If you had to choose between peace and happiness what would you choose?
There is no right or wrong answer to this question; I believe your choice will be largely influenced by the thing you’re seeking the most at this current stage in your life, which is okay. For a woman in a loveless marriage, it could be happiness and for a child in a war-torn country, it could be peace. Everyones situation is unique but if the choice were left to me, no matter the situation I wouldn’t hesitate to choose peace over happiness.
Why is that? Because for me peace IS happiness.
Before I dive into the main topic of this post, I’d like to share something a little interesting and personal with you. When Yusuf and I started courting, he had many strong first opinions about me and one of them was that I was too ‘diplomatic’. He would often tell me that he doesn’t think he can marry someone that was diplomatic because he feared someone that had an inherently diplomatic nature would easily succumb to his strong will and personality. I understood him and applaud him for his foresight and the fact that he knew what he wanted, and that is basically that he did not want to find himself in a situation where he felt like he was forcing his ideas and opinions on someone, or that they would easily agree to whatever he said or wanted. Yusuf knows himself and everyone who knows or has had the chance to meet my husband will agree that he has a very strong, domineering and somewhat overbearing personality. His voice alone can nearly split the walls in a room and that is something a lot of people can find intimidating.
At the time he shared his concerns with me I just chuckled in response. I didn’t even try to confirm or quash his worries by saying something like ‘oh you have it a bit wrong about me actually’. I don’t think you can change someones opinion about you by simply confirming to them that you are exactly what, or not what they think you are. I believe you just have to show people who you think you are until they can confirm or change the previous opinion they had of you. In that situation, I believed my actions would speak louder than my words.
Just to be clear (and before my friends and family come for me), Yusuf did hit the nail in the head by identifying that I have a diplomatic personality (to be honest I should have pursued a career as a Diplomat/Ambassador and not a Lawyer). However, he was yet to learn about my stubbornness. I have very strong ideals, opinions and beliefs of my own. Quite frankly, I find it very amusing when people mistake my calm and peaceful personality for someone that is a pushover. Where is the link? Is it because I’m quiet and reserved? For those of you who don’t know, a pushover is someone who is easy to overcome or influence. If you know me well then you must know that no one can force me to do or agree with anything. If you would like me to do something, I must see good reason or I must have a personal reason to want to do it myself before I do it; I hardly ever do things that will affect my life just for the sake of pleasing someone or winning their approval.
You want to know what’s funny? Now that Yusuf and I have been married for some years, the thing he has come to value almost more than anything in our marriage, is the peace I bring to our family and how I am not the type to escalate or fuel things but would rather try to amiably settle and approach things from a diplomatic/peaceful approach. I agree that most people who value peace in their lives try to avoid conflicts and in their quest of trying to avoid a conflict, they would almost do or agree to anything for the sake of keeping the peace and that’s why such people are called pushovers but that is not me. I won’t advice or recommend anybody to silence their voice or bury their own views for the sake of pleasing another or keeping the ‘peace’. What peace? Thats not true peace. While you may be pacifying the situation and keeping some ‘peace’ on the outside, you are stirring a great war within you which is the worst.
One of the reasons I value peace more than happiness is because it’s balanced. Happiness as rewarding and addictive the chemical is, it’s not balanced and it can never be balanced or constant because life happens. I’m a realist and I know life isn’t a bed of roses. If you have peace, you will at least be content and will almost always have an upper edge to tackle whatever life throws at you. I understand these days everyone is advocating the whole ‘do whatever makes you happy’, but the pursuit of happiness is an illusion. Happiness can be easily disturbed and stolen away but peace is something you have more power and control over because its rooted to your soul.
As we all know, one exciting yet terrifying thing about life is its unpredictability; you can never really tell or prepare for what’s headed your way. It could be something pleasant such as securing your dream job, finding love at a time and place you least expected, winning the Ballon d’Or, moving into your dream home, winning a lottery or finding out that you’re going to be a parent after trying for several years. It could also be something unpleasant such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness, getting fired from a job, losing all your money in a failed investment, losing a loved one, getting jilted at the alter or being unlawfully incarcerated.
The question remains how can one find peace in the instability of everything in life? Is it even possible? Truth is you can never be happy to learn that you’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness but you can make peace with it. You can never be happy losing a loved one but you can be at peace knowing that they are in a better place God willing.
Life was something I used to view with a very pessimistic mindset; I had mountains of doubts, endless fears and strong insecurities. I would often compare my life to that of a prisoner living on a life sentence and during my worst days, as a death row inmate. I felt trapped. There were many times I wished I was born into this world as a goat…the idea of mindlessly chewing on my straw of grass and not being burdened by the pains, worries and fears of this world that would often grip my heart felt like a dream. However, as I grew older and treated my clinical depression, I began to understand what life was truly about. Life is not about the pursuit of happiness; happiness rarely ever teaches us anything besides feeling good. Life is one heck of a learning experience and something to be experienced in its totality. To be able to live a full and peaceful life you will have no choice but to experience both the good and the bad. Once you fully internalise the truth that there is no rain without a cloud, or a rose without a thorn or light without darkness, you start to live and experience your life on a zeng level.
There’s a particular Yoruba word I’ve heard many times before but it is only recently that I fell in love with the word and it has become a sort of mantra I repeat to myself. The word is ‘farabale‘. For those of you who don’t understand Yoruba, ‘farabale‘ simply means ‘calm down’ or ‘take it easy’. Whenever I’m hit with positive and exciting news and feel the quick urge to want to share the news with the whole world…I tell myself ‘Altine farabale’. Instead, why don’t you take a big breathe and just take a moment to truly savour that moment because you can’t relive it twice. Enjoy every second of the high of the news before sharing with others. The feeling is just as satisfying as you calling someone and wanting to hear them feel as excited as you. Likewise, whenever I’m hit with bad news…I still take a deep breathe and tell myself ‘Altine farabale‘. I remind myself that this world isn’t it; it’s not my end goal. Whatever I’m facing is a test. Allah already told us we would be tested and I’m not the only one being tested. Many who came before me were tested and many that will come after me will also be tested. After I farabale and remember the reality of this world, a peace and tranquility instantly replaces the pain or anguish I felt some moments earlier. I feel peace knowing that whatever the challenge, I’m not alone and that I’ve got God by my side and He is far greater than whatever problems I may have, and that He has the power to alter my fate and grant me whatever it is that will restore peace and happiness within me. There is an unravelled peace you feel knowing that whatever hurdle or challenge you are faced with, you will not be facing it alone. You have God watching over you and the different support systems He has placed in your life to help you overcome the hurdle.
I can recall the million times I used to contemplate about life and death and the fact that one day, I will have to face my inevitable death and transition to the afterlife. The thought always filled me with so much anxiety. However, last year I had a breakthrough and felt a great and positive shift in my mindset and no longer feel sick to my stomach or anxious whenever I think about death. It took me 23 years to reach this stage in my life, where I no longer feel terribly anxious or feel the burden that comes from thinking about things I can’t control or change. For someone that’s been an over-thinker her whole life, I wish I can pinpoint exactly what has brought about this positive change within me so I can share with other overthinkers, but I know my 2020 experience and the effects of the global pandemic had a lot to do with it. A lot happened to me last year that has helped to positively alter my general outlook on life and how I should live it. It is a healthy and welcomed change in my life that has only strongly positioned me on the path to living an intentional, meaningful and peaceful life. I wholeheartedly embrace the woman I am currently and the woman I am being guided and growing to be.
Two years ago, if someone had asked me how I spent my week, I would have blanked out for a few seconds and roughly skimmed through my vague memories and provided a normative, dull and passive answer. I was hardly intentional with the way I lived my life so it was very difficult for me to recall specific details. I just lived to get through the hours of the day, in anticipation of the next; I was living in a bad time loop. However, today if someone was to ask me how I spent my week, I would smile and answer where should I even begin? I would answer I wake up every morning looking forward to see and put a smile on my baby’s face. I would answer I spend most of my mornings in my breastmilk stained pyjamas, holding a pump in one hand while trying to relieve the pain in my chest and build a milk stack in the freezer. I would say I always skip my way into the shower with the hopes of burning a few extra calories before humming and dancing to my favourite tunes in the shower. I would say I spent it listening attentively to my loved ones concerns or rambles and making sure to be there for them whenever they need me. I would say I spent it standing with my tiresome legs while cooking in the kitchen but feeling extremely pleased when I see my loved ones eat, enjoy and compliment my food. I would say I spent it taking great care of my hair and admiring my skin. I would say I spent it laughing with my husband in the dead of the night, with both of us tearing up and choking on our laughter and gasping for air. I would say I spent it feeling truly blessed and grateful to my Lord and feeling reassured that no matter what I go through in this life, I always have my Rabb to call upon and a loved one nearby or a phone call away to support me in whichever way I need. I would say it’s me being eager and looking forward to reading your comments after I publish this post.
The reality is life is hard and most people have had their fair taste of the bitter side of life, but life can also be beautiful if you choose to enjoy the little things. That’s where it begins; it’s the little things that make up life and make this world worth living. It’s the little things we often overlook that’s constant in our lives that brings about stability and peace in our lives; such as our salats or the beautiful sun that never fails to rise at its appointed time and dazzle us with its glory, it’s the sound of our mothers voice or a loved one that we take for granted, it’s the awkward smile a stranger flashes at you when your eyes accidentally meet. I realised that a lot of the things I stressed and worried about during my teenage years and early adult years were just things I can’t control or crazy situations I would create in my head and would convince myself would come to past. If you are someone that also spends time conjuring unrealistic and nearly impossible situations in your head, or have a bad habit of making small things appear much bigger than they are, please learn to put an end to them. They do nothing but drain and usurp all your youthful energy and it will chip away every ounce of peace or joy you may know.
A lot of my fears were fuelled by my insecurities rather than real obstacles I could plan to overcome. If you are an over-thinker like I am, there comes a time where you will have to tell yourself enough is enough. Being an over-thinker is a toxic trait and you have to call yourself out on it. Whenever you find yourself feeling like time is just passing you by and you haven’t fully made your mark in this world, call yourself out and do what? Farabale. Whenever you find yourself reliving every conversation and actions you made in the past and all the things you could have said or done instead, call yourself out and do what? Farabale. Whenever you find yourself stressing and worrying about how people will perceive you or whether they will accept you for who you are, call yourself out and do what? Farabale. Whenever you feel like your heart is broken into pieces and you start to convince yourself that it’ll never be fixed again and you’ll die alone with your cats, call yourself out and do what? Farabale ọdẹ (foolish). Forgive my language, I had to add the ọdẹ to that last part because heartbreak has a way of making us all feel like the world is going to end and there’s no way forward.
It’s important to remain hyper aware of the kind of thoughts you entertain or feed your mind. If you are to ever police anyone or anything in this life it should be your thoughts. Arrest all thoughts that does nothing but fuel your fears, break your spirit, feed your ego, stir any negative emotion or causes you to feel despair. As long as the sky is still positioned where it is and it’s not beneath us and the night can always transition into the day for the sun to rises again and our days to begin, be reassured that you’ve been given another chance to turn your life around and to live your life as beautifully as you choose to.
Before I sign out and go attend to my baby, I’ve left a few practical advice that you can try to follow to help improve the quality of your life and further enhance peace in your life.
- Stop Procrastinating. I saw this quote somewhere that read ‘procrastination is the arrogant assumption that God owes you another chance to do tomorrow what He gave you the chance to do today‘, and I must admit it changed my life. Procrastination only fuels your anxiety and applies unnecessary pressure and stress to your mind and prevents you from enjoying the little things in your life because you’re too busy worrying about the thing you haven’t done. If you have anything outstanding on your to do list right now, please try to complete the task and free your mind of the burden.
- Make a Plan. Never underestimate the power of a plan. If you have a solid plan in place (be it a fitness plan, business plan, study plan e.tc) you save yourself a lot of time, energy and resources and also stand a greater chance achieving the goals you have set in place.
- Incorporate More Freedom Enhancing Activities into Your weekly Routine. I shared a post on my Instagram page a week ago asking people to share the things that make their spirit feel free. Freedom Enhancing Activities are very subjective and could include things like: going for a stroll in a park/being surrounded by nature, a good spa day, watching rom-coms and sitcoms, detoxifying your body, having a hygge day, going for a lone drive in a quiet neighbourhood, travelling or exploring a new place. You deserve a little magic and lightness in your life.
- Practice Being Present. We spend most our lives working and planning for the future and anticipating what is yet to come such as: our next move, our next high paying job, our next car, our next relationship, our next trip e.t.c You need to learn to find joy in the present and make time for simple pleasures. While the future is important, the present is all we have to experience and nobody is promised tomorrow or the next hour.
- Heal, Forgive and Let go of the Past. Just as mush as we can’t control our future, we can’t change the past. There are so many things that have happened to each of us in the past that was beyond our control. Forgive yourself for the things you had control over but failed to accomplish or get done to your satisfaction, let go of all the past opportunities you missed, and try to heal and free yourself from the shackles of the past that still haunts you by getting the necessary help you need and take control of your own narrative.
- Learn to Say No. Do not over commit or spread yourself thin for the sake of pleasing someone at the detriment of your own mental health.
- Eat Healthy and Stay Fit. You know what they say, a healthy body calls for a healthy mind. If you have a healthy body or you are trying to maintain a healthy body, that’s one less worry for your mind and less visits to the hospital.
- Mind Your Business. The world is filled with plenty drama and I’m not even talking about the one you watch on the screen. Try to avoid other peoples drama as much as you can and just focus on your own lane and journey. Also, unsubscribe from gossip blogs and learn to respect other peoples privacy and refrain from speaking or talking about people behind their back.
- Limit the Things You Share on Social Media. The less people know about the things going on in your personal life, the better.
- Stop Seeking Validation from the Outside. You are beautiful and more than capable to achieve whatever it is you set your mind or goal to. You are and will always be your biggest cheerleader.
- Always Communicate Your Wants and Needs in the Most Respective and Non-Entitled Way Possible. People can’t read your minds so try to vocalise your wants and needs. You alone know what you desire and need most and it’s why its called ‘your wants and needs’. Remember, closed mouths don’t get fed.
- Practice Gratitude. Allah promised us in the Quran that He will always bless and give us more If we remain grateful to him. So always remember to give thanks to Him at every opportunity you get because we’ve truly been blessed with much and have been saved from so many calamities that could have befallen us.
- Perform Dhikr: As much as you can reflect about Allah and His Creations and never forget Allah’s words in the Quran: ‘Verily in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find peace.’ 13:28].