It all boils down to that. My summary of a life fulfilled. Each day has to contain all three of those composite elements to make that day worth living.
So what about the cynics who would argue that it’s impossible to laugh through difficult times? Or those who feel bitter about unrequited love or one that has been lost forever? I would agree that they have a point. There’s no medal to be earned in trying to suppress those feelings of sadness, anger or disappointment. After all, they are emotions gifted by Allah and it’s best to let them have their say. However, my stance is that wallowing in negativity can’t be the final stop in that journey of emotions. Once the darker or sombre emotions have been purged from our systems, we need not be afraid to allow the lighter and uplifting mood to return and help us transcend all that’s weighing us down.
It’s this latter state that I have chosen as my default setting for some years now. To be honest, knowing that life itself is borrowed time, I have learnt to take a step back from stressful situations and pause for thought. I want to remind myself that the focus in this life isn’t simply about the achievements or challenges. It’s more about all the decisions we make that will determine our outcome on the other side of this existence. Some decisions are thrust upon us. Others we make of our own choosing. But whatever the case, they must be governed with our sights set on the journey beyond. Not easy I know, given we can’t even see what lies ahead in the afterlife. However, believing can be done without seeing. As much as I know I have internal organs in my body without ever having seen them, so too am I convinced that there is a Creator who is in control of it all.
As a perennial student of Islam – as a Muslim – I look to the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who found many moments of pure joy despite his litany of challenges and woes. Nobody could have had it more difficult than him. Yet we know he found times to enjoy banter with his companions, to play with his young children and grandchildren, to race for fun with his young wife through the town of Medina and, no doubt, to marvel at the beauty that the natural world presented him with. These are but a few of many examples where he allowed himself ‘time out’ of the more serious matters he had to contend with on a daily basis. So, this is proof enough that the life of a Muslim is not one to be surrendered to constant misery and being morose. No. We have to learn to be characters that rise to difficult challenges and never be overwhlemed by them. I refuse to move forward on a permanently punctured tyre.
Life is short. But I never understood that aphorism till recently – when I finally realised that the better part of my time on this Earth is definitely done. ‘The better part’ being my youth and carefree state. Like it or not, I can’t deny the ageing process and the fact that my sons, being independent or not, will always be my concern till I die. That’s exactly why I know that to laugh through the tears and to love through all the forlorn memories is even more important now than ever before. Bitterness is a dead weight too heavy to be dragged around all the time. I liberated myself from that load a long time ago, Alhamdulillah. It was more improtant to free up that energy and mental mind space for things which still lay ahead and would be potentially much more rewarding.
Perhaps it’s worth to pause and clarify a thing or two. I want to make the distinction between ‘bitterness’ and ‘hurt’. I see the first of those two things as destructive and soul-destroying. It eats up your insides. The latter is one that I felt I had no control over as I am a mere mortal and have emotions. Yet, hurt can be processed throughtfully and should be allowed to be expressed. But once it has, lessons have to be learned. And this is why I say a day in which nothing new has been learned is a day wasted – a lost opportunity. It could be something as minimal as a new word or as profound as the meaning of a verse of the Glorious Quran. We need to stay healthily inquisitive of the people and world around us so that we don’t become consumed by our own problems.
I obviously don’t know what challenges lie ahead of me. I’m sure more are on their way. However, I pray not a day goes by without having a reason to laugh about something – even for a fleeting, carefree moment. That doesn’t make me flippant or immature. I think it just makes me try to be grateful for the good despite the bad. Whatever circumstance I am in, will, after all, always be temporary. I have seen others contend with far more difficult challenges than myself and I am in awe of their resilience, mashAllah. Compared to them, I’ve had a life of ease, Alhamdulillah. I’m relying on my older age to not let me be given to any extremes of emotions any more anyway. With it too, I’m hoping wisdom and faith will also keep me in a healthy check.