In the last few years, I have found that being surrounded by young people, namely my sons, has been a blessing that even I can’t begin to appreciate fully.
Although right now they are away from home (minus my youngest), Alhamdulillah, we keep in touch through video and phone calls. The support that this regular communication offers does not simply flow in one direction – from mother to sons. They have often been my source of strength and support and given me advice when rationality eludes me. So, I’d like to think we have a healthy interdependency.
One stark example of that is when I climbed Snowdon with them last summer. All along they gently coaxed me to continue the ascent till we reached the top. I capitulated to their advice as I trusted their judgement. I knew they knew my limits as well as my own self-doubts. Climbing Snowdon was one of many occasions where my sons have taken responsibility for me. I know that would perhaps make me seem irresponsible or even immature. However, I know it’s neither of those things. The reality is that when a person suffers trauma of some kind, be it a relationship breakdown, a degenerative health condition or an irreversible financial loss, self-confidence is dealt a huge blow. I was no exception. So it is that over the last few years, I am still figuring out the difference between my actual physical and mental limits and my refusal to believe in myself.
More often than not, I am discovering that I can sometimes be my own worst enemy. I have told myself that some goals will never be attainable and therefore should not bother try. The truth is a lot of those goals do not require supernatural abilities or superhuman strength. I acknowledge that I have sometimes quit an idea before even giving it any serious consideration. That mindset needs to be knocked on the head. I have often admonished my own sons for focussing on obstacles before they even have a shot at something. Yet, I am guilty of that same peccadillo. In my defence, I tell myself that I am older and the best part of my life has passed; the opportunities have come too late. But I know this is often a ridiculous excuse and not truly defensible. I have read too many inspiring stories of people who have had personal comebacks to know that where there is life, there is hope.
Whatever time I have left, I hope to use it wisely inshaAllah. I know it all starts with niyyah, the intention. That is one of the most uplifting and motivating principles that governs the life of a Muslim. I was discussing this with one of my sons recently, where he was reminding me about it in the hope it would inspire me to push on with my personal goals. He pointed out that in this life, we do a job and upon its completion, are rewarded with money or payment of some kind. What was our motivation or goal? Money? Status? Praise? To please Allah or to please someone else? The job is usually a means to an end. Yet, in our parallel spiritual existence, Allah does not ask about the result or completion of a task but about the mindset with which we started it. In other words, irrespective of whether we completed the task or not, the niyyah (intention) is what matters most. More importantly, Allah being Al-Kareen (The Generous), He is ready to compensate us without the task necessarily having been completed. That is such a profound concept. It is actually very reasonable since some people will always be at an unfair disadvantage no matter how hard they try; they have great intentions but may simply be unable to produce the results because of insurmountable problems.
In the material world, we are simply focused on perceivable outcomes and yet not everything is as it seems. For example, an individual may donate millions of pounds to charity and benefit others in many ways. But the hidden intention may have always been to win favour from a vested interest or to be adorned with public praise. So, whilst the end result is honourable, the niyyah (intention) tarnishes it all. In the spiritual dimension, traditional thinking is sometimes turned on its head. A completed task per se does not necessarily bring about rewards from Allah. If all our motives are wrong, then the task alone is fruitless. This concept is a serious game changer.
So it is with this reminder from my son that I am trying consciously to seek out the best of what life has to offer and stop making excuses for not grabbing opportunities. The dusting off of the old and bringing in of the new is quite timely. Spring is in the air and I have cleaning to do within my own mind. I feel a renewed vigour and determination that despite all the drudgery in the world right now, I must remember that my affairs are in the hands of Allah. It is He who put me here. It is He who causes the sun to rise again after it has set. It is He who brings summer after a long winter.
My thoughts frozen in fear are also thawing…