I know I am unceremoniously late but what can I say, January resolutions have never been for me. New Year eves just don’t fill me with the kind of excitement that can convince me to give up my much-needed sleep. My celebratory text messages are never responsible for jamming the mobile phone network simply because they don’t exist.
January feels like a funeral. Always. It is as if I’m grieving, for what exactly I don’t know. Back in the UK, the shortened daylight hours, cold, snow and general Scrooge-like misery post-Christmas never helped in changing this sense of impending doom. Now, perhaps it is the pessimist in me that continues to feel this way, or maybe I’ve finally adjusted to eastern attitudes about time and I am, in fact, fashionably late to the 2018 ‘new year new me’ party. I prefer to think the latter is truer.
So. February, eh? The grogginess of January, first days back, the end of holiday lie-ins – all of it has worn off and my mind has adopted a new sense of clarity. It actually is a new year.
Growing up, my favourite story from the stories of the prophets was Prophet Yusuf’s (عليه السلام). To this day, it has never failed to shatter my heart, it never fails to impart some new wisdom.
As a young child who was lucky to have both parents, it taught me about the difficulties children without parents must face. It made me appreciate the blessing that is family. Sorry, was family. His story prepared me for life without one of my parents, even if it was just by teaching me this simple message: life is too long and full of hardships. Inevitably you’ll be reunited with those who fate pulled away from you. Or who pulled away from your fate. And later I learnt: things will have changed by then. You may no longer be stuck in a well thinking of those who put you there. It might not even cross your mind anymore.
I was much older when I read Jami’s poem Yusuf and Zulaikha. Previously, my childish sensibilities perceiving the world in black and white viewed Zulaikha as another antagonist, like Yusuf’s brothers, who had been responsible for the hardships that had befallen him. But after Jami’s poem, I realised some things really are written in stone. And sometimes, like Rumi wrote, they materialize after you pay the currency of setting fire to your reputation.
Allah never gives you a test without a warning. He allows you to taste a small morsel of your trial before you deal with the real thing. When Yusuf was thrown into the dark well, it prepared him for the prison he would end up in. When his own kin turned their back on him, it prepared him for the events that followed where he was treated just as cruelly by strangers. That’s just the core of it all. When you’re own blood betrays you, nothing any stranger will do can ever hurt you again.
I often think of my journey to Qatar and all those pre-test-tests that Allah put me through, which at the time made no sense at all. And I think of all those people who told me, ‘You won’t last 6 months out there.’
I guess they didn’t know I have been my father’s Yusuf long before they had any idea…
My new year resolutions are really just a self-love list. It’s taken me a while to figure out where my quiet contentment lies.
For example, it lies in turning off all notifications for work-related apps once I get home. I no longer care if the world falls apart around me, sadly work will still be there the next day. I learnt the hard way that checking my emails and school-related apps before bed actually add to my anxiety despite me thinking I’m getting things ticked off the ever-growing to-do list.
I’m learning to live in the moment. Maybe I am getting old but I feel really nostalgic for the simplicity of times before phones and quick access to the net. Those times when time itself didn’t feel like it was slipping away from beneath your feet.
My resolution is really simple – to live contentedly, to savour every minute.
I have seen what this love has done, and how you had Yusuf put into a well. You have lifted your veil and ruined me, like Zulaikha in Egypt. [Bulleh Shah]