Friday, March 29, 2013

Blessings not Happiness

Asalamu Alaykom,

The Mustafa Hosny program was re-broadcast again today.  I'll assume that it was on TV last night as well but, since I was a tired teacher, I had gone to bed early without waiting up to see.

When the program started this morning, my husband was downstairs with his family and he ran up the stairs in his galabiya to tell me to turn on the TV.  He laughed as he told me how he almost fell.  Then he poured me a cup of chi ma laban; tea with milk, made by his mother, which somehow hadn't spilled from its pot.  Honestly?  It's moments like that keep us together.

On the program I say, "Life isn't about finding happiness; it's about finding peace.  I found that with Islam."

I have been happier before in my life.  I have.  I have reached moments of extreme euphoria to the point that I was high without the drugs.  I was truly high on life.  I loved those moments and lived for those moments.  I sought them out and created them.  Usually, those moments had to do with breaking boundaries and rules and being unique and special.  I wanted to be those things.  I wanted to be a star.  I wanted to be famous.  I wanted to be adored.  I was happy whenever I got my wish.

And then, I would drop down from those times like a ball which you thought was made of rubber but instead  it's made of lead.  I would crash.  I would feel myself go down and blame myself for not being able to maintain my happiness.  What was wrong with me?  Why wasn't I normal?  Normal people feel happy.

So, I searched for ways to keep my happiness buoyant.  I was a very busy person making my life happy.  If you're busy then you feel like you're having a full life.  Í planned trips and parties.  I worked and volunteered.  I had friends and made new ones wherever I could.  I succeeded in many ways and yet I felt so tired from all the activity which still somehow couldn't stop me from feeling down.

One of the strangest coincidences was how often I would try my absolute hardest to create a happy event but then the result would be the exact opposite of what I had desired.  I would get depressed around Thanksgiving and Christmas, New Year's and Valentine's Day.  I would feel badly around birthdays.  Again, I thought I was alone in this kind of crazy juxtaposition.

Alhumdulillah, I am a very honest person.  I might fail at a lot of other things but this is not one of them.  Eventually, I had to admit that I was sad and I was having a sad life.  I was not having a happy life with moments of intermittent sadness; I was having a sad life with moments of intermittent happiness.

So, instead of giving it all up, I tried HARDER to find happiness.  I threw away my entire life to find it.  I was  going to rebuild from zero.  That process hurt a lot of people; it maybe hurt me the most.  Subhanallah that I lived through that time.

I thought that I was finding happiness with a new man to love.  I thought that love brought happiness.  It certainly brought drama!  I went along for the ride of my life with that man.  I experienced the most happiness I've ever felt but then I would also experience the lows.  Our time together was the proverbial roller coaster.

I explored Islam, in part, to find more happiness with him.  The funny part is that I could only read Quran when he wasn't around.  When he'd be overseas, I'd be with Al-Mus'haf.  I read it quietly.  I found some quiet.  I found some peace

Through peace we can find happiness.  I'm not saying that we believers can't feel happy because of course we can.  We aren't Puritans with grim expressions under our overly starched bonnets.  However, our goal can't be happiness.  Our goal must be holiness.      

That summer, before I took shahaddah, I was happy.  I felt renewed purpose.  I was setting goals and reaching them.  I will never forget the blessed moments I shared with Allah and no one else.  I felt God's presence in my life so strongly and I felt stronger from them.

Within weeks after taking shahaddah, I was back into the arms of my man and back into his drama.  I agreed to it all.  I left the path in many ways in order to be with him.  Astragferallah.  I thought that I was getting deeper into Islam by marrying a Muslim man but instead I was falling into a trap.

Wallahi; I swear to God, I did everything I could to make that marriage a happy one.  I traded away parts of myself in order to be a good wife.  I knew that I hadn't been the right person before and I wasn't going to hurt anyone again; I wasn't going to get hurt either.  I was going to improve myself to the point that I'd be good enough.  Have you ever wished that?  Have you ever wished that you were good enough to be loved?

Once again, I failed.  My intention was to improve for another person.  We can't do that.  We must only improve for the pleasure of Allah.  With that as our highest hope, even our failures will inshahallah be rewarded.  Who I was, wasn't enough for that man.

I was again alone.  I waffled between the two worlds I knew.  Sometimes I would seek for Allah and sometimes for the next husband.  Sometimes I'd go to Allah with my troubles and sometimes to a friend online.  I knew I wanted to stay close to Allah but it hurt.  It hurt because I wasn't letting go of my preconceived notions of a good life being a happy life.

Allah wore me down.  Allah needed me to submit and inshahallah I have.  I don't need the happiness.  I don't.  You can have it.  You can have it!  What I need is the peace in my life.

Committing to a peaceful life doesn't mean that my life is perfect now.  It isn't.  I still get mad or sad or jealous.  Things can still bug me.  Astragferallah for negative emotions which pull at us.  I still forget myself and say and do stupid things.  The difference now is that I know they are stupid and I ask forgiveness for them.  For whatever I don't know I'm doing, I ask forgiveness for them too.

Throughout my days, I ask Allah to bless my life.  I want blessings not happiness.  If you've never trusted God to give you what is the best for you, then give it a try.  Stop trying so hard to squeeze out every last drop of happiness from your life.  You don't need to create these moments of bliss on special days because when every day is special there is more to be felt and on a deeper level.

There's a storybook I had as a child called, "Play with Me".  I'm pretty sure it's packed away in one of the boxes back in America.  The girl chases all the animals in the forest, pleading with them all to play with her.  Each one runs away.  It isn't until she sits down by the creek and quiets down that a little fawn comes to her.  Alhumdulillah, I've quieted down too and now there's a new kind of peaceful happiness coming to me.

Often, I have wished you, "Jummah Mabrook," which many in the West would translate to "Happy Friday." That's not what it means; any more than, "Asalamu Alaykom," means "Greetings".  No, we all need a "Blessed Friday", and "Peace from Allah".

I hope you have a day which pleases Allah and that whatever you've read helps you in some way.


Thankful Slave said...

I totally agree with you 100%, "Life isn't about finding happiness; it's about finding peace".

And I just saw also your interview on Mustafa Hosny, great job & masha Allah!.I like Mustafa Hosny, I have been following him for years and I find my heart at peace while listening to him. It is a pity that some people in our ummah do not seem to understand him, they are just always negative of "the others", they just keep seeking the mistakes in other people, instead of helping spread the good and work as a team.

Anyway, Keep it up, and keep morale high (your entry seemed a bit sad, but I might be wrong)..may Allah Make us all find Peace in our life and homes, and Fill our lives with Blessings, and wish you Jumua Mubarakah too.

Assalam Aleikum,


Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Bro T.S.,

Thanks for voicing your thoughts. I'm glad that you got a chance to see the video and glad that someone else understands my position. I agree that the ummah as a whole needs to remember peace as our foundation.

I'll be honest that I was clueless about Mustafa Hosny previous to this show. I still haven't met him. If we passed each other on the street, I don't think either one of us would realize the other.

As for my mood: I was just introspective when I wrote this. Maybe that came across as down but it was simply pensive. Thanks for caring!

Ameen to your du'a.

Best Wishes to the Wives!

Anonymous said...

I had to think and introspect about my own feelings about life, faith and what peace means to me, before I was able to answer your question( my reaction to what you said). So here goes...

I do not comment on the specifics of any faith or even a lack of faith. Each one of us has a very unique life story. Belief, a search for purpose or even disbelief satisfies a unique need in our unique lives. And it is usually all good. That being said, I can comment and give you my reaction to what you said based on the commonality of both of us being women, mothers and having lived life for more than a couple of decades.

You said that whenever you read the Quran, you find something that speaks to your particular condition at that given time. It must be comforting to know that you can find relief in what you believe, at all times.

From everything you say, it seems that you are open to changes and circumstances in life and thoughts and opinions. That in my book, is always a good thing.

I wonder if you suffered from an underlying undiagnosed clinical depression for a long while, when you felt unfulfilled(?) or in search of something different to make your life more meaningful (or peaceful). I do not know you or your circumstances at all, but reading this post and hearing what you said on the video reminded me of some people that said they felt as you did while in the throes of undiagnosed depression. Perhaps my speculation is completely wrong. Perhaps you were "in search of something" for other reasons entirely.

Your acceptance that "happiness" is both fleeting and too utopian an ideal for every moment in life; is certainly a mature viewpoint. I agree with that completely.

You are very articulate and I like that you spoke clearly in an easy to understand accent, easy cadence and directly to your audience. It was obvious that you spoke from the heart; besides which your cheery smile is enough to win over your audience!

From a fashionista point of view, you wrap your hijab very elegantly and have lovely skin! Do you wear makeup for everyday? How do you and other Egyptian professional women dress for work?

Deanna Troi

Yosra said...

Asalamu Alaykom Deanna,

Wow, you prefaced your statement so much that I wondered what was coming. Alhumdulillah, we have differences yet a commonality which binds all women and all people. Don't bring up the decades! LOL!

Alhumdulillah you heard one of the most important messages of my talk. Yes, the Quran is there for me but that's because Allah is there for me. God isn't just in the Quran. God is in the Bible too. I find God in Psalms especially. The problem I have with reading the Bible is that I don't feel safe in reading it, in that there are too many parts from men which dillute the message from God.

I haven't read the Torah so I'm not sure what the experience would be there. LOL! I don't think that this particular country is a good place to try to find a copy. There's only about 10 elderly Jews left in Egypt.

The movie, "Jews of Egypt," came out last week, by the way.

Okay, back to me. "Clincial depression" was a shocker. No, I don't believe I ever was. I was highly functioning and not incapacitated in anyway. I enjoyed many days and weeks BUT overall it wasn't me.

Think of me as you would someone who was denying their identity. I know other Muslims cringe when I say this but I understand gays who need to "come out". This "coming out" feeling is what I had. I felt that I'd bought into someone else's life and it wasn't the real me.

Basically, I submerged key parts of my identity in order to fit in to the life I had married into. Can you actually imagine with with Catholic Republicans? When I was getting out of that marriage, I was really lost as to who or what I needed. It took me some time (a couple of years) to get it together again.

When I was doing better, I ended up with Boo's Dad. That felt like the biggest love of my life but it was also the biggest heartache. So, I really had a tough go with those five years.

When that split up, it was ANOTHER time of searching but now as a Muslim woman. I did see a Muslim counselor at that time and she deemed me sane. LOL.

I've never been diagnosed as anything. I've never been on meds. I don't blame anyone who gets a diagnosis and needs meds. Everyone has different lives. Me? I haven't. Alhumdulillah.

Next answer in the next box...

Yosra said...

I like that you gave me some concrete feedback. It's a tough gig to put it all out there to thousands of people and not know how you came across.

I really did tailor my language choices, syntax, pronunciation, and timing to non-native English speakers. Many Egyptians have enough English to understand people if they speak as clearly and deliberately as I did. Inshahallah, that was cgood. I'd love to know from someone with limited English!

Alhumdulillah, that, even without the words spoken, my intention and sincerity came through. I do speak about Islam with conviction. I don't want to get too serious about it as it comes across as stern. The smile helps! It does make me smile.

I didn't love that they slowed me down laughing. LOL! I look a bit insane there! Maybe that's where you got the idea!

Thanks for good marks on my outfit. The hijab was actually from an old friend in America but I always get compliments on it here in Egypt. Funny! I like its colors and lightweight quality. I'm not that smart on wrapping hijabs.

It's like origami here with the ladies and their scarves. They do twists and ties and even little flowers they carefully pin. They do two contrasting colors together. They pile it up and create these huge heads. I am not there. I've done hijabs with more style but I'm a poor example of them. So, I keep it simple: cover my hair, neck and chest.

That's a funny thing about the ladies here with the hijabs. They spend yards of fabric wrapping around their heads but leave their bosoms uncovered (as if men never notice).

Thanks on the skin comment. It isn't easy to be really white and live in Egypt. HELLO! I've got Norwegian and British blood in me. I've got almost zero melanine. You can look up my "beauty secrets" in Islamic Beauty: Face. Basically, I put a natural based cream on my face within the first three minutes after I wash. I only wash my face with soap once a day. I exfoiliate once a week (if I remember). I've never worshipped the sun and I don't smoke or drink.

As for make-up, I wear foundation, eye-liner, a little eye shadow, powder and lipstick. I keep it low key and aim towards natural not flashy. Maybe if my hub and I are going out at night, I might amp it up a bit. I told the producers of the show that I didn't want anyone at the studio doing my make-up since I had a bad experience (think raccoon eyes) the last time.

Egyptian women are very different dressers one to the other. Some are very old-school with suits and jackets. Others are wearing the thin cotton layered look. They love new and polished. They would never dress without caring about their appearance. They love adding an embellishment with jewelery. American women could take a lesson from them! Not everyone is in hijab though I'll say that, on the whole, they are more modest than most.

Thanks for all your questions and thoughts. I know you took a lot of care in saying it just right. I heard your kindness and concern, your appreciation and your support. I am happy to have you around this part of the universe, Deanna Troi.

Love and Light!

Anonymous said...

Asalalamu Alaikum Yosra,

Thank you for that!

Yosra said...

Wa Alaykom Asalam,

You're welcome :)

I'm not sure what it was that resonnated with you but I'm glad something did.

I want to share with you what I read this this morning in Quran, from Surah 41:25

"And We have bound them to santanic companions [in this world] who gave them evil counsel and allured them to a brighter present and a happier destiny (by denying resurrection and requittal). What was predicted beforehand has come to be, that they--like others among the jinn and mankind of past generations (who preferred evil to good)---all were born to be great losers."

It's this part, "...allured them to a brighter present and a happier destiny..." that grabbed me. It is alluring to think there's some happiness you're missing out on. I hadn't thought that it was Shaytan whispering to us to grab more and more and all we can of our happiness but it makes sense.

I wanted to add to (since I've been thinking about how to make my statements clearer) that this is a problem more pronounced in America than in other countries. There is a belief system in the U.S. that anything is possible and being happy is the best state of mind. It's also a culture of "Have it your way," and to be a unique individual whose wishes need to come true at all costs to others.

Inshahallah, all our cultural baggage can be dropped at the door when we enter into better understanding.

Love and Light!

Yosra said...

Here's a comment from Marie:

I'm glad you developed this sentence as it is the one I remembered from your talk. I realised the same thing 4 months ago - My life was sad with moments of sunshine. All of this because I changed who I was to please a man, who never gave me half the love I gave him and did not treat me fairly. Yesterday, when I walked out of Mass I understood than the only love important in my life was the love of God. Take care dear Yosra

Asalamu alaykom Marie,

I did a cut n paste because you included an email address. I've really protective of my readers; so if you leave private info, I don't print it.

I did, however, want to publish your comment because it's an important one. You are such an honest person and I love that you connected with this statement. I love that you found yourself closer to God even if it meant being away from your baby's father. Life certainly does keep happening for our benefit!

I will keep thinking good thoughts for you n your boo.

Love and Light!

Anonymous said...

Dear Yosra,
I have been reading your post and was relating myself to it. I am a muslim living in the west, I try to be a good muslim, I do my prayers, fast Ramadan, avoid going to parties, I am not wearing Hijab as I am still struggling with my nafs, but I hope I will do soon.
I feel so sad. I am 27 years old, beautiful, Phd student, hamdouLAH having a lot of blessing from ALLAH, but I am so so sad. I am lacking love. Well many boys, want me to be there wife but being loved without being able to love them back is impossible for me. Just thinking about it makes me cry day and night. The problem is that I was in love with a boy for 10 years, but he stoped loving me and changed me for more attractive non religious women, while he was asking me to be more religious. I tried to change for him but now he doesn't even care.
Maybe this lesson is teaching me to love ALLAH first and do everything for him since this is why I am here in this planet. But I feel I also need a man love as it is a natual thing. I am feeling deeply down. This why I am writing to you.
I don't know how you can help me, as my problem seem stupid, and everyone is telling me to just move on and start a new life. but its so difficult at the momemt.
Maybe by sharing with me how did you move on from unsuccessful relationships and how your faith supported you, maybe helpful and inspiring for me to change from an everyday crying and depressing move to a more hopeful mood.
Thank you my dear