A lot of debate surrounds the origin of this legendary quote. Some historians attribute it to Greek philosophy, namely Socrates; others say he cannot take the credit.
To be honest, I am not interested in the historic roots of this maxim. I am only interested in what these two simple words mean for me when put together. It is that the journey of self-discovery should never stop. Yet it does. We go through life in erratic bursts of finding out what we want, when we want and even who we want. Then we settle into a routine of complacency and stagnation. It’s a normal process of life and there is nothing wrong with that until we are jolted from our seats and realise that the old way of handling things will no longer do.
When life throws a curveball, sometimes we fall right off the path which we were once on. Whilst we try to refocus and time moves silently on, this leads to retrospection which itself leads to introspection. In the process of that, we really begin to know who we are. We learn our limits vs. our capabilities, our strengths vs. our weaknesses, our friends vs. our enemies. All those things suddenly become more apparent than ever before.
I never once imagined I would be running a house alone without a husband to raise my children – especially not because of a divorce. However, here I am and in these last five or so years, I’ve learnt a lot about myself. Here are a few of those things:
I will not allow anyone to denigrate me for being divorced; I have to shout much louder than a married woman to be heard and/or taken seriously; I have to be the steel armour which contains and protects the delicate parts of my family; I will never let my boys feel bereft in the absence of their father; I will do my best to remain financially independent of any help from others so as not to give them the chance to feel indebted to them.
The list above speaks of a certain kind of defiance in the face of a society that really does not do much to support women facing life on their own with their children. I can honestly say that it does take its toll on me mentally. It is quite draining to be perfectly honest. I have to present a bold front to the world and then turn around and face my boys and do the same for them. In a sense, I am living between two parallel realities and serving as a buffer between the two.
However, life doesn’t afford me (and other women like me I guess) much scope to have bad days where you don’t feel like getting dressed or going out of the house. I have no choice but to go on. There is no second person to hand the reins over to. And the irony seems to be this: whilst I wear that armour as a strong facade, inside, the core is also very tired and weary.
People have sometimes asked me if I would consider remarriage. The short answer is ‘No’. I believe there’s a time in life for everything I wouldn’t feel the excitement one does when in their twenties and all the expectancies that come with the vigour of youth. I don’t have the desire or energy to get to know someone and nor do I wish to explain my own story so far. I am not cyncial of marriage or love but I know that marriage is not the panacea to my life now.
So, in summary, I have come to know about myself in ways I perhaps would never have done if I had continued in my marriage and allowed someone else to control where we would be going next, both in real terms and spiritually. Allah has given me a new set of circumstances through which He wants me to shine. InshaAllah (God willing), I hope I don’t miss many of those opportunities. Along the way, I will continue to know the updated and revised version of myself.