Tag Archives: sadness

Jacked In, Jacked Out, Jacked Up

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I didn’t think I would want to write here for a while, but as I lay here in my dark, silent room all I can think about is the pieces of me I feel I left behind. I close my eyes and try to wish myself back to the tiny room where I wrote to the muted strains of an unknown local band, but the stillness here mocks me in return. Racing through my mind are endless scenes burned into my memory…scenes that rose up during my brief evening nap in the form of a shop in Chinatown where I was trying to tell a young man to be patient until he got what he wanted.

In the book I’m currently reading, there are machines someone can “jack” into and enjoy a virtual dream world as though it were real…kind of like the way it happens in The Matrix. I wish there were such a thing I could use now to escape this reality for the few hours I have until I truly have to return to real life and work tomorrow. Even without such a device, I feel so surreal…between my recent experiences in California, reading the plot’s unfolding in the afore-mentioned novel, and enduring complicated emotions that seem to constantly bend like light refracted from an ever-shifting prism, I can’t seem to find a place inside to ground myself. I feel like a part of me is drifting through an alternate reality in a universe I’ve never heard of, while the rest of me stays here to attend to the perfunctory matters at hand.

In my soul, the tide rushes in with feelings of love, dreams of hope, buoys of faith; and recedes with fears fraught by uncertainty, tinges of loneliness, and reluctant discipline. All of it is captured in a bubble of wistfully beautiful memories, re-cast over and over until I feel like I can’t take it anymore. I push myself like this until I must act…but the only action I can take at this point is writing it all out, splaying it before my reclusive conscience.

So with that, allow me to change venues, so that I may complete this bloodletting in an adequate fashion.

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Do I Really Have to Go?

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A bittersweet day it has been indeed, being that it was my last one here. Tonight I am solemnly contemplating my return to Atlanta, and as always I wish I didn’t have to go. Indeed, the entire drive back here to LA county I wished I could turn the car around and return to the previous places I’ve visited, and never leave.

I spent most of my morning at Pismo Beach. After departing from San Luis Obispo, I wanted to have some final time to reflect on some things before wrapping this trip up. I pulled off the road and wrapped myself in my black wool abaya, and cautiously walked down to the shore. I listened to music, singing here and there, while I slowly strolled the length of the beach to its rocky cliff walls. The sun glistening off of the dancing waves soothed me, and I thought about how problems in life are often like this: out in the distance, they seem so frightening and overwhelming. They keep coming and coming, like the frothy breakers yards away. Some are so high, it seems as though they only will knock us down when they reach us.

But as the tide races toward shore, those ripples become smaller and smaller, until they are merely a gentle lap upon the sand crowned with glistening white bubbles. The water recedes leaving the beach shimmering like glass, with the sun’s reflection refracting off it like a dazzling laser. The streaks of iron decorate the shoreline like sparkling scars….scars not unlike our own after being tested.

I ended up staying out on the beach for about two hours. As I walked back to the car after praying dhuhr, I gazed up at the sun. The sky behind it was nearly black, and with the wafting cirrus clouds flanking it like miniature galaxies, it appeared as though it was actually guarding the entrance to eternity.

I drove the rest of the way to the valley along the coast, reluctant to reach the inevitable. Unfortunately, doing so put me right in the middle of rush hour traffic in downtown Los Angeles. The traffic didn’t bother me, though, as I spent the time replaying all the memories recently made. Now that the day is finished, I will do the best I can to prepare for my return flight, hoping that my next visit here will be very soon in shaa Allah.

Allah is The Answer

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My middle son misses me. He called at all hours of the morning (the time difference did not help), crying and crying. I felt so helpless, being so far away, but I completely understood what it feels like for him. The best I could do was stay with him on the phone until he was able to calm down and put his mind on other things.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from today. It was important for me to find my mom’s old house, and the apprehension in what may lie ahead kept me from getting restful sleep. When it became apparent at 9 AM that there was not going to be any more opportunities for me to go back to bed before I had to check out, I went ahead and gritted my teeth and got ready for the day. I mapped out the street she lived on, then went to the nearby garage and retrieved my car. I drove from Hyde to Mission to 24th, and found a side street to park on.

Just as I remembered, Lilac St was nothing more than an alley. I wasn’t sure if I would remember her door by seeing it, but I was going to give it my best shot. I slowly walked toward the alley, uncertain if it was a good neighborhood or not. There were a lot of trendy places on Mission just around the corner, but alleys always seem kind of scary. I proceeded cautiously, and was relieved to see there weren’t many people around. Some guys were just taking a smoke break from the back door of the restaurants that lined the alley, and others were residents unloading things from their storage spaces.

The alley itself was colorfully painted with one graffiti mural after another. One one telephone pole were three faces of middle eastern looking men, and on the next were three women in hijab. Most of the alley was lined with sliding doors that led to either garages or storage areas. There were not many entry doors, and as I looked at each one I could not hone in on which might have been hers. What was clear was that this seemed to be an area where artists congregated, and that explained why she -with painting being a consuming passion of hers- would’ve chosen to live there.

I walked the entire length of the way searching for the impossible. I recalled that my brother had told me once that the building itself used to be a train station that was converted into living units, but none of the structures appeared to fit that description. When I reached the other end of the alley, I felt disappointed and lost. I turned back around, hoping that the alternate view might trigger a flash of memory to help me find what I was looking for, but that didn’t happen.

I returned to my car feeling defeated. This was something I felt I needed to do, and I couldn’t even do it. I sat in the driver’s seat and began weeping profusely. Something so simple, yet so elusive, can hurt so deeply.

“It’s only natural to want to have a mother in my life…”
Yes, it is.

“I didn’t deserve what happened…”
No, you didn’t.

“I didn’t do anything wrong!”
You couldn’t have.

The tears wouldn’t stop. The confusion burrowed deeper. The pain painted pictures before my eyes, and I hated it for being the very thing that was chaining me to the unhealthy habits I am struggling to break even now.

“Ya Allah, please show me how this loneliness, this constant loneliness that’s been a part of my life since birth, is really the best thing for me!”

I sat, trying to figure out a way forward. A way to heal and find peace from these deep scars. I kept thinking that finding my future was the answer, but the future is uncertain…..except for one thing: Islam.

Islam would be my way forward. Islam will help me find myself, and find my peace. It already has in so many ways, but the more I focus on it the more Allah will meet me where I need.

And so that’s where I wanted to go from that place, that empty alley which had no answers or comfort. I sent a message to a friend trying to find the way to the Muslims in San Francisco. While awaiting the response, I tried to find the information myself via Zabiha.com and Google. Both were inconclusive, so I was glad to get a reply with a general direction to move toward.

As it turned out, I ended up scouring the area I was pointed to block by block. I didn’t see any cluster of shops with signs in Arabic to indicate what I was looking for, so I thought I would just make due with popping into the nearby masjid to make dhuhr and from there go on my merry way. However, there was some type of event going on in that area, so the streets were being blocked off one by one. I couldn’t find a place to park by the masjid; in fact just getting out of the area and back toward the interstate was nearly impossible due to gridlock traffic and took almost an hour.

In the end, I drove to nearby Fremont to attend a zikr which was scheduled for this evening. I originally had planned not to go, but I felt like I needed something like that right now. I got into town and mapped the venue, which was located at a park. I decided to make my dhuhr there, and kill the time by eating a late lunch at a local halal restaurant. After that, I drove to the closest masjid and made asr, then returned to the park center for the night’s activities.

I am so glad I went. Being able to only focus on Allah and my iman was just what I needed, and it changed my state completely. Masha’Allah, they even served us a free dinner. The nasheeds lifted my spirits and I felt lighter than air after it was over. As I walked back out to my car, I looked up to see the wispy clouds sifting past a brilliantly shining full moon, beautifully set in the starry, cobalt sky. Alhamdulillah!

I located an affordable room for the night in town, which is where I am staying tonight. I like Fremont; it reminds me of the San Gabriel Valley where I spent half my childhood. In shaa Allah I will begin wending my way down the coast toward Southern California tomorrow. My trip will be coming to an end soon, so I hope I can make the most of these last opportunities toward self-discovery as I continue exploring the land I love.

Rainfall

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I remember when I woke up this morning and looked out the window that I was disappointed that it was still raining softly. It was certainly a morning to go back in a warm bed and forget the weather by sleeping in, but I went ahead and took my shower even though I woke up an hour too early from a very intense dream.

Fortunately, getting my son up and ready for school went seamlessly. I lost myself in random thoughts while I drove as the droplets pattered against the car’s roof, and I mused that perhaps we might have a happy Friday in spite of the dreary skies. This morning in particular would begin in a meeting with Jabiyr’s teachers, talking about his behavioral plan and how his first week at the new school had gone. Something they told me came as a pleasant surprise.

Jabiyr had been bringing home copied passages in his notebook all week. I had guessed that these were assignments given by his teacher, since any type of writing had been an utter chore for him before. In fact, he preferred to draw; and he actually did so quite well according to most. His teacher now informed me that the writing he was doing now was of his own choice, something he elects to do “for fun” during free time. Apparently, he claims he no longer likes to draw. He would rather write, and even the little perk himself confirmed as much when I asked him about it before he fell asleep tonight. I can’t help but wonder if this doesn’t have to do with something I had told him last weekend. He had caught me going through some of my old diaries from high school and asked me, incredulously, “did you write all those words?” I told him, knowing he liked to draw, that when you learn enough words to write a lot you can make a picture with them, and that’s what I like to do. I am tickled that he is exploring another creative outlet.

So the school meeting went well enough. I returned home and took out the trash and decided to go back to bed for a bit before leaving for work. The rain was still carrying on even when I awoke to depart. Fortunately there was a decent parking space available when I arrived at work, and given that it was almost lunch time I figured the rest of the day would progress smoothly.

The first thing I did when I got to my desk was take out some liquid paper and mark out “Patricia” listed as my middle name on the Social Security name change form that I had left there from the evening before. As soon as it dried I wrote in “Faridah”, and briefly thought about what my new name -my new identity- would mean for me. I smiled.

I went on to reply to some emails and get started with the day’s tasks. I wasn’t counting on being blindsided only a few hours later.

I am trying to lose myself in the innocuous details of the earlier part of the day because I don’t want to break down again. The way things transpired -and probably to most it would all seem rather silly- actually ended up ripping me apart until I found myself sobbing at my desk for a good two hours.

What actually happened doesn’t really matter. Intellectually I can recognize it was a very solvable problem. Emotionally, well…there’s the rub. Emotionally I was staring at a mirror with no one staring back. Emotionally I was no one, and any substance of my being was only felt as a burden, a chore, a dramatic mess, on others.

This place, inside me somewhere, that never seems to go away, took me over. This idea, this seeming reality, that all I’ve ever done is make others not want me- even from birth. I cried and cried, wondering what was so bad about having just a self that couldn’t hurt anyone, offend anyone, overwhelm anyone, or make anyone feel betrayed. I felt ashamed that I could do no better than have such a deluge at work. I’m supposed to be there to help others, how could I be so selfish?

Because all I want is a self. I want validation, acceptance, reassurance, and attention. Things babies and small children get naturally, but things I had to manipulate others into giving me. Things I still starve for even now. As I write this, the ache remains fresh inside, and it would be so easy to let the waters flow once more.

I took my oldest son out to dinner tonight, since the other two boys are with their respective fathers. He told me my guacamole was better than the restaurant’s. He told me about his goals to become a better basketball player. We ate and drank two virgin strawberry daiquiris each. I wondered how he saw me as a mother, if he felt I was meeting his deepest needs. I couldn’t think about it long because we were getting ready to leave.

On the way home, I didn’t need to use my wipers because it had stopped raining. I hope by morning light, I can say the same about the weather in my soul.

Grounded

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I can’t believe I skipped the whole month of August.  I thought I would write at least one entry….at least I intended to several times.  Suffice it to say that after my previous post I had a difficult time recovering from the emotional scramble I was in.

 

After I wrote that I realized what a problem I had with loneliness.  I realized that if anything, it was the one, remaining unconquered fear in my life that still had the power to rule my thoughts and feelings.  I knew this wasn’t good for me, and I knew that if I didn’t face that fear and find a way to overcome it, I would continue to be its slave for the rest of my life. Such things cannot be merely outgrown, or surely I would’ve done it by now. I also knew that the only was to truly bring it into submission was to immerse myself in the worst case scenario, so I did something that to me was very frightening: I asked Allah to push me over that cliff. I asked Him to put me in that last arena, so I could learn to triumph over this last weakness.

 

I really believe He answered that dua, because the events that unfolded soon after were very triggering in this aspect.  Yet, I still don’t know how much I’ve progressed.

 

I started to try to have as little contact as possible as I could with my husband.  This was very difficult for me, not because our interactions are always satisfying but because he was the only human I had consistent interactions with.  The absence of that showed me how shallow my support system really was, and how dysfunctional I was without one. I knew that I needed to build one, but I also knew that the only way to overcome that feeling of “disconnect” was to be able to find Allah and connect with Him.  Since I’m the kind of person who is better oriented toward what is concrete and tangible, and Allah is neither, this was nearly impossible for me.  It is much easier for me to find Allah in creation, but the hard part is always making sure I don’t give creation the adoration meant only for Allah. This is difficult for me, I admit.

 

So that task, in itself, has been challenging enough. Then, Allah decided to cue to my lonely past.  Funny, I thought I had worked through a lot of those things, so when my friend suggested that I try to re-establish a connection with my biological mother (when I had no idea how or where she was, in addition to the fact that my previous and several attempts to do so in the recent past had gone unanswered) I thought it was going to be very perfunctory.

 

Instead, the process brought up so many emotions for me.  They weren’t the pleasant kind either.  I didn’t have any hard feelings for her, but just a glaring reality that even if I did find her, she may not stay in contact. She may move into another sphere of her own life and lose touch with me again,  and I would be left wondering in my primal self why I wasn’t good enough to keep her around. That was magnified by the fact that I also gained access to my half brother and half sister, who were both adults now. They have their own lives, lives I wanted to very much be a part of, but they also could walk away someday…and inside I would be thinking (because I’m sick this way) “it’s all my fault”.

 

Allah says He never gives any difficulty without ease. If anything had to make me face why loneliness was so hard for me, well here it is.  Yet, out of the blue an aunt who was more myth than man randomly contacted me for the first time in my life with a mission not dissimilar to the one I was currently on- namely trying to understand her past to bring peace to her present. You see, she also was raised by her maternal grandmother, and too many other similarities in our lives and experiences came out of that.  I was able to have an enlightening and heartwarming conversation with her, and in so doing found the strength to face this insurmountable mountain ahead of me.

 

Speaking of mountains, that’s another thing I’d like to mention: since I’ve started this blog my experience of life has been one of falling and crashing to the ground.  Strangely, since this latest breakdown, I’ve not felt that way. I’ve felt like I am on the ground, like I’m exploring the scenery nearby. I can’t say I’m able to describe it more than that, but the peril of always feeling weightless has seemed to end. It’s a new chapter I guess.

 

So I’ve been working through these emotions and triggers, most times ineffectively. I need more help with it, because it’s so deeply rooted. It’s so deep, in fact, that things I would never expect to tie into it become a major focus. Here’s an example:  I have been having regular cycles since May (Praise be to Allah, that’s the longest I’ve had consistency in that area since I went off the birth control in 2010).  Essentially, I’m working! This is a good thing. However, this most recent cycle I realized that my ovulation day was almost going to mirror the cycle I conceived my daughter Nadhiyrah during, back in 2003.  I ran the numbers and it was readily apparent that if I conceived, I would be due around the time she was born (early next May).  I became attached to the idea of achieving this, because it would almost be like re-doing that pregnancy…only with more mindfulness and appreciation. Perhaps it would even be another daughter? Oh, how healing this could be!

 

So I tried with all my might to make this happen, and on paper all the variables were in our favor.  As I endured my two-week wait, I mused about why it was so important to me to have another daughter, beyond the fact that I had already lost my first one. The recent reunion with my family of origin had me thinking about generational patterns and lifelong wounds, I realized that the drive and need in me was so deep because it was a way for me to re-write my own past. To raise a daughter (and it has to be a daughter, since I am female) and keep her, cherish her, love her without abandon and raise her to adulthood myself was a way to undo those very things I did not get from my own mother, even my own grandmother who did raise me.

 

Unfortunately, I did not get pregnant this cycle. Yet, I feel that Allah was very intentional about that fact. I don’t feel it’s because He wants me to suffer, or rub my scars in my face, but rather to show me what’s going on with this loneliness thing for real.  He’s been showing me exactly where it came from and why I am this way, and He’s showing me all the ways I’ve been trying to fix it myself. He’s no enabler now, is He?

 

So I am trying to take these lessons as they come. I am trying to connect with Him, instead of humans. I am pressing myself for my true intentions, not the fluff I convince myself of out of vain attempts to manage my own life. It’s really hard, because I’ve been stripped raw in a lot of ways, but I can’t rebuild the same archetype that was failing me before. So, I feel frustrated and somewhat lost because my cheerful and confident imani outlook on life has been replaced by a confused yet determined handicap.

 

Allah is showing me the way.  During the two-week wait I also began reading a blog (that I found by googling 12 dpo) about a lady who had struggled with infertility.  The blog covers several years, and she had two miscarriages before finally conceiving her son, who happened then to be born at 26 weeks gestation.  She detailed all the familiar heartaches of infertility and struggles of raising her baby to not only survive but thrive.  I’m at the point where she is now pregnant with her second child (however these are all last years posts, so I don’t know how it all ends up).  In reading her stories I realize that I cannot find a way forward hanging on to what I never had, wish I had, or will always want.  I will only find a way forward by having gratitude for what I do have, and Allah has given me so, so much.  When I truly focus on that the way I should, I realize how embarrasing it is to even want more, or to think I need more.  I realize how poorly I manage what is already mine, and how I never deserved it.  This shows me how much Allah truly loves me, that He even gave me as much as I have, in spite of my utter incompetence to appreciate it fully.  And that love is truly a constant…and becomes more tangible the more I reflect on it.

Journey to Dust, Transformation to Ashes

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I feel like I’ve been in an emotional blender this week.  It started out as me being a spectator, just watching others do what they do. I maintained a numb distance so their actions couldn’t affect me, so I could stay focused on my own priorities in trying to sort things out.  As it was, I had been feeling confused about a number of things for some time, and I was just wanting to get to the bottom of it all without any distractions.

When my own efforts to discern the mysteries of my subjective cuing failed, clarity came from outside.  I can’t say that it was the picture I was hoping to see,  but at least knowing what type of storm has been raining down was better than wondering why I’m soaking wet.  It’s a shame,  I don’t feel that much drier even now.

I’m only human. I like tidy resolutions.  I want things to work themselves out without me having to make any difficult choices, because I fear making the wrong one and being loaded down with years of regret and the permanence of decisions that cannot be undone. I wish it was always that easy, but I guess that’s the point.  Choosing the easy option, or the only option, takes no effort. It doesn’t make us bend, break, or grow.  It is a safe course, but comes with the least benefit.  I think I can safely say so far, Allah hasn’t chosen me for that type of path through life. If that were the case, He wouldn’t see fit to give me so many opportunities to submit to Him.  In the end I know that I am glad I have been given these tests, and grateful to Him for the way He sees me through them.  Yet, I have to admit, sometimes the process gets me down…way down…into the darkest places. That’s where I happen to be right now.

I don’t come here much, but when I do it’s pretty bad.  I’ve been soaking in pain.  Coming home from work each day this week, I would spend hours sitting on the couch, encompassed by the tang in my heart.  I would talk out loud to myself (as though I were the only friend I have), trying to grasp the resolve to make whatever choices needed to be made. What makes it the most difficult is that I can’t see any outcomes that give me hope.

So, I feel like a failure. I feel like garbage and trash. I feel unloveable, unwanted, and worthless.  From the bottom of this pit, the only view I see is the one that validates these feelings. I think about my mother taking off when I was only a baby, and being only a tangential part of my life since then.  I think about how I struggled to make friends growing up, struggled to keep people near when all they could see is the level of my intensity which made them back away.  I think about how I still feel a deficit of close friends even now that my life is nearly half over.  I think about how my words, my thoughts, are just silent cries that often go unheard. I think about how much I have accepted in my marriages that I shouldn’t have accepted, just for the sake of not having to be alone.

Because after all, alone is how I’ve spent most of my life. Looking back into my formative years, and most of it is memories of being alone in my bedroom, trying to quietly occupy myself.  I remember trying, time and again, to reach out to my grandparents for attention, and only being met with exasperated disinterest. I feel shame that the deficit created made me into an attention whore on some level, as I entered young adulthood….but even then I still was cast away for being too extreme, too difficult to understand, unrelatable to most others.

Alone is how I spent the years of my first marriage, waiting night after night for a husband I loved who wouldn’t come home. A husband who had interest in pretty much anything else but me…even cleaning the house. I thought I finally found a breakthrough with my current husband, because he was the first person I couldn’t drive away.  Funny, he was thinking the same about me. I thought we would be peas in a pod forever.

At first, things seemed ideal.  I loved him to death, and I thought I was loved to death.  He had mistakes, flaws…it was to be expected. So did I.  I covered them, forgave them, overlooked them, shoved them aside. My love was so great, it would pay the price of any pain he caused me.  He owed me nothing, except a promise to stay by my side. He did stay, he’s been staying.  Yet, the staying has been akin to grasping a thorned rose with the tightest grip, like swallowing a blade over and over.  I started to weaken from the repeated cuts, and I thought it was my lack of fortitude that needed to be strengthened.

So I face this dilemma: have a companion who may potentially bleed me to death from 1000 slashes, or be alone.   I don’t think he’s doing it on purpose, or because he doesn’t care. It is happening because he is the knife, and it’s the knife’s nature to cut.  He can’t help it, no matter how much he tries to be soft and gentle, he is still only capable of what his nature will allow.  I can choose to stay close, at my own risk…but because my nature is something entirely different…there will be a price to pay.

Or, I could save myself, and heal what wounds are left.  I would be doing it alone.  I would be safe, sane, and intact…but isolated. I am not a raving beauty, that people are flocking to be near me. I am not a comfortable fit into society, that others find me palatable. I am overly analytical, socially awkward, emotionally brazen, and hopelessly anchored to literal thinking. I catch others offguard with my lumbering affection.  I repel others with my neediness.  No one is going to want to love me except those who are themselves unloveable…the guns, the knives, the arrows, the fiery ones of the world. They will accept me and take me and cherish me…but ultimately destroy me because I am nothing but paper.

Just paper, a paper full of words unheard.

Paper is not worth very much.  Paper just gets used and thrown away. That’s been my life experience as well.  Paper can only wound a sliver of a cut, but can be shredded so easily.  Paper is plain, unnoticed, nominal. Paper is fragile, flimsy, and vulnerable.

The value of paper is only as great as the words written on it, and so far the words I have have been of no value to anyone else. My life has been of no value to anyone else, except for what use I can offer them.  Tell me one person who cares to do something for a piece of paper.  At best, only the sentimental will preserve it and keep it safe…but I guess there aren’t many of those types around.

I know this is a bunch of depressing things to say.  I wanted to write it here, so that it wouldn’t stay written on my heart. I want it out, not in. I want it to be something other than my experience of myself.  Maybe, just maybe, once I can do that much,  I can find a way to beautify what’s ugly and bring meaning to what’s meaningless.  If I can’t, maybe someone else can. Maybe Allah in His mercy will.

Until then, I will probably stay crumbled into this ball, in the unnoticed corner.

Tears in the Darkness

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There was a night recently where I woke up feeling very alone. I had fallen asleep in a decent state of mind, so when I found myself awake right after midnight with a sinking feeling in my heart I was not sure what to make of it. 

A few seconds later, I heard banging on a door on the floor beneath ours. I thought perhaps that may have awakened me and maybe I was feeling a subliminal mix of emotions based on some subcoscious fears that someone was trying to get in our house. I thought momentarily the feelings would pass, so I tried to settle in and wait for sleep to return.

As the minutes passed and the clock struck one (AM), I realized that I was not getting tired again. I noticed that I began to feel a profound sense of sadness, a feeling of terrible loneliness.  My son was sleeping in bed with me (as he regularly does when his brothers are away at their father’s) and my husband was sleeping in their room.  He also does that regularly so he can stay up at night on the computer without disturbing me.  Was I lonely for his company? No, that was not it.

Why was I feeling this way? I really believed it would pass pretty quickly, as inexplicable states often do. I decided to pass the time posting on Facebook about it…which further inspired me to write a poem about it. As the time went on through the early morning hours, the feeling only intensified.  I could not understand why I was feeling so lonely, so sad…and writing about it only seemed to uncover the pain in a more vivid way.

I have to tell you, I don’t mind pain. While most of the world spends it’s life practicing pain avoidance, I don’t.  If I am in a painful situation, whether physically or emotionally, I try to sit with it until it passes, because it will ALWAYS pass. Sometimes sooner, sometimes later, but nothing ever stays the same.  I started doing this because I realized, some years ago, that running from the pain never really keeps it away.  Nor does it help you to handle it any better the next time it comes around…and there will always be a next time.

So I sat in it, like boiling myself in a pot of hot water.  I tried to experience it in its fulness, making it less frightening and powerful.  I thought, “OK, so I am going to be acquaintences with loneliness tonight, the best thing I can do is make the passing of this time productive”.  I realized I hadn’t yet prayed ‘isha salat, so I rose to make wudu and wrapped myself in my gauzy chettar and stood on my sparkling, gold-threaded prayer rug to make my intentions.

As I stood there, I felt waves of pointed convulsions rise up in my chest. It felt like a crescendo of stinging aches.  I had to press on, so I started the salat. “Allahu Akbar…”  Tears were rimming over my eyes and warming my cheeks.  The pain filled me to capacity and I began weeping. I had to press on, so I continued with Al-Fatiha.  I could barely breathe while reciting in silent whispers between the demur sobs.  I could not let this catharsis keep me from correctly performing my salat. So I pressed on, choking out Surah Ihklas while the tears dripped on my wrap.

I still did not know why I was so acutely hurting and lonely. I thought to myself, I am doing better with my deen and everything else now more than any other time, why would I be experiencing this? The reality of being in salat while mysteriously broken-hearted overshadowed my mind’s workings.  I prostrated, and while in sujood all of my soul poured out in hot tears and unadulterated but subdued cries.  “Ya Allah, I may not know why this is happening, but all I can do at this point is come to You and be only to You in perfect submission, physically and emotionally, in this salat”, is what I thought. I stayed in sujood, crying,  for nearly a minute before I could continue.  That moment was a perfect moment, a moment where I was truly in my fitra in every way possible. I could be nothing else if I had tried.

By the time I had finished ‘isha, my state had improved. I wasn’t feeling completely whole yet, but I was not overwhelmed. I went back to my bed and lay, wondering what had happened and what caused it.  I thought about all the people I love and miss and tried to determine which of them I was longing for. I even tried to determine if it was Allah I was somehow longing for.  I wasn’t coming up with much, so I consoled myself by acknowledging that I had taken the right course in managing it by turning to Allah. 

Suddenly, a thought came to me: I only went to Allah after I went to other things first. I tried to solve it in my mind, with my intellect. I tried to put my mind on others, thinking thoughts of them would fill the need.  It was only until I was out of options to try that I turned to Allah. I turned to Him, but I didn’t turn to Him first.

For years, as both a Christian and Muslim, I’ve heard others say to “Turn to Allah (God)”.  I’ve heard about how we should come to Him when we are in need or hurting.  For some reason, I’ve lived that as turning or going to Him when no one else is available…as a plan “B”.  I’ve turned to Him when the only options left were Him or nothing.

I realized then, that I had it all backwards. Allah is not a backup plan when creation fails. Allah is not a safety net when the parachute won’t open. Allah is not the last resort. He is the first resort, the first choice, plan ‘A’. I had not been orienting myself to Him like this, but I needed to.

I still don’t know why I had that episode of loneliness. By the time I woke the next morning, there was no trace of what had happened in my soul the night before.  Yet, I could not go about my day without remembering and checking myself, am I going to Allah first? Am I trusting Him first?

I have to admit, it’s a hard habit to break. Being the kind of person I am, someone who is super-responsible and independent, it’s hard to rewire something I’ve gotten used to doing for at least two decades.  I think I might have even decieved myself into thinking that Allah would be proud of someone like me, someone who tries to find every other way to solve a problem before “bothering” Him about it.  I have to keep working on remembering that the first solution to any of my problems MUST be taking it to Him. 

If I don’t learn that lesson well, then a night of tears was wept in vain.