Of Twenty Weeks and RBLs

20 Weeks since your last post…that’s what lj told me when I signed in and I’m wondering where it all went. Five months? What have I been doing that has taken up so much of my time that I had no pause to come and blog?

There should be some answer like “I’ve been busy” or “life got hectic” or something to say what’s kept me away and yet, there isn’t. Looking back, I can see a few days that stick out for random reasons, but in all honesty there is no event or task or occupation that I seem to have accomplished in all this time.

But despite that, as I write this I have changed more in the past week or so than perhaps I have in the 19 or so since I last wrote here. In some ways, I have learnt more in the space of a few breaths than I have in all the years of my life.

I always thought the Really Big Lessons in Life came with a bang and fanfare and you walked away from them a better person, a wiser human being and that much taller than the rest of the world. And I thought there would plenty of them, like a trail of crumbs that would lead you back Home with Success in your every step. Even as I wrote that last sentence, a wry grin found its way to my lips.

Really Big Lessons don’t come with a bang. They sneak up when you least expect them and at moments when you are most vulnerable and most trusting of the world and the goodness you believe exists in it – perhaps that’s why they sink in so well as RBLs. And you don’t walk away from them unscathed. They scar you good and deep so that even when they finally scab over someday, the pain will always be just beneath the surface, ready to emerge at the slightest touch. RBLs hurt and they hurt exactly where they know the pain is going to be the worst because it seems as human beings, we can only learn when we are forced to. Without the pain, we just don’t ‘get it’.

Another thing about them is that you don’t always walk away head held high and with a sense of achievement. Most times, they knock you over like a whirlwind and you’re left slightly dazed and out of breath, wondering what exactly happened, why it happened and what you could possibly have done to invite such ‘attention’ from Life.

In the Qur’an, God says “Is the reward for good anything other than good?” (Surah Rahman, 55:60). Although this verse is supposed to address the wider timeline of existence and refers to the fact that you might not see the reaction to your good works in this world, the reward in the hereafter will balance out all the seeming injustice that exists. But as human beings, we expect that when we do good things, people should ideally respond in like.

Here’s the RBL: they don’t.

There is nothing worse in life than allowing yourself to be lulled into a sense of security and then having someone pull the rug from under your feet, so to speak. I use ‘allow’ because that’s the RBL, feeling safe is a circumstance that we carelessly fall into by trusting too much and expecting too much of those around us.

I’m not advocating cynicism; I look with great envy upon people who go through life with unshakeable optimism. But for a large number of us, picking yourself up after you fall down is a hard enough job. What happens then if you have to do it after being shoved down by someone else?

Trusting, caring, sharing…these make you feel good while you indulge in them, but they also make you hugely vulnerable and sometimes I wonder if it’s worth the emotional energy you invest when you can never be sure who’s going to betray that trust or let you down and everything will come tumbling down. It’s odd the more power we have as humans to hurt others, the more reckless we are with how we handle it. Isn’t that why we’re told it’s the people we care about the most who will hurt us the most? Because we *give* them that power?

If you’ve followed my blog from the beginning, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned ‘The Edge’ I used to be so proud of. I used to keep my enemies far and my friends even further away – emotionally speaking. But age mellows you and perhaps dulls the senses too. Even the sharpest edge can be blunted with enough opinions about giving life and people a chance to prove themselves.

And quick, fast and harsh on the heels of that softening come Life’s Best RBLs. Like imprints on wax, each lesson engraves itself on your soul. But enough with the waxing lyrical. This is what I have learnt in the past few days:

a) Be good to others, but never give completely of your self to anyone.
b) Trust no one (unless you actually want to be let down). Except God.
c) Guard your heart jealously. If you get hurt, no one will be willing to take responsibility or share the pain.
d) Don’t be indifferent, but don’t care too much either.
e) ALWAYS have a boundary beyond which you don’t go out or let anyone else in.
f) Expect nothing.
g) No matter what happens, live by the highest principles – those are the only things that will keep you human, regardless of your surroundings.
h) It is better to be wronged than to do wrong. You can move on past any hurt or pain, but if you have a burden on your conscience, you carry it for Life.

Sounds cold? It might be so. And if you’re not convinced by my conclusions, well, I guess everyone has their own RBLs. But considering we’re all human and the issues affecting us tend to be universal, there’s bound to be lessons we can share. After all, the point of this life is to become so detached from the world and its enticements that you yearn only to be with God.

So, if you must love, love Him; if you must expect, expect from Him; if you must trust, trust Him; if you must hope, then hope only for what is with Him. Why would you want anything from a flawed creation when you can have Everything from a Perfect Creator?

S’laams,
bA.

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