The months of November to February are always hard, their short dark days drawing a heavy melancholy down on me.
This year has been harder still, perhaps because it followed a year of forlorn gloom. As for millions of others, plans to visit sunnier climes were aborted by government-mandated travel bans. Instead of flying away for a summer of pleasure, we ended up spending a few days staying in a flea-ridden budget hotel in Wales, paying massively inflated prices.
The longer daylight hours of the past few days have come as a huge relief. Though our skies remain grey, there is a perceptible brightness, reawakening the senses. At last, optimism, hope for brighter days to come, if the Most Merciful wills.
I filled the past year with apologies, reaching out to all I thought I’d wronged. But this winter of despair: a period of bitter envy and regret. That angry voice deep within taunted me: “Look at you: you’re worthless. An utter failure!” Alas, despite all evidence to the contrary, I agreed, forgetting all my achievements, and slipped further into my morose gloom.
Just as I had forgotten apologising to my parents repeatedly through the years when I dispatched yet another letter last spring, so I had forgotten all that I have accomplished in life. It took me digging out my CV to discover that I had not in fact flunked my studies all those years ago, as I erroneously recalled.
It took my wife to point out that we live in a house without a mortgage, that I earn a salary sufficient to cover all our needs, that we enjoy a good relationship with my family, that our children are so far mostly happy and content. She is always the one of great faith, mashallah: “Recall the blessings of your Lord!” she petitions me daily.
I have tried to vanquish my envy by reaching out to all I might be envious of, celebrating their successes. I tried to send a card to one whose name popped into my mind. I emailed old friends. I recommended others for employment opportunities. I thought good of old enemies, wising the best for them in life. I sent words of encouragement and gratitude to whoever I could. I drafted an optimistic novel which celebrates love and forgiveness.
Perhaps all of these actions helped. Perhaps they helped carry me through this winter of despair. May Allah forgive me for my rancour; may the Most Merciful have mercy on my wayward soul and put true gratitude in my heart. Yes, I seek His unending mercy, but this morning I seek something else. May Allah put love for myself in my heart. No, not conceit, arrogance, boastfulness, misplaced pride; all of mankind must flee these. But a gentle self-respect, yes: may Allah grant me this. May He let me see in myself what others see.
Yes, I acknowledge today that my despair and bitter envy is founded on my self-loathing. Surely, that is no faith at all. Ya Allah, put mercy for myself in my heart, as much as for others. Ya Allah, let me count all the blessings you have bestowed on me. You guided me to the light of faith, now let the light of faith push through me, illuminating my path. Ya Allah, let me leave the dark days behind me. Ya Allah, let me forgive all, and be forgiven.
To whoever may read this passing through, if I wronged you in days gone by, forgive me. I forgive you too. Peace. Peace be upon you! Salam.