Forgetting How To Smile

You know how you always hear about those people who simply wait for things in life and in doing so watch it pass by without even realising? I think I’ve become one of them.

I’ve so much time waiting for one thing or another, waiting to get a chance to do this or do that, waiting for a visa, waiting for a promise to be fulfilled, waiting for the moon to set, waiting for the sun to rise, waiting for this emptiness inside to stop feeling…well, so empty.

But nothing seems to happen no matter how much I wait. The chances don’t come up for me to grab them, the visa-authorities are vague and silent, the promise never came to pass, the moon hides behind clouds and the sun, when it rises only bring a fresher, keener sense of emptiness. Instead of answers and a chance to heal, there are only more questions and with each new question, a new wound.

And yet, when I try to step back and find some sense in what is going on, to try doing something instead of just sitting back and doing nothing, there is little sense of success. I do things, but none of them matter as such, they’re just daily routine things that occupy a few minutes, a few minutes there and then when I’m done with them, it’s back to the same state of waiting.

Even in a bigger sense we are all waiting – for death, for the coming of the Mahdi (atfs), for the end of the world, for ‘something’ to happen to change the steady decline of society. We’re always told that this waiting has to be a pro-active one. Prepare with your actions so that you have an easy death, prepare with your heart and your dedication so that if you’re alive when the Imam (atfs) comes you can join him, live by high moral principles so that you don’t contribute to the decline of the society even if you can’t stem it…

I used to want to do this with so much energy. Which is perhaps why this current state of feeling totally drained is so…hateful is the word that comes to my mind. I hate feeling like this, I don’t want to and yet no matter how hard I try, it creeps up unawares at the most random times: in the middle of the night when everyone is asleep and I wake up to a wet pillow I can’t remember shedding tears on, while I’m teaching in class and suddenly all I want to do is be somewhere very far away where I can just be alone, while I’m having a conversation and suddenly I forget how to smile because it hurts to do so.

Every night I fall asleep with a secret wish that when I wake up in the morning, I should be back to my usual self – cynical, thick-skinned and a little hard-headed, and every morning when I do wake up, for a few minutes I am. And then once I’ve brushed my teeth and washed my face and I look in the mirror, I see a different person and I know this is going to be yet another long day.

Everyone tells me the lessons in life are supposed to make you stronger and able to handle the next obstacles better. Then why don’t I feel one bit stronger? If anything I feel brittle inside, like one small shake would shatter whatever I’ve managed to hold together so far.

The Really Big Lessons I wrote about in my last post? I didn’t want to learn them, they’re not nice, positive, life-enhancing lessons. In fact, they’re lessons that make you give up on things, lessons that darken your view of life instead of making it brighter, then why did I have to learn them? Or maybe they were the wrong lessons to take? How am I ever to know?

These are the last days of Ramadan. People are taking advantage of the Nights of Qadr, when the destiny for each human being is decreed for the next year and you have a chance to ask for the things you want, and I’m here floating aimlessly without a clue as to what to ask for.

Asking for anything seems dangerous (so to speak), because even the things that once seemed good and precious and valuable are now tarnished. So perhaps I should ask only for what God wants to give me, what He thinks is best for me, instead of trying to decide that for myself.

Or perhaps for this moment, I should ask simply that He fill the emptiness with something that will just take away this feeling inside me that I can’t shake off and that I still don’t know what I did to earn.

bint Ali

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