Note: The original post about this turned out a whole lot longer than I anticipated, so I’ll be posting it piecemeal and try to upload each section based on the individual ideas that finally formed my whole opinion.
Today I thought about what it meant to love someone. Truth be told, it’s something I’ve thought about a lot since I got married and especially after I had my baby. Everyone around me seems to ‘get’ it, but I’m still floundering when it comes to this specific emotion.
When I see couples online declaring their undying loyalty and love for each other, I wonder whether I’m too old, too sensible or simply too boring. I also wonder whether there’s something lacking in my own marriage. My husband and I don’t indulge in PDAs. We don’t do – and never have done – walks on the beach, watching sunsets or eating from the same bowl of ice cream kind of stuff.
When I show him an update on Facebook where a husband claims he is the luckiest man in the world for having the best wife ever, asking him why he never says the same about me, he laughs and says ‘You wouldn’t believe me anyway so why should I exaggerate?’ and it’s sometimes frustrating to admit he is right.
The part of me that writes fiction in my head may have thought that I would have appreciated a fairy-tale story for myself. The part of me that deals with the rest of life knows I would probably tire of it long before ‘ever after’ started and want to get on with the business of living.
It’s taken me a long while to understand that though. In the beginning, I thought we were the classic example of opposites attract, then with time that mellowed into the chalk-and-cheese metaphor and somewhere in the not-too-distant past, there was definitely a phase of ‘have I married the wrong man?’
The problem was that I was doing a lot of unconscious comparing. Everyone around me seemed to have met their spouse under a shower of sparks, married in a style worthy of photobooks and then have cutesy social media banter.
I met my husband in the most old-fashioned of ways: through an introduction that both of us were reluctant to engage in to begin with. I agreed to marry him not because of any magical connection, but rather because of a pact I had made with God a few months before. We didn’t have any professional photography because neither of us thought the cost warranted the end result, we haven’t printed any photobooks because of the same. And he doesn’t have a social media presence so that’s a non-starter.
When I began to question why I doubted my happiness, the most honest answer made me realise how silly (stupid really) my train of thought was. It seemed that the only reason I wasn’t sure if I was happy was because I couldn’t tell others about it and without a list of likes, shares and comments, I couldn’t judge whether I was enviably blissful or not…
However silly it sounds, that was the most prominent reason that came to mind. I have never felt so ridiculously childish and yet aware of the power of social pressure. I am a teacher, a writer and an advocate of making independent, sensible decisions based on faith and fact and yet I fell for it all the same. Unconsciously perhaps, but not entirely without knowledge either; some part of me knew, which is why I was able to recognise the enemy when I saw it.
It’s taken a lot of thinking and talking to my self, a lot of writing that may never see the light of day, a lot of denial and acceptance of my own flaws, but this is what I have (so far) concluded:
I don’t know if my husband is the best man in the world, the most wonderful husband or my soul mate. I don’t have anyone to compare him to for those kinds of superlatives. I do know he is the right person to accompany me on my journey towards my Creator because he brings into our marriage all those things that I never had considered when I was alone.
We are as different as two individuals can be, but again, rather than be a test or challenge to my opinions and beliefs, I am beginning to realise that he presents an alternative, a new way to be. Because one of the biggest lessons I am learning is that this journey is not about trying to emphasize and strengthen the me that already exists, but rather about trying to become the best version of me I can possibly be.
That could mean having to change habits or ideas that I had considered to essential to my existence, but just like editing a story script, you have to throw out some of your best writing for the good of the final story. Life is not about me, it’s about my role, my purpose, my responsibility to this existence – that is what should define me.
I think the best lesson my husband has taught me is that he is not the ‘goal’ of my life. I was restless and felt like I seeking something to fill up a gap in my life or someone to complete me. Everyone told me that I would find that in my ‘other half’.
I am still restless, I am still seeking and I still have a gap in my life. My husband and my daughter (more about what she had brought to me in my next post iA) have vastly changed and improved my life, but they were only a stopgap for the hole in my soul. They provided distraction with the new-ness of their relationship to me, but with time as that has become natural and normal, I find myself still looking out over the horizon for that something.
It is a feeling that only leaves me during the days of Muharram and Safar. To be precise, it only completely leaves me when I am attending the majalis of Husayn ibn Ali (a). In those few hours, I feel at peace, complete and as if I have finally arrived where I was heading to. This connection that Husayn (a) – and all things associated with him – brings between us and our God is the most priceless gift that he left for us.
Without his grief, we cannot be inspired to act; without acting, we can never truly immerse ourselves in his grief. It is only by knowing, understanding and implementing the message for which he sacrificed his family, friends and self that we can love him and through him, love God.
And it is this kind of love that I am looking to establish with my husband as well. That through him, I should find new ways to understand my faith, my leaders, my God; to see them with a fresh perspective and awaken a new aspect of love for them within my self.
When I ask my husband ‘Do you love me with all your heart and soul?’ He inevitably replies, ‘I don’t think so. I want my love to grow with every day as I get to know you more and more. I hope the best is saved for our last years.’
I used to think that was his way of avoiding a lifelong commitment to me (he is a man of his word to a fault). But now I think he actually means it literally, and I am glad.
I don’t want the heavy responsibility of being the sole keeper of another person’s heart or soul; I have my own to worry about. I would rather be available as a facilitator, an encourager for him to hand over those precious treasures to their Rightful Owner, in return for similar services.
It might make for a boring marriage with no place for a lot of mush. We do laugh and enjoy the blessings in our life, but at the end of the day, the reality of the times we live and the burden our brothers and sisters bear worldwide hangs heavy over us. We know there can be no true happiness without true Justice and no peace until it arrives with our Imam (atfs).
If we can just help each other make it to the end successfully, there will be a real forever to indulge in instead of simply a fairytale ending of this world.
To be continued…