trying, that is sufficient for Allah. How Generous is He to not hold us accountable for the end result? It is a great burden of responsibility lifted from our shoulders.
I have a personal philosophy on life which states that a day in which something valuable has not been learned, is a day wasted. It could be a new word, a new recipe, a hadith (Prophetic wisdom), an ayah (verse) of the Quran or even something banal as a new and efficient method of storing clothes. Every day is a gift to be in awe – yet again – of the splendour of this world. Switch off the news. Shed the negativity. Enjoy the wonders of life. Breathe. It feels amazing to be alive, Alhamdulillah.
So, as my boys look forward to their future, I hope to always remain a part of it too inshaAllah. I will not clip their wings in order for them to acquiesce to my own situation in life. However, if I have done my job well, I would like to believe they will always reserve a space for me in their adult lives. They will need to look over their shoulder as much as look ahead. Mothers are self-sacrificing and I know that no child can ever reciprocate what a mother does for them. To be fair, I would be setting my own children an unrealistic and unobtainable goal even if I demanded it from them. I never wish to be the hindrance to their aspirations. Instead, I wish to be the protagonist that fires them with the passion to embrace all the opportunities out there that will nourish their souls.
My life has not been unusual in that I have had my share of challenges and obstacles. Would I have done anything differently? Maybe. However, I am aware that those bottlenecks, whirlpools and storms I have come through have all collectively worked to bring me where I am today – and that place is one with which I am deeply humbled by and content with, Alhamdulillah. I have found peace. Peace in knowing where I am now and where, I pray, I will find myself on the other side of life, inshaAllah. Grief will not win.