Monthly Archives: April 2014

What’s Different This Time?

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I often find myself thinking about the differences between this most recent time I divorced my second husband, and the previous time at the end of 2012. Of course it feels totally different, but that’s nebulous. It makes me ask myself, is it actually different?

Looking back at that time, I felt a lot of uncertainty and insecurity. I felt desperate to find clues as to what my future would look like. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I had done the right thing. I wondered if I had made a hasty decision, since it was precipitated by a single event instead of being something I had planned out with deliberate thought. I questioned whether living in the house together would’ve made a difference, or having a little girl, or even him getting a job.

Even while I was in California last year, I was seeking something I couldn’t describe. Security, familiarity, comfort….whatever it was it seemed out of reach. I felt unmoored and directionless. Sure, I was glad to be out of a stressful situation, but I felt unprepared to go forward. I didn’t have a plan or a sturdy sense of self-worth.

Last year, after we reunited, I learned what it was like to live in the house with him, to have a daughter with him, and for him to have a source of income. It didn’t change a thing. Not a thing. So I began thinking -rather quickly after our reunion, actually- about what I really wanted. And it was not that life I was experiencing with him. I wanted out, but the situation was not exactly ideal for that. I tried getting out in several ways, but they backfired for various circumstantial reasons. But I wasn’t about to give up, because I knew what I really wanted. I begged Allah for it nearly every day, to make it possible, to make a way for me to go forward without him even in spite of all the factors that had come into play.

Masha’Allah, in the end I gained that victory. And you can bet I made certainly sure that there were no hidden loopholes to negate the divorce like last time! It’s final and clear this time, and I feel such peace, such confidence, such certainty that I have put myself and my family in the right place.

I don’t in the least feel insecure or uncomfortable. I don’t feel like I need someone, like I felt before. I feel content and satisfied and capable of going along as I am as long as necessary. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to remarry eventually. I don’t have an ultimate plan to continue into the second half of my life forever single, and dying a lonely old woman. I value companionship, and I have a lot of love I would like to give someone. But I am never going to settle again. If I do ever remarry, it’s going to be someone who I will be able to enjoy a much healthier marriage with than I did with my first two husbands. And if I don’t ever remarry, I really feel I can accept that and still have a full, meaningful life.

Another difference I notice is  that I truly have stopped needing validation from others like I used to. I feel confident in my own thoughts and feelings. I accept my own reality and views, even if others don’t. I’ve learned how to give myself what I thought I needed someone else to give me. And that truly satisfies. I find peace in deciding what I want for myself, and creating a plan to achieve those dreams. I don’t feel hindered by unmet needs inside.

These aren’t just things I’m saying trying to convince myself, or pump myself up. I’ve always had a personal integrity to write what I really feel and think, even if it comes back to bite me in the tail someday. This is my reality, and this is my joy. This is my peace WITHOUT the freefall.

 

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The Fragrance of Forgiveness

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When I was in high school, I had an English teacher who would post a quote on the board every day. We were required to write half a page on our thoughts about it. I ended up having him for a semester during both my Sophomore and Junior years, and the first day of both semesters he posted the same quote:

“Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet which clings to the heel that crushed it”.

This is very similar to a quote attributed to Imam Ali (RA): “Be like the flower that gives its fragrance to even the hand that crushes it.”

But in reality, forgiveness isn’t about what we give to the one we have exonerated. It’s more about us, about being able to move forward and live a life with peace and inner freedom.

I grew up with caregivers who I perceived at that time to be resentful. I experienced my grandmother in particular to be overly mistrusting, guarded, and emotionally distant. She seemed to carry pain that was decades old, letting it shape and twist her into someone who I felt was very unpleasant to be around. I never wanted to become like her. In my youth I felt free, loving, hopeful and positive. I never wanted to lose that quality, so I spent a lot of time thinking about what makes one become a bitter person, versus a compassionate person.

My freshman year of college I made a conscious decision, which I recorded in my personal journal:

1/28/1995

What if I learned to forget the wrongs that are done to me? What if I…see situations for what they are, not like “I’m the victim”?…What if I…opened myself up to be hurt again and again, so that my heart won’t become hard…but shaking off the hurt and dealing with it in its real state and moving on? We can choose, I believe, how to view reality; but everyone has some kind of glasses on that distort it- glasses of emotion, past, future, despair, even (looking) through someone elses’s. But if you see life through emotion etc, you can’t see what the true reality is…That’s what I want.

For me, the key to avoiding resentment, and to be able to forgive, is to stay open and be willing to hurt. There is no way to let go of any wrongs committed by another unless one achieves a peace with pain, with unjustice, with unfairness. If we hold on to ideals of how “things ought to be”, in a world where many events and experiences don’t follow that rule, it will only poison our own souls.

My good friend Wael Abdelgawad recently wrote, “So many of us nurse our resentments over the injustices done to us, holding on to our bitterness as if it were precious, when in reality it’s a dead thing…But resentment cannot heal our hearts, no matter how much time passes. Only forgiveness can do that.” What struck me most about what he said was how he described resentment as valuable to the holder. Instead of peace, connection, love, ease, etc. being treasured, the resentment and memories of slights are kept and coddled. People who do this, even some of the time, make it difficult for others to feel safe with them. After all, if we see someone holding a grudge against someone else (especially if it’s something insignificant), how can we be sure the same won’t happen to us with that person if we happen to unintentionally hurt them? Resentment completely undermines the foundation of trust needed in every type of relationship.

I’m glad that I took the time while I was younger to contemplate these things. Now that I’m almost 40, and I’ve been married to and divorced from two different men who hurt me in various but significant ways, I know that I’m better off. I have forgiven both of my ex husbands. I righted their wrongs by moving on into something better than the life I shared with them. I didn’t take let the pain that I experienced with them become a seed that would eventually sprout into a constrictive tangle of rigid pessimism. I still believe in love, I still believe there’s plenty of good to be found in others, and I still believe that there’s more blessing in embracing the natural pains of life than running from them. I am still able to trust, embrace, and give myself completely to another…and that in a more healthy way than I’ve ever been able to do before.

I will also teach my daughter in shaa Allah how to be fearless during the freefalls she will face in life. To be brave when in pain. Then she will also learn how to freely forgive, and stave off resentment. This is a new path, for a new generation.

A Truer Reflection

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Almost a year ago I wrote a post about my curiosity. In it I mentioned how I wondered whether my future would be one as a single mom, or would Bashir and I remain married. The future has come, and the curiosity on that issue has been satisfied. After many stalls, obstacles and challenges, I managed to ransom myself out of my marriage (again lol).

Looking back on it all, I probably should’ve just stayed out of the mix of Bashir’s new life after we divorced the first time. Even though the divorce was shown to already be null then, with enough time I might’ve gotten to a place where I would’ve just corrected that technicality and moved on. But the truth is I needed to grow and learn to make decisions based on values instead of feelings, and having a daughter was just the thing to motivate me through the pain of that change. In fact, Shukurah is the sweetest blessing to come out of such a fateful mistake.

There are going to be a lot of tough decisions I’m going to be facing. I probably wasn’t ready for them before, because I felt like I needed to appease the storms inside first before anything else. Now I know I don’t have to do that. I can choose what’s important, and let my emotions catch up with that program. I am ready to teach my daughter what it means to value herself, because I know how to do it myself now.

I thought the pain in my marriage was destroying me, but it ended up making me realize what I’m worth. I know without a doubt what I deserve in a husband and relationship. I will not accept anything less than what I’ve chosen, so if it means being single the rest of my life I am perfectly fine with that. I’ve fought too hard for myself and my kids, and we’ve all endured way too much, than to sell our victory for a cheap bit of company during a lonely moment.

I’m not going to jump through any more hoops for someone’s attention and approval. I am beautiful and unique, and I have a rare quality in the way I love. I do age well, both inside and out. I am worthy, just as I am, and someone out there will recognize the hard work I’ve put into my character and cherish me for it. And if no one ever sees what a blessing I would be to them, it’s their loss…because I know how utterly devoted and passionate I am when I am given one’s heart.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying everything about life. I’m not just finding myself, but actively creating who I want to be. Nothing is worth getting me down when there is so much hope for my future- hope borne from who I am in shaa Allah, not limited to what my circumstances are.

Thank You Allah for rescuing my spirit. Thank You for life, ever transforming.