Understanding Relationships

One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about recently is relationships. All the various kinds that we gather up, look after, obsess over, neglect, discard … it doesn’t matter, because at the end of the day they define our lives.

Some people come into our lives in a flurry of feelings and reactions. They storm in, take over and sometimes whisk away, leaving only pieces to pick up – like some internal hurricane on a rampage. Some of these stay on and life around them is like sailing on a volatile, heaving sea of emotions.

Others come into your life almost like the child who slips into class late, noticed only from the corner of the teacher’s eye. They come in, sit down and put their feet up and you never question what they are doing there, because the moment they appear you can’t imagine what life is like without them.

I know people who fit both these categories. The ones who demand constant attention and who need me to keep up with their pace of attention, and the ones I talk to once in a month in passing, for five minutes – usually about how we need to meet more often. Both enrich my life in different ways.

The only thing is: I never made these friends. In all my life, I cannot remember one instance in which I set out actively to make another person my friend. (well, maybe one – but that’s another whole issue in itself.) Every friend I have is a blessing who came along unasked and who would have been lost to me had it not been for their own initiative and love. I don’t question why I’m so lucky to have them, I just accept and am grateful.

Which is probably why I’m finding it so hard to assess the whole business of creating and nurturing relationships on my part. Do the more passionate, energetic kind last longer than the slower, mulled kind? Or are they just more fun?

Does it really matter if you have instant chemistry with someone? What if you find yourself slowly and very sensibly accepting a certain bond – should that evoke a sense of foreboding?

The more I think I about it, the more I believe that many of these questions would never come up in the life of someone (male or female) who had observed hijab as it was meant to be. But unfortunately, I haven’t that luxury. It took me years to understand the concept, even more to begin practicing it properly and I’m still on rocky terrain now and again.

Some days, I think of all the things I want and have to let go off and it hurts more than it should. On those days, all I want to do it go to sleep and wake up to find everything sorted out for me. To find that I have no decisions to make, no choices to enforce, no struggle to rein in flights of fancy…

And on other days, I actually find “common sense” appealing enough to base my life decisions on. Those days are more stable, but they’re also more scary – like I’m on the brink of losing a part of me I haven’t quite got to know well enough yet.

I used to think of desire as this out of control emotion that was obviously noxious and easy to avoid, because that kind of total abandon has never been my cup of tea. But desire can be so much more: it can sweet and gentle; it can be innocent and (seem) pure; it can even be sensible and logical.

The really dangerous part is that it’s always promising – like an undercurrent, tugging gently at the edge of your mind – and whispering seductively in honeyed tones for you to give in to it ‘just this once’ or ‘just to see what happens’.

In the right circumstances, I’m sure it’s the driving force behind everything we do as humans – from inventing cures for disease to falling in love.

The questions I’m asking myself right now are: Can any relationship work without it? Can it be nurtured if there isn’t that initial connection? Can it be constrained by reason?

And why is it that it so ruthlessly targets the impossible?

Bint Ali

Current Saying: 

The hardest-learned lesson: that people have only their kind of love to give, not our kind. 
– Mignon McLaughlin, journalist and author (1913-1983)


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