How To Get Back Up When It All Falls Down

We’ve all been there at one time or another. Where is ‘there’? ‘There’ is the proverbial down and out, on the edge, at the end of your rope, barely holding on or simply holding on by a thread cliché we give to the struggles in our life when we’ve neared the breaking point.  When we’ve reached that period when we would just like to roll over and fall asleep; maybe not forever but long enough for this moment to pass. Just until the pain goes away. Just until the hardship that we’re dealing with ceases to exist.  There. A destination we know all too well although we’ve never planned to visit or quite figured out how we arrived in the first place. If you need a more concrete analogy, it’s comparable to finding yourself looking at the inside of a toilet bowl after a drunken stupor, when the last thing you remember is asking for one more shot while dancing to Beyonce’s Drunk In Love. Needless to say, not a good look.

Before we get to the scene in which we’re snuggling beneath a thick brown blanket ready to take a few tablets of Unisom for the long hibernation, let’s rewind a bit. Let’s go back to the day when we initially began to panic. It was an ordinary day. We woke up and began our normal routine, whatever that may be, and went about our typical pursuits. Everything was fine. Actually we were having an exceptionally good day. We smiled at our co-workers, didn’t yell at the guy who zipped in front of us during the throes of evening traffic, and I’m especially happy to say we didn’t even cock an eyebrow at Donald Trump’s latest verbal  assault on whichever unassuming group he’d chosen to target for the moment. Life was good. We were sure that nothing would dampen our stride, words of wisdom from grandma Rose in the back of our mind reminding us that no one was going to steal our joy. Uh uh! No way! But something or someone did, and we had no control over it. We never had control of it. To quote Kanye West, suddenly and ever so swiftly “It All Falls Down”.

The world as we knew it just moments before seemed like days ago; weeks even. Maybe we saw our spouse downtown with someone other than us, the ATM stated our checking account had insufficient funds after we bought the latest red bottoms as a personal birthday gift two weeks prior (cha-ching!), we received that call from our child’s school notifying us that their had been an “accident”, or we learned that the company we’ve been employed with for over a decade has decided to downsize and we are among the first to be cut down to size. It happens to everyone. The situation will not be the same because we all have our own individual struggles but it’s guaranteed to happen. Allah (swt) says:

Most certainly you will face tests in your wealth and in your persons . . .

~Quran 3:186

So who’s the first person we call? Perhaps it depends on the situation. Our mother? Father? Best friend? Maybe we know that they would not necessarily be of any benefit in this particular instance so we call the bank directly to ask for a refund on the overdraft and late fees because we’ve “never been overdrawn before”. Or we request to speak directly with our employer because after all we’re the person with the most longevity and have been loyal to the company since day one. We soon learn that the financial conglomerate has a strict policy that they do not give the customer back any money no matter what the circumstance. Never. As well, the owner of this multi-million dollar company does not care about the years of service we have given, we’re a liability now. In order to keep costs down they must let us go so that we won’t have the opportunity to collect on our retirement benefits in a few years. Life sucks. We’re not able to pay all of our bills, disconnection notices and OPEN IMMEDIATELY envelopes are flooding the mailbox daily. We finally give in and call our family but they are grappling with financial difficulties too. Our friends have gotten ghost and won’t return our phone calls, or even worse, reminded us that we haven’t paid them back from the last time they loaned us money three years prior. The walls we have constructed for ourselves are slowly closing in and we succumb to the gentle nudge of surrender. The white flag has been waved.

{Brown blanket enters stage right.}

We’ve reached out to all of our resources. No one has come through for us. Nothing we have tried has worked. It’s about that time for us to admit defeat. We’ve failed. Again. So we lay down for the night trying to stay warm because the gas has been temporarily disabled and surreptitiously begin worrying about what the next day will bring. How will we cope? What to do? The tears begin to flow in a slow repetitive fashion as we consider how we ever let ourselves get to this point: down and out, on the edge, at the end of our rope, barely holding on, simply holding on by a thread.

And we will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.

~Quran 2:155

When all else fails, as natural as a river flows into the ocean you begin to pray. Not only do you pray but you have a conversation with Allah (swt). You share with Him all of what is in your heart. All that He already knows. You’re exhausted from the work and effort that you exerted in order to seek succor from those in this world, while in the end He was simply waiting for you to come to Him. To ask Him. You relieve your heart of your burdens and finally feel at peace with allowing Allah (swt) to take over. You finally submit to the One who deserves your unabashed devotion.

A new morning dawns and it is the same as the one before. You still have no lights on in the house and the repo man could come at any moment to haul away your unnecessarily expensive four door SUV. The cold morning coffee unsettles your stomach a bit as you sit down and watch the sunrise between the trees in your back yard — smiling. Waiting.

And you’re good with that.

 

Say: “Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?” Say: “Allah.” Say (also): “Do you then take for guardians, apart from Him, such as have no power to bring benefit to or avert harm from even themselves?” Say: “Are the blind and the seeing equal, or are the depths of darkness and the light equal?” Or have they assigned to Allah partners who create the like of His creation, so that the creation (that they make and Allah’s creation) seem alike to them (that they cannot distinguish the true Creator?)” Say: “Allah is the Creator of all things, and He is the One, the All-Overwhelming.”

~Quran 13:16

My beloved, all that happens is within Allah’s plan for you. Know that if you were to seek assistance from Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Oprah Winfrey, Mark Zuckerberg or any among those considered to be the wealthiest people in the world they would not aid you except by Allah’s permission. So seek Him first and foremost in all matters, before venturing to the creation, for He is the one who knows your heart. If He bestows a hardship upon you it is only to draw you nearer in order to close the chasm that has manifested from your own actions.

Strive with patience, aware that Allah has got your back.

 

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Something of Music, Flowers, & Bumblebees

I’m from the Outkast, Goodie Mob, TLC, LaFace Records Atlanta. The Usher Raymond,  Jermaine Dupree, Jagged Edge Atlanta. And of course I can’t forget the traffic jam, Bill Campbell, Freaknik Atlanta. So naturally I have a little bit of the southern colloquial slang, that if you have lived in Georgia for any extended period of time, you know is quite commonplace among native residents. Besides my speech their are some aspects of my life that are simply ingrained in me; such as the need to let people know what area I’m from or what high school I attended growing up. Perhaps I may become nostalgic when a Lil’ Jon song is played between the current rotation on the radio station and get a little “turnt up” (back in my day we called it “crunk”…but whatever) while on the way to work. It’s natural for me, and although not everyone is privileged to see that side, it does rear it’s big head from time to time without asking permission. I mentioned just a few of the idiosyncrasies that make me who I am. We all have them and it’s what makes us individuals. It’s what makes us unique.

Wouldn’t we lead such a bland existence if we were all the same?

Alternately, their is another side of me that I didn’t know existed until several years ago. It’s strange because this other side is still the me that I have always known but it’s on another level. A higher level. It’s similar to when you turn 30 and you think back to all of the stupid things you thought or the reckless actions you made in your teens or twenties and are amazed at how much you’ve matured…and that you’ve managed to stay alive. You’re still you but…better. That’s how I feel about embracing Islam. I’m still me but…better. “When you know better you do better”. I can’t say that anyone has ever stated that cliche to me directly but I’ve heard it more than once in some form or another. You could say that’s where I am right now with my faith. I know better, so in turn I must do better. It’s an expression that on the surface is inconsequential and stated simply for effect in most cases, but it’s a heavy statement. Forget about anyone else for a moment. Let’s focus on you. Don’t YOU owe it to YOU to hold yourself to a higher standard once knowledge of your Creator has been received? In a purely basic way, that is Islam to me.

 

….Say, “Are they ever equal, those who know and those who do not know? Only the people of discernment will reflect (on the distinction between knowledge and ignorance, and obedience to Allah and disobedience,) and be mindful.

~ Quran 39:9

 

So here is where the dilemma attempts to rear it’s ugly head. Connecting who you were before receiving knowledge to who you are after. How do you balance the two? Can you? Do you have to abandon the first in order to hold on to the second? To me it’s like asking do I have to cease being American in order to be Muslim. I cannot denounce that I am an American no more than I can nullify the fact that I am Black; the two must simply co-exist. Likewise, I won’t simply eradicate who I was before because I am Muslim now. After all, didn’t Allah choose me? Didn’t He know who I was before and bestowed His mercy upon me anyway? Allah knows your inner most being so I will assume that He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself, an intangible that was there from the beginning.

 

Assuredly, it is We Who have created human, and We know what suggestions his soul makes to him. We are nearer to him than his jugular vein.            

~ Quran 50:16

 

I’m no religious scholar. Not even close. I can only humbly provide you with my personal experience thus far. I’ve learned that the human being is continually growing; changing. That not only includes individuals but it also takes into account all of humanity. The knowledge one receives impacts each person differently. For instance, upon my first introduction to the Quran I began to ponder everything. I viewed my life through an unfiltered lens with a child-like youthfulness. Blue skies. Dazzling stars. Bumblebees. Butterflies. I may sound crazy to some but it’s beautiful to me. I had taken Allah’s creations for granted.

No words can truly describe the Quran’s impact on my life. Four years later this book of revelation is still influencing my thoughts and actions. I have progressively grown but I am still me. No, I don’t engage in all of the previous activities in which I would frequently participate, but refraining from doing so does not automatically cause a metamorphosis.  I don’t run into a telephone booth (do they even have those anymore?) and come out with a full burqa. Let’s be realistic, it simply doesn’t work like that. Even if it did, that may not be my particular truth. Growth blossoms like a flower and each petal, although similar, won’t look the same.

I’m still a lover of good music, just about any dessert with frosting, and the average asinine television show from time to time (okay I’m working on that last one). I can become upset or lose my sense of purpose on various occasions just like the average person. We’re all human which by our very nature makes us imperfect. Days merge into weeks into months into years; what you have left are memories that eventually fade. I don’t think about the “old” me as if I have to converge the past with the present. I simply think of now. Who I am today and who I am striving to become. At the end of the night that is all that matters. No one is going to want to know what you were like three years ago to determine if the person standing in front of them at this very moment is a good person. The CEO of an IT company won’t make a decision on whether he (or she) will hire you as a computer technician based on that one time you fixed your brother’s Nintendo back in 1987. It’s irrelevant! So the perceived dilemma results in a question. Not how do I hold on to remnants of my former self?

How can I be the best me…..today…..while also pleasing Allah?

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