The Secret of Insouciance

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about longevity.  I guess when the prime of life has passed, this is the inevitable phase that the mind enters.

Coronavirus, lockdown, vaccines, isolation, death…all pretty grim words that have become part of the vernacular of front doorstep conversations and political debates across the world.  Glancing at news headlines, I vacillate between cautious optimism and downright despair.  Recently, my stress has piqued over the last few days because of a new personal situation that has arisen.  Alhamdulillah, it has nothing to do with my health or my children’s wellbeing although the very nature of stress itself is that it will – and does – impact the peaceful status quo of life. 

Whilst I don’t need to divulge the details of my situation, I confess it has made me check the balance of my mind and its workings – again.  It has served as a test of my faith.  I have found myself doing a bit more introspection and asking difficult questions such as: How strong is my resolve to remain calm and dignified?  Will I focus on the empty half of the glass or the full half?  Have I mastered patience in the face of adversity?  Who do I call upon for help?

Recognising stress is the path to managing it

I recognise life’s tests now since I have recognised when my stress reaches a tipping point – something many of us can identify with.  By far, my biggest test in life remains my divorce.  Till now, I have not suffered anything more soul-destroying than that.  Alhamdulillah, it was nothing worse.  However, no other event has pummelled me so much in terms of my confidence and self-worth.  Yet even then, I did not throw an outward tantrum or kick and scream.  Instead, the storm raged within whilst I learnt how to quell it.  I did that only through conversations with Allah and striving to be patient with my lot.  With that experience, I hope I will handle future crises with a similar sense of calm insha’Allah.

Back to today and it would appear from the outside that I don’t care about what is going on around me.  In fact, far from it.  I care very much about the circumstances I am in.  However, with age comes a certain wisdom which one can never grasp until they have been through all the motions of life themselves.  Having ventured out into the world and come full circle, like many people, I realise now what matters most.  I am mastering the art of being calm.  Faith in Allah is the secret of my insouciance.  Therefore, when circumstances change, when other variables exit and enter, if my faith never wavers, I am already on a road to success.  It will not allow me to succumb to the transient nature of life itself.  So, you see, insouciance is not necessarily a negative thing; it is not the hallmark of a flippant or frivolous person.  It is an inner state of being in control of one’s own emotions and not being overwhelmed by worldly concerns.  To remain unflappable is an enviable trait especially when all around you are losing their heads.  I admit it is a work in progress but one that I am increasingly striving for. 

Balancing stress and calmness is delicate but achievable

Alhamdulillah, I am truly blessed to have my sons help me when my own perspective on things becomes blurred.  I know their youth is not a synonym for naivety.  When I related to them about my feelings of unrestrained anxiety over this recent situation, my eldest reminded me of a very valuable lesson from the Seerah – the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).  It was of the incident in the cave when the Prophet (peace be upon Him) had been commanded by Allah to leave Mecca to save his life.  His enemies, who had rejected Islam, were hot on his trail and determined to kill him.  With him was his devoted companion, Abu Bakr.  As the two men remained hidden in the cave, they heard the tribesmen outside, knowing full well how close to death they were.  Whilst Abu Bakr feared the worst, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) prayed and reminded him that the third amongst them was Allah so they had nothing to fear.  What a profound comment!  And I am eternally grateful that my sons have the maturity to help placate me in crucial moments of stress before things get ugly.

Allah knows, with the challenges I have faced in life, that I have had many opportunities to practise inner calm.  If I do not strive to master this skill at this stage of my life, I should be worried.  No doubt, I have lived the best part of my life already (if I am counting the years).  Therefore, insha’Allah, I know that whatever happens to me outwardly, the core of my being needs to remain firm and strong.  That core is an intangible one and relates to the spiritual dimension of my existence.  I may not be able to see it but I know for sure it is there.   Moreover, Allah knows it too.

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