As salaam alaikum,
Yesterday, as I was walking with my co-residents to Pride with my rainbow-colored scarf that I never wore as a khimar at the time it was gifted to me around my neck, texting a man who is interested in me, my angle twisted on a piece of uneven pavement, and I felt myself fall to the ground.
I landed on my hands.
When you fall, people are embarrassed for you. That makes the fall more embarrassing than it otherwise would be.
But I played not embarrassed. "I'm kind of clumsy, so I'm not surprised this happened," I shrugged off. And I shut off embarrassment as much as I can, and I deny the pain of the open sore on my hand and the my ankle, which I later discover is bleeding. I'm fine, I say. I have this odd experience where I feel pain at first, then I feel numbness, then the pain is gone, I tell one of the resident's boyfriends. Maybe it's the acupuncture, I say to myself. Don't want to sound crazy in front of this new group of people. I'll wait a while longer for my eccentricity to come out, though I did allow myself to show them some samba.
I'm not sure this group can handle all that I am...nor should they. They are my colleagues, my professional colleagues. I'll save all that I am for other venues.
But I did think about why I fell. Was this a sign? Was it a sign that I'm going in the wrong direction? I don't drink alcohol, but am I around alcohol too much? I still pray, but do I not pray enough? I don't have sex, but am I flirting with the possibility too much?
Am I too much of earth, and not enough for God?
I'm so inspired this morning with all of these questions and all of these thoughts because I just watched a TED talk this morning that was assigned to us prior to the session we are to have during this block of our residency. It felt very touchy-feely at the time, but it was informative and I think important for me to reflect on.
Dr. Brene Brown discusses "The Power of Vulnerability." In brief, she talks about how those people who led the happiest lives were able to love wholeheartedly, and a big part of that was accepting and embracing vulnerability...the vulnerability of life and loving. They were also able to embrace their worthiness. They were worthy of loving, worthy of feeling connection, connection that defines us all so much.
But listen to the talk. Really. I'm not a self-help buff by any means, but it's 20 minutes, and it will help put what's coming next into context.
So I listened to this, and I was struck! That's me! Talk about strumming my pain with her fingers, singing my life with her words. This is me in a nutshell.
Necessarily, many of us who go into medicine are perfectionists. I am a diehard. To say I studied hard is an understatement. I strove to get all As at all times, and when I didn't, I beat myself up about it. I'm not that smart, because I got a 3.908 in college, and my science GPA was even lower. I knew people who got higher. I'm not that smart, because I got an 85% A in my organic chemistry class. It was on a curve, so it wasn't a real A.
I'm not that smart, because I'm not perfect, in other words. You always strive for that perfection as a perfectionist. Even if one's imperfection is good enough.
Worthiness is something I struggle with in all domains. I don't know if it's more often than not but too often, I don't feel worthy, or I at least question my worthiness. Was I worthy of being called a good medical student? Am I worthy of any type of praise? Was I worthy enough to attend Harvard, really? Am I worthy of being called a Muslim? Am I worthy before God? Am I worthy of being loved?
Because I'm not there...I'm not there.
Let's break down one of these for now. Am I worthy of being loved? I don't know. Sometimes, I feel like, absolutely. But most of the time, I feel like, the proof is in the pudding. And then I remind myself that I am loved, by family and friends...but that's not what I mean.
And all of us who wonder this know that's not what we mean. We want a partner! We want romantic love, carnal love, whatever you want to call it and whatever you want to deny. So I ask, am I worthy of being loved by a man who will marry me or am I not?
If I am worthy, then why am I still single?
Why am I still single?
"Because the right one hasn't come along yet," they all say. This satisfies me for, like, five seconds.
But what if he never comes?" I sometimes say aloud, sometimes keep to myself. But for real, though. What if he never comes? What if he doesn't exist? What if God wants me to be single for the rest of my life because that is my portion?
"God doesn't want that for us," some would say, my father, for example.
Well then, why am I suffering so much from being single? This must be a trial, and so far, I'm failing.
There's that word that I've used so much for someone who has actually never failed. Alhamdulillah, I've never failed to fast Ramadan. Alhamdulillah, I've never failed a class or a test or anything academic like that. Alhamdulillah, I've never failed my family, let them down...
But I use that word, fail, a lot to describe myself. Failure at life. Meaning failure at love.
Am I a failure at love?
"No, you just haven't found the one yet."
The one. I don't want to believe in that shit.
It just seems like an invitation to let down, disappointment, disillusionment. It's something you can only know in retrospect.
And that still doesn't answer the question...what if I'm not going to find the one, the right, the whatever? What if no man ever wants to marry me like no man has ever (legitimately) wanted to marry me?
Online proposals from random international Muslims aside.
Dr. Brown said that we numb vulnerability, some of us with addictions to substances, food and drug. I did the food thing a little bit, but I think numbing several emotions led me, leads me, to cycle into depression at different points in my life.
I numb attraction. Before I was practicing fully, I numbed it because it was inconvenient and risky. Why allow myself to be attracted to someone if they don't like me back? Yet, it inevitably happened, but I fought it so hard.
I fight so hard.
I liked when I became more practicing an such attraction was haram, anyway. Then, I was justified in numbing, denying, and I felt like it was an act of worship on top of it to obfuscate so thoroughly. And anything else was sin. This is how God intended us to be. Fight the base way we were created in order to attain the spiritual heights to transcend this earthly world in anticipation of Heaven.
But there is no easy way to follow God.
There is no easy way because we can deny so hard in places where we deem love and attraction to be inappropriate that we don't love in the right places when it is appropriate.
Perfectionists are among us all throughout life and over time, many of them have had loud voices and have led many of us down the road to masochism, using God's name in vain.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, must have been a perfectionist as well. I'm thinking of the Hadith that I love but that bites me hard at the same time. That religion should be very easy, but all we have to do is try to be as perfect as we can.
Ummmm...that is not easy. That second part. Not even very easy. Lord have mercy on me, but it's not.
Dr. Brown talks about practicing vulnerability. As my mother would say, if these people would just read the Qur'an and find Islam. It's very hard to find Islam. This world is too polluted right now by Muslims and non-Muslims corrupting Islam and obscuring the beautiful path. I pray that I'm not one of them. I'm fine with not everyone being Muslim because becoming Muslim in this country often inspires people to leave or lose sight of those principles that led them to submit to God in the first place in favor of bullshit...
But I digress.
I say all of this because practicing vulnerability is practicing Islam. Submitting to God is allowing yourself to be vulnerable to a Being that you cannot touch, who is perceivable through His creation only, who we have no proper pronouns for in our languages that are not limited by gender, who we can't help but anthropomorphize in our minds (yes, everyone, even Muslims). Submitting to a Being that we cannot sense with our five senses directly.
Trusting Him when there's no evidence (and no promise!) that you'll get what you want. Trusting that what He wants is best, even if you don't get what you want. Trusting Him that he's guiding you, although you feel like you don't know where you're going.
You know what you're supposed to do, but you don't know how to do it. This can lead you astray.
Astray. That's almost a curse word for me.
Practicing vulnerability, for me, begins spiritually, so begins with my relationship with God. Worthiness, I should seek first with God.
Because human beings, we're all guilty of this, but we'll seek these things in arms, physical arms, first. In significant others in particular sometimes...
But is my harkening so much toward God above the carnal, which calls me deeply, as is my nature, as I was created by my Creator, my attempt at perfection that cannot be achieved, due to my nature? And should I seek something unattainable? Or should I embrace my imperfections, in the name of God, and move forward?
So, why am I still single? I could say a lot of things. Part of me wants to fault myself. I'm too intense, I talk too much, I'm too ambitious, I'm too picky, I'm too...fat. Another part of me wants to fault men. They don't know a good thing when they see it, they don't value virtue (or at least its attempts), they don't value an intelligent woman, they don't value my beauty, they're emotionally lazy, they want sex and no commitment. I could do a life retrospective, and it all started when I embraced, as a practicing Muslimah, my fear of vulnerability by seeking a form of religion in which there was a straight way in life in which all good things were guaranteed, a straight way and a right way to do things so I wouldn't get hurt by a man who just desires my sex and then leaves me when/if he gets what he wants... So I didn't date, because it was haram, and so I remained single. God intends marriage to protect us from the pains of premarital intimacy with people who are not married to us under God. Just to find out that there are no guarantees, not even in marriage (and sometimes especially not in marriage), and so one of the major reasons I became more practicing is now moot, but I always have been and always will be Muslim. And a Muslimah who practices Islam who is not super conservative is hard to find a match for, when the Muslim men like her are not seeking Muslim women.
But the answer is, I don't know.
I don't know, and I'm just going to live with it.
It's time for me to get ready for work (haha, sounds funny), but this reflection is obviously not over, just as insha'Allah life isn't over. I've avoided making mistakes and I've tried to be as perfect as possible. And when I make a mistake, I don't feel comfortable pronouncing the name of God over it. But maybe herein lies the problem. Maybe I don't pronounce the name of God enough, figuratively speaking. Maybe I fear bringing God into areas of my life where I know I'm traveling a raw path. Maybe I need to come to God more often and be more frank about my vulnerabilities and when I fall into error, in the middle of it happening, instead of shutting Him out for shame that it's happening. I'm not saying sin in the name of God, but...that I need to at least hold fast to God consciousness in everything, everything, everything that I do, and not take breaks...
I don't know why I'm still single when I really don't want to be. I'm not alone. God knows, I do not. God knows why we're on this earth, and I do not. I'm going to embrace that and go about my way.
I just don't know what that all means yet.
EDIT: Hahaha, just noticed that I misspelled uncensored. This is what comes of Firefox not spell-checking my titles. That was not intentional!