How to let go of the past

I don’t quite know how to word the things I have to say. Upon entering the next stage of life, one that we’ve imagined and anticipated, there can be multiple emotions in parallel with one another.

it is OK to be worried, and afraid for myself, alongside exquisite happiness.

The liminality I am in the midst of comes with the anticipation of the second anniversary of our baby’s death. That is when things really changed, in March 2015. My husband left his job, I started a new one, and we cut away from the people who caused us the most pain whilst we grieved. After a year, my husband was better, in a great office, and we moved to a quiet, peaceful town where, six months later we had our bouncing baby boy, who is asleep next to me as I write this.

So this is my next stage of life. I had counselling through the pregnancy and in the period afterwards, which helped immensely. I had anxiety over my credentials as a mother, but with lots of swimming classes and sleep, my moods slowly changed, and I love my life now.

Swimming is what has always carried me through difficult times: loneliness when I first moved to a small town, stress during my postgraduate, and now early motherhood, it helps me trust my instincts, learn to re- balance in an unfamiliar environment and keep my head above water. There is something more tangible in exercise than simply moving, we are sensory creatures after all, we crave sensation, in our spirit, mind and body.

Going to mum and baby yoga, reading about baby-led weaning and changing nappies is the order of the day. It is wonderful, better than I imagined, but I am also trying to let go of the bitterness of the past. I no longer want to confront the people who let me down, although I am not experiencing hot, white anger as I used to, I haven’t forgiven yet, it has come down to a more gentle dislike, and the knowledge that life is too short to waste on doomed relationships.

Our friends are our companions. I was unfortunate enough to choose quit selfish people to be my friends, who thought only of themselves when I suffered my loss, and I promised myself to do better, to be enriched by a sisterhood around me, not hurt by it. I think I have accomplished that.

 

 

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On Metaphor

In the Arabic language, the study of rhetoric, ʻilm al-balāgha, is fascinating.

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There are verses in the Qur’an that take metaphor, language and philosophy and lyrically blend them all together in one, startling space.

There is a beautiful type of extended metaphor in the Qur’an, and this particular verse (below) I like to think about when it comes to the death of a loved one, and the guilt over our part in their death:

 

إِنَّمَا مَثَلُ الْحَيَاةِ الدُّنْيَا كَمَاء أَنزَلْنَاهُ مِنَ السَّمَاء فَاخْتَلَطَ بِهِ نَبَاتُ الأَرْضِ مِمَّا يَأْكُلُ النَّاسُ وَالأَنْعَامُ حَتَّىَ إِذَا أَخَذَتِ الأَرْضُ زُخْرُفَهَا وَازَّيَّنَتْ وَظَنَّ أَهْلُهَا أَنَّهُمْ قَادِرُونَ عَلَيْهَآ أَتَاهَا أَمْرُنَا لَيْلاً أَوْ نَهَارًا فَجَعَلْنَاهَا حَصِيدًا كَأَن لَّمْ تَغْنَ بِالأَمْسِ كَذَلِكَ نُفَصِّلُ الآيَاتِ لِقَوْمٍ يَتَفَكَّرُونَ (10:24)  f

 

  • The parable of the life of this world is but that of rain which We send down from the sky, and which is absorbed by the plants of the earth [37]whereof men and animals draw nourishment, until – when the earth has assumed its artful adornment and has been embellished, and they who dwell on it believe that they have gained mastery over it[38] – there comes down upon it Our judgment, by night or by day, and We cause it to become [like] a field mown down, as if there had been no yesterday. [39] Thus clearly do We spell out these messages unto people who think – 10:24 (Asad)

 

I went to a baby’s funeral yesterday, and I thought hard about this metaphor. As human beings, we accomplish incredible things, death-defying acts, we are capable of breathtaking architecture, and tremendous charity, but when a baby dies, when we lose a member of our human family, we are utterly helpless. We are reminded that, though we may believe we have ‘mastery’ over everything, we do not create life, nor do have any hope in demanding our own immortality.

Every farmer who prays for sunny days during hay making understands this helplessness, as do the doctors who must tell another young patient that they have stage 4 cancer. Every mother who loses her child feels her insignificance, just as the poet who has knowledge of Arabic feels upon reading the Qur’an, even one like Labid whose poem was written by scribes in gold ink.

When Umar (ra) asked Labid, the famous pre-Islamic poet who had embraced Islam, to recite for him some of his poetry, Labid began to recite the Qur’an. “This is not what I asked you,” Umar remonstrated. Labid replied: “Well, I have given up composing poetry after Allah gave me al-Baqarah and aal-Imraan.” (Narrated from Qurtubi)

On Cultivating Beauty

We’ve bee through such a tragedy, losing you. I cannot moralise it, it is the saddest thing that happened to me.

I am extremely gratified to have the life I do, and for your father, but your stillbirth was a tragedy unlike any other.

We were floating along, helping whoever asked, (you become popular, opening your door to strangers) riding our bicycles because we couldn’t afford a car (telling ourselves we were saving the environment) not establishing roots anywhere, (enjoying our youthful freedom) no structured boundaries and no organisation. And then you began to grow inside me, so I went into over-gear with trying to sort our family out, all the while lingering in my mind was the knowledge that it was probably too late, because a baby was coming and we were behind with planning a more comfortable, stable future. I went to the Job Centre because I was fed up of hearing that unemployment rates have dropped under the coalition government whilst I couldn’t find full time employment for a year after graduating. When I was in the last trimester of pregnancy, I still went to job interviews. I worked another internship and saved the £50 a week for you, to buy you a nice baby blanket and a baby bath. In that time, our floor began to show signs of leaky plumbing and the old, single-glazed windows rattled. Our flimsily-gathered ‘friends’ rang our doorbell at night and I cried. We struggled on, privately renting a first floor flat that wasn’t fit to raise a baby in, and saving nothing every month.

According to John Mirowsky, a sociologist at the University of Texas at Austin, biologically, having a baby is best early on, but the sociological impact is far from ideal.

‘At age 20 or younger, Mirowsky wrote, pregnancy is “more likely to happen out of wedlock, more likely to interfere with educational attainment, and more likely to crystallize a disadvantaged status.” https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/cusp/201211/whats-the-best-age-have-baby

Your presence woke me up to the stark reality of how an impoverished background can crystallise a deprived future, what Russell Brand terms a ‘down-payment on a slow suicide’  http://www.russellbrand.com/death-takes-small-bites/

You woke me up to the life I wanted for my children, free from dependency on the council-housing waiting list I had been on my whole life. During labour, I thought about all this, I thought about struggling and never sending you forward to the education you should be able to access, to the beautiful life I would like to cultivate for you.

It turns out, you were not destined to inhale any beautiful air, because you came into this world born still, but you cultivated beauty in my life, rather than I cultivating it in yours.

I changed rapidly from the grief, I was no longer acquiescent to an unfulfilled existence. My father said the grief would be empowering, and it has been. In ways I will describe here in the future.

Bitterfly

Robert Montgomery
Robert Montgomery

Whilst typing, I misspelled a word, I had written ‘bitterfly’. I found it a curiously fitting way to describe falling upwards, because there is a granular bitterness in being disappointed with one’s life, and at the same time, blended with this disappointment is the knowledge that waking up everyday is not an option, life continues and grows.

The study of butterflies is called:

“Lepidopterology

(lep-i-dop-tuh-ROL-uh-jee)

MEANING:

noun: The study of butterflies and moths.

ETYMOLOGY:

From Greek lepido- (scale) + pteron (wing, feather), ultimately from the Indo-European root pet- (to rush or fly) that also gave us feather, petition, compete, and perpetual.” http://wordsmith.org/words/lepidopterology.html

Gardeners will tell you that the names of things are highly important. Latin names of butterflies and plants indicate their characteristics, just like the word ‘bitterfly’ describes me.

A fragrant, perfumed plant has ‘odorata‘ in the name, where ‘palmatum‘ describes hand-shaped foliage. I like the word ‘latifolium‘, which means it has wide leaves. I think I, along with everyone in our family, am latifolium, because our tree branches seem to stretch so far across the world.

Our Family Story

To my little girl,

I will write our family story, about India and England, about race, class and history, about death and life.

Ours is a story untold, because too often we fall into the marginalised groups, those without a voice, untold because your great-grandmother was illiterate, untold before Gayatri Spivak told us we could speak.

After walking through echoing corridors in universities, handing in essays and presenting theories, I have learnt that a true education teaches you more about yourself then any other subject. And you were my education.

Rabia