Sometimes I lie awake at night feeling sorry for myself. With a mixture of pride and self-pity, I’m impressed with all of the things I have to do by myself. I imagine myself self-reliant, strong, independent. I push away people in my life, because they have no idea what I struggle with and what I do every day.
I count my challenges and obstacles, my lack of any support system, my loneliness, my exhaustion. I go for weeks without a break, weeks without seeing or talking to a friend, and, even then, sometimes my long-awaited “break” is a trip to the grocery store. I don’t ask for help, because if ignored or slighted I would feel doubly trapped and bitter. And I would no longer have the illusion of stoic martyrdom to keep me company.
So, sometimes, I let myself go and start to feel impressed. I lie awake and count how many mothers I know who are in a similar predicament. I look at myself through the lens of an observer and feel a slight satisfaction at how they might see all I have to tackle on my own. In spite of how much I dislike it, I am unwittingly playing “Let’s Compare,” the game that makes no sense and leads to the worst places.
Then, somewhere beyond my garish, self-sufficient, and inflatable ego, I meet a mother sitting in the darkness of my bedroom.
Her child is sick. Very, very, very sick. She hopes that the pain she sees streaked across her baby’s face is not as bad as it seems and her only consolation is trusting in the mercy of Allah. She holds tight to her baby, but knows that he is not hers to protect. Everything in her life is still and at a halt, except for her child's weakly beating heart and her fervent prayers. There is nothing to be done but wait and bear it all patiently.
In seconds my thoughts are pulverized. I am jolted into awareness that my life and the sweet, beating hearts in the quiet house all rest between the fingers of my Lord. I dissolve into gratefulness, weakness, surrender, frightened helplessness, wanting only to flee to My Protector and find a safe place with Him. There is not one ounce of self-reliance, independence, or strength in me, and there never was or will be, except what comes directly from Him.
Sleepless tonight, I cry for myself and my children. I cry for the fragility of life and how close I come to forgetting to rely on My Protector. Sleepless, I dissolve into nothing but gratefulness that, tonight and in this moment, I am not that mother sitting in the dark.