It’s been a year. It’s been a heavy year weighed down by the pull of each day that has been a part of it. The obvious heaviness came from the COVID-19 pandemic. But there were also so many other hurdles and blocks that made each passing day thick with emotional and physical challenges. For me, 2020 was a year similar to everyone else’s. Fear and worry on one side, and the desire to live life fully on the other. But something else happened, this is the year that I ended an abusive relationship with myself.
There is no other word that I can use that can describe what I have done to myself for most of my life. I am guilty for the pain I have caused; I am guilty for being abusive to myself.
One of the biggest crimes I’ve committed has been the verbal lashing I unleashed upon my unknowing heart. I’ve been the first to tell myself that I wasn’t good enough. Not good enough to be out there among strange faces and even similar ones because everyone else was better than me. They were smarter than me. They were prettier than me. They were more successful than me. They were more driven and motivated than me. Better mothers. Better friends. Better women. Better. Everyone in every space in every home was at the top or at least higher than myself, and I sat at the rock bottom of the earth, decaying into the aged soil to give nourishment to those who were destined to grow strong and big, while I self-destructed. I did not consider myself to be worthy of the life I was given by the Most Merciful. And day after day, year after year, I grew into that role like it was an identity that belonged to me as much as I belonged to it. So after decades of this torture, what was it that changed for me this year? Truthfully? I don’t know… there is so much and so little that changed for me.
What that means is that very little changed for me on the outside. I am still living with my husband and children, in the same house, in the very same city, looking every bit the same as I have before. An outsider looking in would question where the change was because they wouldn’t be able to see it. And that’s when the greatest change happens, doesn’t it? An evolution of thought not to be judged or approved by others but leaping to new heights and surging like waves crashing with energy and renewal. On the inside, mental blocks placed years and years ago that had cemented into place began shifting. A shift initiated by praying to Allah in times of fear and unease and quickening when I began to ask Allah to allow and assist me in forgiving myself.
Forgive. It’s an innocent little word, right? We use it so loosely and effortlessly. But what is it that I had to forgive myself for? I had never committed a crime nor harmed anyone. Why have I been torturing myself? What did I need to forgive? I needed to forgive myself for failures. I needed to forgive myself for unfulfilled dreams and ambitions. Every time I couldn’t or wouldn’t, I placed boulders in my mind that kept me and my other self away from each other – the imperfect me. Separating us like tall-walled borders, never to become friendly with each other. Never to cross from here to there. She was to be kept hidden away and buried, and I would be here out in the open hurting and trying to find my way. Somewhere somehow, I have been wanting to be perfect. Keeping imperfections hidden away, and paining to be perfect without it for years. I did not want her to be me.
Then 2020 came. A monumental year of immense pressure and fears. And I lay awake many nights paralyzed by fear and worry. Not sure if normality will ever return and if an invisible virus would pluck out humanity one by one until we would all be gone for good. In that deep level of despair, I turned to Allah, the All-knowing, All-aware. Asking him from a heart full of pain to hear my prayers. To free from the unease that had resided in my heart for so long. And each time I did, the pain began to slowly shrink away. Suddenly, I found myself standing by my bedroom window every morning waiting for the sun to rise. It was like a beauty that had been hidden in plain sight. I was falling in love with the bright piercing morning rays as they majestically began to spread their wings higher and brighter with each passing moment. Was there anything more beautiful than this? Why did I think that the sun that rises over an ocean was the only one worth drinking in? Why did I think I had to go somewhere or get to another destination to find beauty and happiness? Why didn’t I search for it right here? Why was I waiting to be happy when happiness could be found in the now?
The more I forgave myself for being overweight, losing and gaining pounds over the years, the more I became comfortable with who I was. I was not my physical attributes, it was not my identity. My weight was only my appearance and I was still Tumkeen.
I forgave myself for not having pursued my passions. No, the kids were not to blame nor myself for not running after it, it just wasn’t meant to be fulfilled before now. I forgave myself for the mistakes I’ve made, and let myself free from the imprisonment I had casted upon myself for so long I forgot that other parts even existed.
When the shift began to free the imperfect me, and I stood there watching her dust off herself and emerge as someone who seemed familiar and yet distant. I met the woman I had been searching for my whole life. She was right there in front of me. She was weak and traumatized. She was scared and nervous to see a strong sun shining down on her. She was imperfect but to me, she was perfect. She was a part of me. I took her by the hand, and fed her. I no longer suppressed her with food that was binged in so much quantity that she suffocated. No, no more. I fed her vegetables that suddenly didn’t taste so bad. I put lotion on her cracked feet and parched hands. Seeing the possibility beyond what was evident in front of my eyes. She would no longer suffer for where she’s been, she was allowed to recover and let her feet feel at peace wherever they stood. I gave her clothes to wear that fit her body as it was today. No longer having to wait to be skinny to deserve to look better. No longer wearing sizes so large that she could hide in them and never be found again.
I ended the abuse, and let her heal. And when she did, we embraced each other. We completed each other in the ways we had both ached for, and she no longer feared me for all the years of pain I had caused her for not being who I wanted her to be.
So yes, 2020 has been a year of many challenges. For most of us, the challenge has been to survive a global pandemic and the effects it has had on our families. But for me, 2020 is a year that gave me the courage to end the abuse, and allow myself to peacefully come home, to me.