I have just finished watching a documentary on J.K. Rowlings of the Harry Porter fame. She was a dead beat divorced mother of one in a low end job when she started writing the world acclaimed series. In a lecture at a Harvard University graduating ceremony, she said; “the knowledge that you have emerged stronger and wiser from setbacks means that you are secured in your ability to survive, you will never truly know yourself or the strength of your relationships until both have been tested by adversity, such knowledge is a true gift for all that it has painfully won and it has been worth any qualification I have ever earned”.
This just tells one that we do not have to be victims of our adversities. Our challenges should not define us. Life would always throw punches here and there, there would be failures, setbacks, losses, but wisdom is making something meaningful of painful experiences. Loosing a dear one is very painful, suffering from a disease or an ailment is painful, disability is a pain, being in an unhappy marriage is great pain, infertility is isolating and its painful, separation or divorce is painful, single parenthood is painful, loneliness is painful, a child (or children) turning out wayward is painful, not being in control of some dire situations could be painful, rejection and abandonment are painful, bad business deals are painful, any manner of loss is painful, debt is pain, poverty is pain, joblessness is painful, being in a dead end job is painful, bungling a life defining exam is painful, Nigeria’s situation is painful, life could be painful! There are various forms of pain, it comes in all ramifications and no human is immune.
What is then crucial is turning adversity into greatness, turning ones pain to pleasure, using ones sordid experiences for the greater good of self and of others. Learning and moving on. That is falling up. Sometimes things will happen that are seemingly bitter, malicious & unfair at first, but in retrospect, you will discover that without overcoming these obstacles, you would never have realized your true potentials, strength and willpower. One shouldn’t be a victim of horrible circumstances for nothing. You can use what you are or what you have to run towards your best. Everything happens for a reason and Allah (SWT) is always in the know. My most favourite verse in the Quran which I recite severally daily for protection says it so succinctly: La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He) the Ever Living, the One who sustains and protects all that exists. Neither slumbers nor sleep overtake Him, To him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth. Who is he that can intercede with Him except with His permission? He knows what happens to them (His creatures) in this World, and what will happen to them in the hereafter. And they will never compass anything of His knowledge except that which He wills. His kursi extends over the heavens and the earth, and He feels no fatigue in guarding and preserving them. And He is the Most High, the Most Great (Ayat-ul-Qursiyyu Quran 2:255).
Nothing happens by chance or by good luck. Illness, injury, love, lost moments of true greatness and even sheer stupidity all occur to test the limits of our soul. Without these small tests, whatever they may be, life would be like a smoothly paved, straight, flat road to nowhere. It would be safe and comfortable, but dull and utterly pointless. Defeat is nothing but education; nothing but the first step to something better. In life, the most beautiful people I have been privileged to know are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known loss and have been audacious enough to find their way out of the depth. And by this, I mean inner beauty not the surface beauty we all tend to gravitate towards. These persons have an appreciation, sensitivity and an understanding of life that feels them with compassion, gentleness and a deep loving concern. Truly life’s challenges make one stronger and wiser and generally a better person.
As a woman, still evolving and discovering, I’ve had my own share of pain; real, miserable pain. I’ve managed to conquer some and am still dealing with many. With every pain and adversity, I have grown another radiant layer to my skin, my spine has become stronger, my liver devoid of lilies and no more chicken of the heart. I have toughened up, womaned up (excuse the Latin) but all in all, my wounds have become wisdom, has meant more compassion, more empathy for fellow human beings. With every conflict and experience, I’ve learnt a great deal and tried to convert those nasty experiences to acknowledging Allah’s (SWT) greatness, prayer has become a constant companion and reaching out to others has been my fortress. With all these, life has become more interesting, meaningful, and worthwhile and that is falling up.