As each year wanes into the next, and the brisk winter frosts the red brick houses in my quiet suburban neighborhood; as its frigid breath chills the tender blades of grass, yet green in their youth, and the peeling bark of the slender maple trees; as ice cracks the dirt beneath the bare rosebushes and hangs in glistening whorls from the rain gutters; as the white blanket of snow hushes the few cars that drive by in the unmarked streets, the same harsh frigidity benumbs me.
I sit alone in my room and watch the snow accumulate outside my window, feeling a slight draft as the cold wind blows through the narrow opening. I never like to shut the window completely. The ringing silence of an empty room disturbs me because it leaves me alone with my thoughts, which are like dark smatterings of blood on the white canvas of silence. I keep the window cracked open in the hope that the sounds of the outside world would distract me from my grim brooding, but the downy snow seems to hush the world into a stupor, and I am left staring at the dark red droplets as they seep into the fabric of the peaceful quiet.
Another year gone, another disappointment.
A few years ago, as a teenager, I could not wait to grow older and be viewed as an adult. I already behaved like one, denying myself even the simple joys of being a foolish youth. While my peers lived their life flamboyantly; fearlessly; spontaneously; making mistakes without fear of severe repercussions because their faults were for the most part understood, I crippled my lively spirit and stifled my inner voice yearning for adventure. My mistakes would not be forgiven so easily, so I stitched my exploratory fingers together so as not to be able to err.
It was in my nineteenth year when I decided that I was ready for marriage. I was in my prime: studious, courteous, kind, moderately intelligent, and somewhat pretty. I knew how to maintain a home, and for years, I had been observing the behavior of the married couples in my family, taking note of their problems and how to avoid or solve them. I had an open heart ready to accept love for the first time. Surely, said I, surely this will be the year I meet my future husband insha’Allah. I could not be more ready!
That year came and went with no sign of him.
The year after was the same.
And the year after that.
At twenty-two, I thought that at any given moment, I would meet him, hear of him, or somehow receive a sign that would show me who I would fall for and marry. I was always aware of something every time I went out, as if I was suspended in that instant of time where the air becomes dense and still just before the rain falls, quickly followed by a glorious shower from the heavens. I had my hand extended to catch that first drop, but none seemed to come. Surely, thought I, surely any moment now I will receive my sign!
That year came and went with nothing to offer.
And the year after that.
Many suitors came in those years, but they were faceless to me. I did not know them, so their dismissal by my parents did not upset me. They were not my soulmate! If my prince comes, I would know. I would know because I would be the answer to his prayers just as he would be to mine. But he did not come.
This year, tired of it all, and ashamed of waiting for something that never came – like a child standing at the side of the road, anticipating an ice cream truck that had already driven by – I gave up on the idea entirely. By God, it was liberating. I come from a race known for its value of honor and dignity, and pride runs through my arteries in abundance, so the thought of me standing on tiptoe like a guileless child, waiting for a man that might not even exist, raised the hackles of my pride a little.
It is a matter of course that I had all my dependence on Allah (swt). That was the main reason why I released my anxiety. I relied on the Almighty so wholeheartedly, any worried thought that remained drifting in my mind was evaporated on the spot. Both hands were firmly grasping the most trustworthy handhold and I had no qualms whatsoever.
“You cannot pray and worry at the same time,” I once heard someone say, “You do one of those.”
So I prayed, a lot, and left worrying for those with lesser faith. I did away with the rope entirely and left the camel in Allah’s care. If the time for action comes, I will be prepared insha’Allah, but in the meantime, I am not going to lapse into unduly stress. I am in Good Hands, alhamdulillah.
This year, my New Year’s resolution (or hope) is not to get married. I am a person of many dreams and aspirations, and that is what I worked on. I thought I had reached my prime at nineteen, but the truth is, I am still advancing; elevating. We all are. There is no declination of worth with age. Thinking that I could not possibly be more prepared for a lifetime of marriage was a sign of my immaturity. I am now blessed with more time to grow and become my own person, not someone’s crutch. Stepping into the mold of a wife while I was still unformed and extremely pliable would have permanently damaged the shape I was destined to take. Of course, I still dream of being a wife and mother – all the time. The nurturer in me begs for someone to take care of and love. My open heart still has a reservation for my soulmate to fill. However, before I can be someone’s rock, I need to let my own minerals solidify. Allah (swt) gave me this time to work on bettering myself for His sake alone, and subsequently my satisfaction and self-worth. Doing it for a man would have been the wrong incentive.
I do not have a self-imposed deadline anymore. Why did I make one in the first place? I now can see myself as an unmarried thirty or forty-year-old and still be content. If I am not destined to marry at all, living life as a celibate is not such a dismal and unwelcome prospect as it is made out to be. Such ridiculous standards we make up for ourselves! I am not less of a person because I do not have a ring on my finger. I am not missing a half, incomplete until I find a man to marry. Our Lord created us each perfect, whole. Mankind was created in the most exalted of forms subhan’Allah. We are each a universe of our own. Being unmarried does not make me less. We are not less.
O Allah, O Merciful One, how grateful I am to You! You have showered me with Your generosity, time and time again, albeit I am undeserving and forgetful. I have not always staved off laziness, and several times, a begrudging or resentful thought entered my head, but despite my many imperfections, I have not, am not, and will never be ungrateful to You, O Most Gracious, as long lives on my eternal soul.
I am blessed, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah, alhamdulillah.
My life is beautiful and complete in its own way. There are goals and aspirations I have not reached yet, but I know now that the journey to that height is as sweet as the destination. This gloom, these hardships, these struggles, are just the thorny brambles on the mountain right before the crest. They may hinder the climb, but more importantly, they provide us with the succulent taste of victory when we overcome them. It is only until I figure out who I am and what I can do to better this world for my fellow mountaineers who are struggling to reach their own summit, that the rain will fall, and I can stretch my arms out and soak it in.
* * *
The silence is not so unpleasant now. No, I think, it is not the silence that has changed, but the colors that are staining it. They are no longer dark and malevolent. The deep red looks less like blood now and more like the dye from hibiscus petals. A painted parade of flower buds begins to bloom across the white canvas as it drinks the changed thoughts in. I sit on my bed, cocooned in a warm blanket, and stare out of the hazy window to watch the snow fall in earnest. A small smile tugs at the corners of my mouth when two of the red droplets on the canvas of silence come together to form the shape of a heart.
Ah, so the claws of pride have not yet ravaged the hopeless romantic in me. I will keep waiting, then, for my prince to come, but I will not be idle in the interim.