This isn’t a lesson in how to use a dictionary in the English language. This is a lesson about life, or moreso a lesson to be taken from life.
I had an interesting conversation recently with one of my nieces – a family member who obviously knows me well. Although I don’t remember the fine details about what we were discussing, I do recall that somewhere in that conversation, I mentioned about my past marriage. I was sharing anecdotes from my own experience but, as I often do, I follow up any comments with the acknowledgement that my marriage didn’t stand the test of time – almost like an appendix at the end of a book. Not quite essential reading but an important detail to be included nevertheless.
My niece actually made me pause at that point. She asked me to reflect and consider my understanding of the word ‘success’ and in particular, in the context of marriage. To paraphrase her, success of a marriage shouldn’t be measured by its longevity. A married couple who stay together till death they do part aren’t necessarily the epitome of a success story since we know that some people choose to silently bear the misery of their marriage for the sake of not being alone or for fear of being seen as a failure. Then, there is the opposite scenario (like my marriage). Although it wasn’t for life, most of the years that we were together were happy, fruitful and harmonious. It is within the details of those years that I should seek out the evidence of success. Perhaps the most potent proof of that is that I had healthy children all of whom are still alive and doing well, Alhamdulillah. This is another measure of success. Her words, not mine.
Wise young lady my niece, mashAllah.
The conversation had got me thinking… Firstly, in those few minutes, I had an amazing epiphany: I realised that I have always felt the need to clarify my current position and explain to others that, although I am no longer married, I still want my opinions on this topic to count. I don’t want my views on marriage to have no currency just because I am divorced. But that fate alone should not negate the wealth of experience I did gain whilst I was married. I also know there were many other successes within those 18 years which I achieved but are difficult to measure at all. They are not necessarily tangible things. In fact, those successes are often of a deeper spiritual nature which are impossible to quantify. But sadly, we live in a world where success is too often measured through material wealth and Facebook followers. I guess, for someone looking in from the outside, I have failed miserably on many scores.
The truth is, success sits on a continuum. It is very fluid and can’t be contained within or be represented by a single tangible item. Do we even know what it looks like? Take, for example a job that comes to an end. This is not an example of failure. Perhaps it was meant for us to move on or we simply outgrow a situation and the time becomes ripe to explore new territory. The same applies to a marriage. In some cases (as with mine), one of the partners may feel they need to move on. As much as it’s painful, it’s a reality that has to be accepted. I know, in my own case, I was not a failure in my marriage and have long stopped blaming myself for its demise. I simply became obsolete to a person who decided he wanted to explore something unknown.
For me, in my life success continues even though my marriage ended. I don’t measure it in worldly terms. I look to the esoteric, spiritual dimension of life. I continue to live with my emotional strength and self-respect and self-worth, Alhamdulillah. My status was never attached to a man or husband and never will be. I strongly maintain that this belief is what has helped me pull through divorce much faster than I initially expected. Success is how I am perceived in Allah’s estimation of me. Everyone else can go hang. Strong words I know but I am tired of being judged by others’ criteria which I refuse to subscribe to in the first place.
Manmade constructs of success are fickle and egocentric. I chose to liberate myself from them to the best of my ability when I realised I had to walk this path alone, post-divorce. This is why I confidently say, with hand on heart, that if becoming more conscious of my relationship with Allah is the outcome of my divorce, then I am truly successful, inshaAllah.