Life is not a Mountain

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Perhaps I used to think it was. I imagined life like a thing where you made progress over a lifetime, for the most part, and by the time it was over you were high near the top of a mountain if not on it.

I realize now that life is not at all like that. It’s going backwards as well as forwards. Sometimes it’s going backwards a lot, and it makes you wonder what is the point of anything. When I say backwards I don’t mean that there are not things to be learned or ultimate progress at a later stage. I mean, you make moves, and then you make moves back where you came from. Sometime this is literal, but more often not.

It’s hard enough when you’re the one going backwards. It’s much harder watching it happen with your kids. You want them to exceed you, to learn from your mistakes or at least your wisdom. In this case, my second born son is going backwards. A few years ago he decided to follow his older brother down a wayward path, but as soon as the two were split and the elder’s influence onto the younger’s blocked, the latter started to improve. He got his act together and kept focused. At the time he was no longer living with me but I fought to regain custody after he proved himself, and I got it. He came here to Egypt for 6 months and gave me no serious problems, but chose to go back to America because he was missing out on his education, which I hadn’t lately been in a position to provide for him.

Now he’s been back a few months, and spiraling down again. His older brother can’t be blamed as a poor influence this time. My son is going backwards, and it’s hard to watch. The American influence in me says I ought to do something to fix it, but I know better that I can’t. If I could, I would’ve done so when it was his big brother going astray. I would’ve done so when he followed his big brother the first time. And believe me, I tried in both cases, over a few years. Some things, as hard as it is to face, are out of our control. When kids grow up and make their own lifestyle choices you can’t always stop them. You can lock them in, but they will jump out windows (trust me on this). You can make rules, but they will break them. You can give and give and give, and be there for them, making sure there is a ritual of pizza and redbox movies and insta-bake cookies every weekend, but it won’t make them mindful of their destructiveness to make different choices.

I was a rebel, too. I grew up in a family that drank recreationally and didn’t value religion in a daily lifestyle. There were no bigger values or precepts that my family lived by. I’m not saying my family was lacking a moral compass- they weren’t bad people- but I didn’t follow their path. I wanted to be very religious. I wanted to avoid worldly pleasures, and meaningless ventures. I rebelled, I just did it in a different way. My grandparents raised me perhaps to be less “extreme” in my beliefs, in the way I live them out. But I didn’t align with that. Allah guided me and perhaps He will guide my children also. But even in guidance, there are times of going backwards. Of revisiting places we thought we were far past.

 

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