The last fortnight or so has seen me in a strange mood with my husband being his patient and sensible self and trying to quietly support me through it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about my past and how it has affected my future, how it has affected my life chances and my children’s chances. All this navel-gazing and introspection has not been very helpful and has left me anxious and worried and feeling quite down.
If you have read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that being happy is my default and the way I am made to be, so I can’t stay miserable for long. You’ll also know that I believe that we should trust in what Allah (SWT) decides, knowing that he loves us and wants what is best for us. But sometimes it’s just silly-season in my head and I can get caught up in over-thinking and self-pity.
Anyway, what set this off was trying to sort out Little Lady’s secondary schooling. We really want her to go to an Islamic school and we are already finding that many of the schools are full up for next year even if you can afford the fees. Most of the schools are boarding schools and the idea of sending her away is really hard for me. The local ones are heavily over-subscribed
The schools in our borough are amongst the best in the country and therefore, again, heavily oversubscribed, our local catchment area school is the one I went to, a school where being intelligent was a curse and something you had to hide and where I was one of the only children in my class that didn’t smoke. Its standards have improved over the years and it is middle of the borough’s league tables for GCSE attainment but it remains the school from which the highest number of people referred to the juvenile justice system in this borough originate. Little Lady is tough enough to handle such a school, but why should she have to?
Little Lady didn’t get the grades in her 11+ exam to get into Grammar school either. I feel like I have let her down, that perhaps I should have started tuition earlier, pushed her harder or perhaps put her in more classes and courses from a tiny age.
At the same time I someother things have been bothering me. There are people around me that make me feel judged and insecure. I know that no-one can make me feel that way except myself. Yet every time my children behave less than perfectly, or my weight gain shows or my clothes and hair look shabby, or someone comes to my house, I feel as if they are looking down at me. I know that this is ungratefulness for all that Allah (SWT) has given me. But I feel that I have worked so very hard for the last fifteen years, despite starting behind everyone else.
As a child my parents struggled to make ends meet and my dad did not support my education. He didn’t want me to study past the compulsory 16 years of age. I went to the crappy local school and the even crappier local sixth form by pleading, negotiating and keeping a very low profile. People sneak out to go to parties and clubs; I used to sneak out to go to school. Getting permission to go to university was one of the hardest things I have had to do. I had enough grades to go to the best university in the country for my chosen subject, but quietly attended the one nearest me, all the time avoiding anything outside lessons hours so that I could be home at the earliest time. I worked part-time and negotiated my hours so that I could always avoid evening hours which my parents would not approve of.
As soon as university finished I married my husband in Pakistan. This was the best thing I ever did and marrying him the best thing that ever happened to me. That didn’t mean it was easy. I could not do any post-graduate study and had to go straight into work to be able to sponsor him to come here. This meant that my degree was useless and I could not become a professional in any field. I am feeling the consequences of that today when I feel stuck in a job I detest but which pays my bills and which I get the impression from my employers that I should feel grateful for.
We originally intended to move from where we live to somewhere the schools are better for my children. After a few years of looking we were unable to find somewhere we could afford which wasn’t drastically smaller and have given up and decided to stay where we are and where we can stay close to the wonderful Muslim community around us. But that does mean we haven’t invested in our house and the whole house needs to be done up – no matter how much I clean the bath and kitchen it looks grubby and due to the number of people living and staying here at different times the house is full of clutter.
I met a friend recently who lives in a nice part of the borough; she told me she is moving to another area for the schools. An area I have always dreamed of living in. It felt so unfair. I wish her well and do not envy her life. But I did start thinking about the fact tthatt she started in good circumstances and moved onto better circumstances. I’m here flailing, hustling, fighting for my children and never feeling like I am getting anywhere.
I would say sorry for the pity-party, but I’m not. I had to get it out. I absolutely love this blog because it gives me the chance to put things on paper. Now I have written these things down, I can see how ridiculous and ungrateful they seem. In your head though these things swirl round and round and round and bump against every insecurity and sadness and magnify and become overwhelming.
Once written down, they seem to lose their power. Regarding the issue with Little Ladies schooling, I know I have tried. I don’t believe in hot-housing, or taking your child’s childhood away from them by making them work so hard there is no time left for play. I will try my best for my child, not to be the best educated or the most successful, but the best version of herself. I will support her in trying to grow her innate gifts and skills and make the most use of them in whatever situation we find ourselves in.
A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write, if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself. ~ Abraham Maslow
Regarding the house, I have to keep reminding myself that I am lucky to have my own place. Most of our friends are renting and the rent in our area is sky-high (£1400 per month for a house in my neighbourhood and still hard to find an empty place) leaving them struggling. I will be getting on hubby’s house to do something about the house though, because I want to live somewhere clean and comfortable at least.
With regards to my education and mind-numbing job, this coming year is the one I will have to do something to create change. I intend to do my Masters degree whether I have the money, capacity, health and support or not.
Regarding my self-esteem, I need to remind myself of my values and of what my faith says. I need to avoid the shallow people who judge you by your outfit, your hairstyle, your home decor, your last holiday or your husband’s job. I need to avoid the people who think it is okay to make rude comments or give you advice to “sort” out things, the same people who judge me as lacking in self-control because I am heavier than I was. The same people who are four or five years younger than me and act is if I’m an old aunty because I wear hijab and have more than two children. I also need to have the confidence to challenge those people. Just because I am always nice to people, doesn’t mean I can’t not be (at school I was known as the girl with the nastiest, foulest mouth, I can easily dig that little madam up again if need be).
At the same time there will always be crappy people somewhere around me. Their existence, views and opinions should not affect my life, thinking or self-esteem in any way. That should come from my own values: my faith, my family, service, love and gratefulness.
As to my past, I need to let go of those things and not blame others for my situation, the honest truth is that the majority of the world are worse-off than me. As my best friend reminded me this weekend – it is wrong in Islam to say “what if?” or think about what could have been. What Allah has chosen for us is the best for us and what was always meant to be.
I agree, I don’t believe in comparing with others. People who are successful on the surface can sometimes be facing the most painful problems – no one knows what another person is truly living through.
So after all of the venting, moaning, dissecting and accepting, comes the being still and being grateful – for my health, my children, my husband, my home and most of all my faith.
These next few days I will work to leave all of this junk that has been in my head behind, to let go of these ridiculous little insecurities and then to move forward feeling good about myself and ready to do good things.
I am grateful to anyone that has actually read to the end of this post and I am truly grateful to my lovely husband who is patient and supportive through these occasional crazy moments (and rude people beware!!!)
And (remember) when your Lord proclaimed: “If you give thanks, I will give you more (of My Blessings), but if you are thankless, verily! My Punishment is indeed severe.” ~ Quran (14:7)
“Look at those below you (less fortunate than you), and don't look at those above you, for this is better.” ~ Muslim
“O Allāh, make me content with what you have provided me, send blessings for me therein, and place for me every absent thing with something better.” ~ Bukhāri
“Whoever sets the Hereafter as his goal, Allah gathers his affairs for him, gives him richness of (faith in) the heart and the world will come to him grudgingly and submissively.” ~ Ibn Majah & Ibn Hibban