Lately I’ve been feeling deep self-pity in being extremely self-conscious, questioning my social position in terms of financial status, my sense of purpose and general social standing in our ‘meritocratic’ society. What am I doing to achieve prosperity and how can I become financially free? how can I be more successful, whatever success might be. I’ve been obsessing over it, watching and reading about other people’s “success” stories and pondering my mind-set, attitude and entrepreneurial flair if any. I think we can safely say this may be (my version of) what one calls the ‘mid-quarter life crisis’ (and this month has certainly not helped those feelings, which marks another year off my diminishing life). I love how we can give those huge internal battles some sort of justification in this ‘enlightened’ age we live, every phase in life agreeably has its challenges, but our love of defining them: the ‘terrible twos’ (which my 2-year-old is most certainly experiencing!) to the terrible tweens and teens and so on, you get the drift; nevertheless, this sense of deep desperation, that time is ticking and I haven’t achieved anything in life yet has been all-consuming. What can I do to improve the quality of my life and by extension the quality of life my children will live. Growing up in a competitive world, where everyone is scrambling to reach the top at heightened levels; as if the future needs a stockpile. The uncertainties of a bleak future, the worries and insecurities we harbour as adults is a truly sorry state. It really brings me to ponder this scary ‘future’; whilst I see myself as a highly optimistic person (in the religious sense especially) and have till now been fairly grounded (as I’d like to believe) I must admit, lately I’ve been secretly praying for abundance, and not just one where I can comfortably raise a growing family; but abundance where I can have a fair share, from the riches and treasures God has bestowed to the few people on earth, or as some may define it the millionaire status (*covers face*). Whilst I fear having an atoms weight of ungratefulness to my Lord, hopefully any tint of greed and selfishness will subside; but let’s face it, who wouldn’t want a sense of financial freedom, where booking a ticket to travel needn’t feel like an indulgence, where one would have to squeeze the little savings they do have and risk diminishing their children’s “future” prospects, in turn fuelling that sense of guilt and apprehension and silly regrets and so this cycle of pity and self-loathing continues firing grrr…
But I had a bit of chilling reality check the other day, and I just love it when it’s the kids who prompt it in our usual little-deep conversations (especially at dinner times, when we are sat around the table) somehow on this occasion the conversation drifted to homes and so my boys (6 and 4-year-old) ask and question where I used to live in the “olden days”, as they would like to put it -much to my disappointment! I don’t think we are ever comfortable being associated with remnants from the “old”-Hey ho! So I explain the series of homes I lived at in my tender childhood years (cringe at the ‘childhood’ as I’m still a big kid at heart! As the sayings go: ‘young at heart’, …’age is just a number’… ‘sweet 16’ mumbo jumbo. And so I explain that “I used to live with my mum, you know your mummy” (yep they call her ‘mummy’ just like me, nope we are not comfortable with the nanny just yet!) and then I got married to your abagi and no I didn’t live with him when I was a kid, which is always a bit of a revelation to them. It never fails to amuse me how they associate their daddy as being mine; that how unfortunate I must have been to have never lived with abagi as if he was my guardian and it must have been terrible not having him to look after me when I was so small, because in their little minds-eye daddy must have always been a grown up, and so I explain that he was also a little kid like me one day and he lived with his abagi and I lived with mine. [And so every time we have a similar conversation, I have to clarify that my abagi is that lovely baba with the small white beard (who they see very little of, as he likes to spend most of his ‘youth’ in Pakistan, living in his sweet 16 fashion!) the one who jokingly says: ‘I will flush you down the toilet’ in their little cheeky banter]
And so in speaking of transitions in life and moving from home to home, my eldest asks who used to live in this house, and I say perhaps a family before us who moved somewhere else, and then who used to live here before them and before them and so on. So we had a deep conversation about ageing and death, and new people being born to occupy these very homes, which we will inevitably leave behind and then the conversation takes a turn to their favourite topic the afterlife and the next abode i.e. paradise and they LOVE talking about paradise, how wonderful it would be to go to a land with no limitations, the beautiful everlasting abode. Whilst I appreciate they do not associate death with a miserable, worrisome end just yet, (but a place of pleasures and comforts, just a next phase in the many phases yet to come God-willing) I must say it always intrigues me why it’s a subject most people like to avoid in society, a subject we’d rather not tread on; and so what my eldest said next was a very chilling realisation… “Don’t worry ummy, when you die I will take you to the hospital” and the younger one adds “and then to the graveyard” gesturing the rectangular shape of my tomb with his little hands, and they spoke with such matter-of-fact passion and sense of responsibility, I couldn’t help nodding with the same tone of affirmation and pursed lips trying not to bite them with the sudden stomach-churning butt-hurt truth, and I could also sense a little discomfort in their faces and half-smiles at that thought, but then the subject quickly changed direction to something else I can’t remember…(last year this transition became very real to them when my brother passed away and the countless conversations we had in coming to terms with his passing and burial, so no this wasn’t any new territory we were treading on) but this conversation was indeed very humbling and made me think and re-think about my priorities. This is when you truly miss childhood and living in the moment. Children are a blessing in disguise, their sense and understanding of the world is truly beautiful they teach and encourage you to live in the here and now and life is but a playing field in every sense of the word!
Whilst I’d love to achieve financial freedom and can call a house home, with the sense of security and all… it really shouldn’t be an all-consuming state of affair when one really ponders about the definition of ‘home’ in terms of our temporary worldly abode (the dunya). Whilst we sometimes can’t help looking at success stories about people who have reached certain heights, working hard hence playing hard; It’s also true when we hear phrases such as: look to those beneath you and be grateful, look to those who are homeless, or to really bring this reality home, the plight of the refugees in our current political climate, who had everything but lost it, here goes again the uncertainty of life and future and the fact that we can lose it all! but it needn’t be a scary realisation, it should instead trigger the idea to live in the moment to enjoy life to its fullest, be that a minimalist one (by whoever’s definition!).
But I’ll continue to pray (and work hard too!) that Allah swt (God) blesses us and bestows upon us abundant wealth from amongst His limitless treasures, which for Him is nothing, but a meaningless ever fluctuating dust; that some amongst His inhabitants on earth will have and be tested by and others not have and be tested thereby.
And we’ll simply end with a cheer to all the millionaire mamas out there! Onward and upwards… God bless xx