As salaam alaikum,
There were no retrospectives, no reflections, no words for the end of 2012. I meant to, I really did, but I didn't finish the entry, and it's no use now. So much happened in 2012, so many great life shifts, from matching in family medicine to graduating from medical school with my dual degree, from moving to Seattle to making moves in the relationship department. There were a lot of big transitions in my life in the last year of the Gregorian calendar, but many more subtle, though no less great, transitions. I graduated from medical school, becoming a doctor, and now I'm in residency, becoming a doctor.
The transition itself is not so subtle, but I guess I mean that there's no succinct way of describing it.
A big transition for me that I have not at all discussed is still in progress. It's a huge, spiritual revolution of sorts. I'm changing the way that I think about life and my pursuits in this life. I let go of so many anxieties and became a healthier person. And it all started with one afternoon in the park.
One of our faculty members is our resident integrative medicine specialist. She completed a fellowship and brought her expertise to our program. Not only does she have exercises for our patients, but she does a lot for us residents in terms of self-care. So, just a couple of weeks into our program, while we were still in our glorious orientation month, we sat in a circle in a little park just a block up from the residency office and talked about holistic self-care techniques and mindsets. She taught us about mindfulness.
I've mentioned mindfulness before. In fact, it wasn't the first time I'd heard of it. I'd had a counselor in the past that introduced it to me, but part of me was still back with the, "Oh, she doesn't understand. I'm a Muslimah. I can't live this way..." or "She's minimizing something that is a real struggle for me that does not have any easy, religiously-sound solutions."
But it was something about sitting in a circle in a park on a beautiful, sunny Seattle day and where I was in life and everything that happened and all that I had done that allowed the message of mindfulness resonate with me.
And everyday after that, with only a few exceptions, I've been living my life one day at a time, sometimes, one moment at a time. It was a fast but slow transition. I shifted my mode of thought immediately but it took a while for old habits to dissipate. I would live my life one day at a time but still have moments of internal panic at some of the decisions I made as a result. I still occasionally wondered if this was the best thing for me to do spiritually. I made the transition to living one moment at a time but it took me some time to accept my occasional cognitive dissonance with the idea.
I worked hard to learn a theology, a way of life that taught me to keep my eyes on the prize, the Afterlife, and constantly strive to be better. I worked hard to learn a way of life that taught me that the purpose of life is not happiness, it is service. Service to Allah (swt), which for me is often too esoteric for me to understand serving God who doesn't have a need for my service, pleasing God who does is not sustained by my appeasement, so I simplified it to all of the elements of service that make sense to bettering the world in which we were placed. Service was the purpose of life. Happiness was not, especially if it interfered with your service or following one's nafs over God's will for us.
I never aimed for happiness. After all, the next life is better than this. If I suffer in this life in pursuit of service, striving at all times to submit better, be better...then yes, I shall have happiness. In the next life.
It's funny how even though my understanding of Afterlife is organic and yet I never thought of what impact a self-imposed life of tumult would have on the state of my soul after this space-and-time-bound existence expires.
Restated, I believe that when we pass from this existence, we bring with us the balance or the summation of all that we were in this life. If we strove to be good people and fill our surroundings with peace and charity, that good essence will define ourselves and surroundings once no longer on this earth. So somehow, I believed this organic version of Afterlife but did not believe in pursuing happiness at all.
It was more like, service should make me happy, and alhamdulillah, it does, but if I were not to have happiness, oh well, such is life and so God wills.
I've read Purification of the Soul, I used to ascribe to the belief that depression and anxiety were in fact spiritual deficits with spiritual solutions, all the while suffering from both, and I delved into Islam with the hope that this was the spiritual solution to that anxiety and depression, not realizing that popular ways of thinking that I embraced in becoming more practicing actually exacerbated my problem.
I just took it as my personal jihad, that this was something I would tussle with, and insha'Allah He would help me find the solution as I grew in faith.
I never thought for a moment that I'd have to start over...
To be continued, insha'Allah...