This is Day 18 of the 2017 #30Days30Writers Ramadan series – June 13, 2017
By Saba Ali Arain
By society’s standards, I’m not the perfect woman — four kids have added curves to my waist and hips and my arms have a certain jiggle. My forties are changing my black hair to grey and slowing my movements. My back aches, my teeth grind, my eyes are sunken in from exhausting days and restless nights.
I’m not the perfect wife, just ask my husband. I am critical and nitpicky. I nag and forget to say please and thank you. I forget that he is the other half of me and get upset when he can’t read my mind. Or my heart. I expect perfection from him when I am far from it myself.
I’m not the perfect mom either. Constantly distracted by texts and emails, my daughters vie for my attention. I get frustrated and impatient; forgetting to realize what a blessing motherhood is while trying to just get through the day.
I am a flawed daughter, sister and friend. Caught up in the challenges of my own life, I forget that others face their own. My parents are getting older, my siblings have responsibilities that weigh upon them. My friends go through life in what seems like a parallel plane to us that sometimes intersects but often doesn’t. Isolating thoughts like “no one understands how hard it is for me” keep me from recognizing how hard it is for all of us.
We don’t have the perfect life. We are “that family” with a child who has special needs. We plan ten steps ahead to go out, and when we do, it’s sometimes not as fun as we’d hoped it would be. Money is spent on therapy and treatments, in addition to piano lessons and swim classes. We don’t have extravagant vacations to far off places — we save up to go on one big trip that is planned five years in advance including searching for the most accessible and wheelchair-friendly options we can find.
We don’t have a huge circle of friends, we’re not cool and hip and definitely not in the “it” crowd. We are dull, practical and boring.
I am the definition of an imperfect Muslim. My salats are moments where I can take a second to breathe before my mind starts to wander on what else needs to be done, who’s crying now? Is everyone’s homework done? How many appointments tomorrow …
I try to fast but am beaten and worn down by the demands of the day, and my body can’t handle it. I try to read Quran, but my brain has a tough time concentrating while my eyes are having difficulty focusing. My mind is constantly racing with concerns and thoughts of my family and their wellbeing. I don’t have the inner sense of calm that I imagine good Muslims do.
I’m not perfect, and not many things, or people, around me are. But I do know and see perfection daily. I see my beautiful daughters who were created by, not me, but by the Almighty. I get a glimpse of the divine when I look at my girls, especially my eldest daughter Sarina. While others may see disabilities and the end of possibilities, I see a child perfectly crafted to be exactly as she is.
In her wheelchair, with her fidgety hands and distractible mind, I see eyes that hide the inner workings of a perfectly formed mind, as was the intention of the Creator. I see a heart full of anxiety and frustration and longing and motivation and love and sweetness and so much potential. While others may see a broken child, I see one who is whole and complete.
But that’s what I’ve learned perfection is: It’s not the actual achievement of something that only Allah (swt) can attain. It’s not struggling and sacrificing to achieve status and wealth, more power and influence in this life. It’s stopping to recognize the completely and utterly perfect moments throughout our days.
When my two-year-old twin daughters hug each other for no apparent reason. When my-seven-year-old sacrifices for her big sister and little sisters without a moment’s thought of herself. When my-nine-year-old, who we were afraid would never speak, cracks a joke that makes us all laugh. It’s seeing through the eyes of love and patience to see what Allah (swt) has created so perfectly.
I don’t need to have perfection on the outer perimeter of my life. I can’t keep up with the standards of others in trying to be what they want me to be. I can be proud of the curves that my children can hug and hold on to. These arms may seem soft, but they can lift a child who is stronger than I will ever be. My gray hair is tangible proof of the life I’ve led and the blessings Allah (swt) has given me. My eyes may be tired but they have witnessed amazing things. I am reminded of my favorite poem by Jalaluddin Rumi- My heart is so small it’s almost invisible. How can You place such big sorrows in it? “Look”, He answered, “your eyes are even smaller, yet they behold the world.”
My friends — my true friends who have been with me through the hardest of times — have shown me compassion exists and needs no fanfare. My sweet, calm husband has taught me to be less judgmental and critical and to see others how he does –with an open mind and an open heart. My siblings are a constant source of renewing and reaffirming strength and humor, despite our weaknesses and challenges. My mother’s love and patience reminds me where paradise lies.
I’ve realized that as I lift away the veils of guilt, shame, insecurity and fear that hold me back from my truth, that truth has always been there. The Divine Perfection that my heart seeks has always been part of us and our lives. I strive to practice my faith with a foundation of good intentions. My attempts may falter, but my faith doesn’t. Through it all, I am always reminded how close we can be to the only One who is perfect: When I know that my daughters were made exactly how they were meant to be.
We don’t have the perfect life, but there are infinite moments when I can see a reflection of Allah’s perfect plan for us.
Saba Arain is living her imperfect, yet perfectly happy, life in the suburbs of Chicago IL with her four amazing daughters and one very patient husband. She is currently volunteering for MUHSEN as Design/Marketing Lead. Saba is a devoted mother by day and artist by night. You can see the results of her creative therapy on Instagram @sabascript.