Happy, No Matter What
When her marriage ended and life as she knew it changed in every possible way, Elsa Febiola Aryanti decided that, together with Allah, she would take charge again and be like water – resilient and unbreakable.
Water inspires me with its calming effect, quiet force and the many shapes it can take. It can be contained, but only according to its own rules. Attempting to control water in a way that is against its nature will not meet with success, as water will always find its way back to its natural state. The way continuously dripping water can cause breakage in a stone over time is a source of amazement to me, as does its patience and persistence; the inherent strength behind its flexible and yielding character.
It was eight years ago when my life appeared to have come to a standstill. I was unemployed with little to do but sending out job applications and waiting to be contacted by potential employers.
I was also newly divorced after eight years of marriage, at the age of 30.
It was quite an awkward time for me, adjusting to a new situation, moving to a new city and trying to start a new life. Before that, I was used to doing so many things in a day. My life was pretty much defined by meeting my husband’s needs, taking care of the household and committing myself to school. I juggled being a wife, graduate student and volunteer while I took care of the household abroad, away from my home country.
When these vanished from my life, for a while, I lost the definition of who I was.
I thought long and hard then, enduring days of low motivation. I was clueless as to what I should do. My old life was busy in comparison. And now, I was by myself. At the lowest point of my life, I learnt how to love myself all over again. I re-learnt how to be me.
Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet, when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one can do it.
– Laozi, philosopher of ancient China
The first thing I did was to let go of this feeling as soon as possible. I simply refused to surrender to the situation any longer. I knew that I needed to start my days having conquered or overcome something. So, I started with a simple goal: to have a ‘victory’ moment every single day.
What I did was to ‘race’ against the sun. I would ‘compete’ against the sun in getting up first. Whenever I succeeded, I would shout, ‘I beat you, sun! I beat you badly!’ I did this every day for around two months. I raced and won against the sun, starting my days with the feeling of having accomplished something. This was how I started to regain my sense of ‘self’ and the feeling of being comfortable with just being me.
Waking up early was also, in a very profound way, how I improved my connection with Allah. I had more time to fulfil Subuh, the morning prayer. In fact, I felt like I had more than 24 hours a day when I was up and about long before others had even opened their eyes.
Those early hours of eight years ago were my time of contemplation. It was the time when I weaved the dreams and hopes in my mind of what I have today become.
I have kept the habit of waking up at 3:00am every single day till now. I love the silence and the serene feeling that this time of the day brings. It allows for exclusive ‘dialogues’ between The Almighty and I. And every single day, I will find on oasis to refill, recharge and renew myself.
I believe that this practice helps me to start every day with a clean slate. I feel like I can deal with anything in a much better way than I might have done before. I know that change is the only constant in life, and that some changes are mundane while others may be drastic. But, whatever life brings, my connection with Allah—especially every morning—sustains me. With His grace, I can accept, understand and ‘listen’ with patience.
I have gone through being single, married and back to being single again. The key points I have learnt, in staying true to myself during those changes, are to adapt, be patient and keep faith in Allah.
Like water that can take many shapes and forms, I believe that this is a quality that humans need to be comfortable in our own skin. Our strength lies in our ability to adapt, expand and grow. With so many changes that life presents to us, unless we have the ability to adjust to them, it is easy to lose ourselves in the many roles that we play in life. And for women, the roles are many: wife, mother, sister, friend and more.
For me, learning to be comfortable in my own skin is a continuous process. Each time I embrace change, it reveals strength in me that I never knew existed. I have also made the conscious decision to be happy in any situation, phase or stage that The Almighty hands me. And I know that He will not desert me; that He is The One who will love me forever—no matter what.
This article originally appeared in the January / February 2011 issue of Aquila Style.