|A view from my childhood taken in 1990|
A friend put a status update in Facebook recently reminiscing on days gone by and lamenting the fact that things have changed. I love looking back and musing over the past, remembering the people and places that form the mosaic of my life, but along with the nostalgia come the memories of less rosier times, the tears, frustration, doubts, loneliness and grief, and I’m grateful for it all, truly I am. Because without it all I wouldn’t be where I am today….right here, right now, and where I am is….. happy Alhamdulilah.
I love looking back because there is so much to learn with hindsight, but I can’t live in the past, it’s too much like walking along a lovely beach only for it to turn to quicksand keeping you bogged down and unable to move on. It’s important to remember the good times and the bad, the people Allah put our way, to learn from our mistakes and also those of whom we loved who have passed on, to gain wisdom with age so that we can appreciate life and put everything in perspective. I know that I don’t have as much time ahead of me as the time with which I have already been blessed. I know that time inexorably marches on, and when I look at the photos of those whom I love who have gone, and read their letters it reminds me that I, too, will one day be a mere name at the end of a letter, a face in a photo, a far distant memory, and the cycle of life will go on without me…. just fine.
To be honest, I wouldn’t want to go back to yesterday never mind the days gone by. Just as I wouldn’t want to be single again once I was married, without children once I had them, want them to be small again now that they’ve grown, I didn’t want to live back in Ireland when I lived in England and now I wouldn’t want to live in England again. I would not want my life any other way than it is, right now Alhamdulilah.
In many ways my life in Algeria is not that different from my life in England – I still have to cook, bake, wash, clean, organise, plan ahead, tidy up, argue, reason and, when that fails… stamp my feet and throw a tantrum. The most oft question out of my mouth still to this day is ‘what will I cook/bake today/tomorrow?’ I still have my husband and children. I still have a very good support network of good friends here in Algeria but also am still in contact with those I used to know in England, I still have my family in Ireland, even if some of them have passed on, and of course, last but very much not least I have my faith, my reason for living, my purpose in life.
I don’t have the luxury of time ahead of me to spend too much of it wishing I was in another place, another time. As L.P. Hartley said ‘The past is a foreign country. People do things differently there.’ And how true that is! If I were to miraculously go back…. would I happily give up all that the present has to offer including the people I didn’t even knew existed then, and who have become so important to me now. And if I was to bring the future back with me… then it wouldn’t be the same, would it? The trick is to be happy in the now and to use the past as an education, a reminder of all I have to be grateful for, and a way of gaining wisdom to make the present a better place to dwell, and to not let yesterday take up too much of today. We’re all on a journey and I know that, if I keep looking back, I’d probably keep tripping up and falling over my feet. It’s better for me to keep my eye on the end goal, know where I’m going and try to prepare myself for that time that’s just around the corner inshallah.
|The same view from my childhood taken in 2011|