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Final Episode: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Ted Talk

 

Inside The Therapist’s Office
Final Episode: Feel Your Life Purpose

 

A few years later…

February 3rd, 2016
San Diego, California
Ted Talk Conference: Ideas Worth Spreading

(Applause)

Zahra stood tall on the red-carpeted stage and said, “When I asked my sister-in-law about the upside of me being blind, she said “I can now roll my eyes at you anytime I want”’

The audience laughed.

“It’s strange really. My nickname had always been ‘Supa’ as in ‘Super girl’. My loved ones believed I’d accomplish something big one day and become an influencer. Only they didn’t know my journey to becoming an international motivational speaker and a best-selling author would start AFTER losing my eyesight. The night I got nominated to give a Ted Talk my husband, who is also my publisher, planned a secret celebration dinner and invited the whole town. I had no idea what was happening. Before introducing me to the curator, who was amongst the hundred invitees, my husband said “Honey, guess who this is!”

Zahra froze with a funny, puzzled look on her face.
I’m as blind as a bat. How would I know?”

The crowd cracked up laughing again, including her husband Ali, who was backstage watching her like a hawk. Ali laughed from the heart even though he had practically memorized his wife’s speech since he was the one helping her practice it for the past two weeks.

You’re probably thinking ‘wow, this blind girl is making jokes about her own disability, she must be really strong. Believe me, I wasn’t at first. A couple of years ago I lost my sight in a car accident and lost my faith along with it. I was angry at the world. I completely broke down. I broke things, broke up with my fiancé and then felt my heart break into a million pieces. I’ve been broken for a long time. I refused to learn how to deal with my disability. I steamed out on anyone who tried to help, and those who came to soothe me became my worst enemies. ‘What did they know about my struggle?’ I fumed. It was a constant nightmare I was sure I’d never wake up from. Try finding your way around the house blindfolded. Do you have any idea how difficult that is? Instead of leaving my room, I’d enter the closet. I’d spill drinks on the floor and slip on my own mess. I bumped into walls, broke glass bottles and used shaving cream on my toothbrush instead of toothpaste! Living in darkness became the reality of my life and I couldn’t accept it. I’m sure my therapist would have horror stories to tell you about my anger; she was practically my punching bag. It was a slow, tiring progress. And even though deep down I knew I wasn’t ready, I thought perhaps getting married would lessen my pain and speed up the process of moving on.”

 Sitting with the vast audience at the conference, I watched Zahra on stage and felt the tears of joy slowly roll down my face. I was very proud of her. She had come a long way in her therapy. Screaming, crying and talking about her feelings made them by time become less overwhelming and less upsetting. She owned her story. She realized losing her sight wasn’t her choice, but dealing with it was. And that was her first step to healing….

“I ran out on my wedding.” Zahra confessed. “I couldn’t actually ‘run’ anywhere, I just hid under the bed for an hour before my best friend found me…”

And sitting in the front row with her husband, Salma was genuinely proud of ‘Supa’ too. Seeing her on stage inspiring thousands of people truly warmed her heart. Zahra wasn’t only her life long best friend; she was also her beloved sister-in-law. Salma smiled at her husband Omar, who smiled back warmly, patted her very pregnant belly and whispered the words ‘I love you’, before turning his attention back to his twin sister whose presence lit up the stage.

 

“I was scared of marriage. I didn’t think I was good enough because of my disability. You know we all think we have big problems until we compare them with bigger problems. When you face your biggest fear, your small fears kind of fade out. I remember when my biggest fear was leaving home and being responsible for a house and a family of my own. This fear dimmed completely when I lost my sight. It felt like a death sentence, I thought nothing worse could ever happen to me, until I learned my fiancé got into an accident and almost died. My blindness didn’t seem like that huge of a problem anymore when I thought of losing the love of my life, even if I couldn’t see him, I just couldn’t imagine living in a world where he didn’t exist. I suddenly reclaimed all my strength and willpower and sent him a letter begging him to push through. I asked my sister-in-law to write it for me because I trust her…….. Blindly!”

Aisha laughed out loud. She came to the conference with her husband and her friends Lola, Sara and Helen, who, like her, were all wearing the Hijab proudly now, too. Aisha was working on acquiring a degree in marriage counseling to help struggling couples the same way her marriage counselor helped her and Ibrahim fix their relationship before suggesting they go on a second a honeymoon and thanks to Allah her life with him had been happy and peaceful ever since.

There are five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. In that hour of hiding under the bed on my wedding day, I realized I was only pretending to be in the acceptance phase, when in reality I was still swinging back and forth between denial and depression. I wasn’t ready to start a new page yet, and to my surprise, Ali, my fiancé was very understanding and promised to wait till I was. We called off the wedding, I went back to blind school and started therapy full time. And Ali waited for me for two years…. Because….” Zahra’s voice crackled and she couldn’t help her tears. “In his heart he believed only I could make him happy. He didn’t care about my disability. He said it made him love me even more.” Zahra smiled and wiped her tears as the crowed applauded her while ‘awwwwing’ and ‘ohhhhhing’’ sentimentally. “Yeah, he’s not always that romantic though. Just so you know, we got married last summer, and since then, whenever he wants to get back at me during an argument, he simply rearranges the furniture!”

 

(Audience laughter)

“You know, life is hard. This is an inevitable truth. It’s once you accept this truth that life ceases to be hard. And it’s when I accepted my destiny, that my blindness stopped being a ‘disability’. Everyone has problems, and God never burdens us with more than we can endure. There were probably seven thousand things I could do before losing my sight. And now maybe that number has gone down to three thousand! But I’m motivated to do more now than I ever was when my eyes were functioning. The only reason life throws horrific traumas our way is because there’s an area that needs to grow. God took away my ability to see, but gave me the will to achieve so much more with all my other senses. He gave me ‘insight instead of sight’ and it was a blessing in disguise. It was also the title of my first book. And I hear it sold over 15 million copies!” Zahra smiled while the audience applauded her again.

“In Islam we have six pillars of faith; belief in one God, His angels, His holy books, His prophets, belief in the Last Day and belief in destiny (Preordainment). We skim through them and say we believe, but do we? To trust God in the light of day is easy, we can all do it. But to trust Him in the pit of darkness… that is true faith. Even if bad things happen, you must believe it’s God’s will and it’s always for the best. You must believe He’s protecting you from something worse. Losing my sight is a blessing compared to being completely paralyzed. Being paralyzed is a blessing compared to losing your loved one in war. And you know what’s so much worse than any trial you can think of? Do you know what is the scariest calamity that can happen in this life? It’s losing one’s faith and dying a disbeliever…. I believe every other problem and hardship pales in comparison.

 

We are only as blind as we want to be.
Our Lord says: ‘Indeed
It is not the eyes that go blind, but it is the hearts, within the chests, that go blind”
(Surat Al Hajj, ayah 46, Holy Qur’an)

So many people still have their eyesight intact, but do they really see the truth? Do they really notice the miracles around them and look at life from different perspectives? Does sight count when there is no insight?” Zahra asked. “They say ‘love is blind’ but I disagree. Anger is blind. Hate is blind. Bitterness, envy and despair are blind. Hopelessness is blind. But love is what keeps us going. It’s what keeps us strong. My love for my Lord and my unwavering faith in His promise is what helps me get through the day, because even in the worst of times, I remind myself whatever He wills is good.” Zahra said.

 

“In one of my therapy sessions, I was asked about whom I would trade my life with. And after much contemplation I answered ‘no one’. I really wouldn’t want to trade with anyone. I’m where I’m supposed to be…and I’m finally happy. May the Lord give us the wisdom to accept the things we can’t change (which isn’t easy) and may He fill our hearts with love, faith and light…. Amen. Thank you….”

  

Lilly S. Mohsen

 

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Episode Six: Inside The Therapist’s office

Office

Episode Six: Feel The Truth

The Whole Story

 

 

Six months earlier…

 “SURPRISEEEEEEEEE” Everyone yelled when Zahra, the bride-to-be walked in. Salma had invited all the girls to celebrate her best friend Supa’s engagement to Ali, the hottest bachelor of the year.

“Oh my God you know those irritating people who flutter their eye lashes and say ‘I’m so blessed’? Well, I’m one of them now.” Supa giggled. “I really am blessed. AlhamduleAllah”.
Salma forced a smile on her face even though she was seething with jealously; she literally thought her envy might emit a sizzling sound. But then again, she was positively sure none of them would notice the green eyed monster she’d been harboring deep into her soul for weeks. Salma covered it up so well. She’s throwing a party for Zahra! Would a jealous friend do that?

Oh if only they knew…

Zahra’s eldest brother Ibrahim and his wife Aisha waited in the car with Omar, Zahra’s twin brother, for the bride and her best friend to come down. They were all invited to the groom’s house for dinner, Ali, who also happened to be one of Omar’s friends.

 

Sitting in the backseat of the car between Salma and Omar, Zahra couldn’t help bouncing up and down with excitement.
“Ibrahim is married. I’m engaged. It’s your turn now, Omar!” She winked at her twin.

“Oh now I know why they call you Supa, coz you’re ‘Super Delusional’.” Omar mocked. “I’m happy for you Zoe, but just so you know, don’t go expecting to hear any wedding bells in my future.”

“First they won’t be bells, they’ll be old women’s shrills’ Zahra laughed. “And secondly, who wouldn’t want to find everlasting love? It’s the best feeling ever. Ibrahim, say something.”

Ibrahim didn’t reply or even smile. He kept on driving silently while Aisha sat next to him in the passenger’s seat, staring at the ‘Oscar’s Best Dressed posts’ on ‘Instagram’, completely detached from the conversation.

“Maybe there’s a special girl out there who might one day change your mind.” Salma fluttered her eyes, desperate to get Omar’s attention. She’s been in love with him since God knows when and yet he barely knew she existed.

“Trust me, she doesn’t exist. Besides, I’m not the marrying type. I’m more of the ‘fun-partying-watch-my-friends-get-hitched-and-shake-my-head-at-their-dubmness’type of guy.” Omar replied.

Salma was fuming, especially when everyone laughed at the stupid insinuation, even Supa! Well, as long as she was happy with Mr. Perfect, what did she care about other people’s feelings? Salma’s jealousy, resentment and anger were bubbling inside her like lava. She had to do something about it before the fire coming out of her ears burns through her Hijab.

“I heard you’re throwing a party for Ali, too” Salma commented. “Copycat!”

“Yeah, the difference is I know how to plan one. You invite a few girls to gossip in your living room. I on the other hand party like a rock star” Omar boasted.

“You mean dancing and drinking till dawn. Isn’t this what you’ve been planning for Ali’s bachelor’s party? Yeah, I definitely can’t compete with you.” Salma smiled wickedly. That should ruin the night she thought.

Omar threw her a dirty look and glanced quickly at his eldest brother Ibrahim, who was on the phone. Thank God he didn’t hear her snide comment. Of course Aisha made an unreadable face and turned away. It was his twin sister Zoe who was shocked and hurt the most.

“Alcohol?” She whispered. “Seriously Omar? I thought we talked about this. Is this how you want your future brother-in-law to start his life with me?”

The twins argued while Salma listened, taming her envy with a liberating conclusion that ‘Supa’ wasn’t that super after all. She had a reputation for having such great motivational and persuasive techniques, that some of their friends predicted Zahra would become one of those famous influencers or inspirational speakers. Yeah right! She couldn’t even get her own brother to believe in God.

“I’m sick of hearing this Zoe. You don’t need to be religious to be a good person.”

‘I say it because I love you. Just try to open your heart. I know you’ll eventually find your way back to God” She said softly.

“If God has a problem with me not believing in Him then He should take it up with me, man to man. Right here, right now!” Omar yelled.

 

It all happened at the same time

Omar was challenging the great Lord..

Salma was simmering with envy to the point of wishing evil upon her own best friend.

Aisha was disappointed they were almost there. She had secretly asked God to create an excuse big enough to stop them from going to the dinner party, just to spite her mother-in-law.

And Ibrahim, consumed with fear, passion and guilt, while checking his cell, he took his eyes off the road for exactly two seconds. The wrong two seconds.

And then the crash happened and everything went dark..
“Is everyone okay?” Ibrahim panted. The pipes on the truck they rammed into speared through their glass, completely shattering it. Ibrahim could hear the ambulances’ sirens approaching and was relieved to realize that even though the sharp pipes caused some minor injuries, everyone was still breathing.
They had no idea the car crash chose only one victim to pay the price.

“I can’t see anything…” Zahra whimpered.

A week later..
“Mom I don’t care if she’s blind. I love her and I promised her nothing would tear us apart. I know you disagree but it’s my life.”
Ali slammed the door behind him and went to see his beloved Zahra, who was still refusing to meet him. Her parents asked him to stay away and let her move on with her life.
“I’ve been praying day and night for them to agree. They will eventually. They know I can’t live with her.” Ali insisted.
“My daughter is a proud young woman, she’ll never agree to marry a man without his parents’ approval” Zahra’s mom said.
He left the building feeling crushed, got into his car and drove off like a maniac at the speed of lightening. This is when he got into a terrible accident too and was rushed into surgery about two hours later. The plastic surgeon said it might take years before a reconstruction could make him look half normal again.

No one dared tell Zahra about Ali’s accident. She was now at the institution learning how to cope with blindness and trying to adjust to her new life. Although her anger at the world made this ordeal an impossible, endless struggle.

“I know you don’t want to see anyone..”
“See? You think I can ‘see’ anyone? I’m as blind as a bat you idiot!” Zahra snapped at the poor nurse.
“I’m sorry” Zahra’s mom apologized to the nurse. “Please don’t take her tone personally. She’s been through a rough time”
“There’s a woman here to visit, and she’s insisting to meet Ms. Zahra” The nurse continued.
“Who is she?” Zahra asked.
“Her name is Rehana”
Zahra clenched her jaws, and pressed a hand to her throat, feeling her veins about to pop from her suppressed rage. “Mom, give us a minute please.” She hissed. “I need to speak to Rehana alone”

Later that day

“Rehana honey tell me what happened” I ran to hug my friend who had been waiting for me on my porch. She was shivering and sobbing hysterically, I could hardly understand a word she was saying.
“I talked to Ibrahim’s sister” Rehana sniffled.
“You what? Rehana you told me it was all over! You said you had repented and closed that page.” I scolded.
“No Lilly you don’t understand. They got into a car accident and his sister Zahra lost her eyesight. She’s staying in the same special needs institution I volunteer at. I couldn’t not go see her. Especially after what Ibrahim said. He blames me for the accident and for everything that has happened.”

I tried to hide my disappointment and be supportive instead. After all, I wasn’t just her life long friend I was also her therapist now, ever since she finally decided to confess her sin and asked me to help her get back on the straight path.

“Ibrahim thought confessing the truth to his sister would help him clear his conscious. He admitted he got distracted while driving coz I was texting him.” Rehana gasped for breath. “I went to ask Zahra for forgiveness, but she wouldn’t listen. It was horrible.” Rehana sobbed. “Even after I swore I ended it with her brother, she called me the worst names. She said she couldn’t understand how good people like her end up suffering instead of devils like me. She’s right Lilly. She’s so right.”
“She’s angry, Rehana. No one knows what they’d do if they were in her situation.”
“She said she wasn’t gonna suffer the consequences alone, and then threatened to tell my husband and my parents. She said she’ll make sure this scandal follows me everywhere I go, at work and at the institution. She never gave me a chance to explain.” Rehana was shaking uncontrollably I could tell she was about to have a nervous breakdown.
“Somebody HELPPPP” I cried.

Later that night

“Psych ward? Are you people insane?” I asked the nurse when I went to visit the next day. “Rehana is fine. She’s just a bit stressed out.”
“Doctor’s orders, ma’am.” The bored nurse replied.
“I need to see her”

Rehana was sitting on the floor alone in a dimmed room, barefoot and her hair disarrayed. She looked exactly like the first time I met her in fifth grade sitting in detention outside the principle’s office. She had the kindest heart yet, ever since we were little girls; she always ended up getting herself in trouble.

“It’s over Lilly…” Rehana stared at the wall blankly.
“It’s not honey. Have faith in Allah. He can change the unchangeable. You know that, right?”
“Ibrahim hates me. Zahra hates me. My parents hate me. My husband hates me. And even you hate me..” Rehana bowed her head down in disgrace.
“I don’t hate you Rehana. I love you and I’m gonna help you through this.” I cried.
“It’s too late for me. I don’t deserve Allah’s forgiveness…”
“Please don’t say that. The door to repentance is always open..”
“I know Allah hates me for what I’ve done. Zahra’s right. I am the devil.”
“What happened to Zahra isn’t anyone’s fault. It’s an act of God, and God will never allow bad things to happen unless good comes out of it.” I insisted. “Allah loves us, Rehana.”
“I’ve done so much damage, Lilly. You don’t know how many people I’ve hurt and how many lives I’ve singlehandedly ruined.”
“There’s still time to learn from your mistakes and fix what you broke. Like Omar Ibn Al Khattab said, ‘sometimes the people with the worst past create the best future.’”
Rehana buried her head in her two pale palms. “Lilly, I really loved Ibrahim and I never wanted to hurt him or his family. Promise me you’ll help him fix his life and find happiness. Promise me you’ll help everyone who suffered because of my actions.”
“I’ll try” I replied, desperate to say something soothing.
“I left a letter to my husband asking for his forgiveness, please make sure he gets it” Rehana whispered before sliding out a gun from under the carpet she was sitting on.

Where on Earth would she get a gun in solitary? I wondered silently, my heart pounding so loud, evidently distracting my brain from coming up with a plan.
“Please, don’t” I pleaded. “Trust me, there are other options!”
“I wish that were true..” Rehana whispered.
“Noooooooooooooo”

A couple of weeks later

 

“She tried to take her own life?” Zahra repeated the question like an endless tireless echo.

“We stopped her at the last minute. Unfortunately she suffered major deficits and is now in a coma. Doctors don’t think she’ll wake up anytime soon”

I came to see Zahra at the institution, still overwhelmed and heartbroken.

“I can’t believe she tried to kill herself. Why? How can any Muslim do that? I swear I wasn’t gonna say anything. I’d never shame anyone that way. I didn’t mean it. I was just blabbering out of anger, I didn’t mean it.” Zahra slurred.
It took a couple of days for her to absorb the immense impact of her words. She couldn’t eat or sleep; she was practically going insane with remorse.

“My heart is gonna explode. I don’t know how to go back to my life as if nothing happened. I’m so angry and hurt I don’t think I can take this anymore.” Zahra cried.

“Rehana gave up the Lord’s endless mercy and submitted to the whispers of Satan. She forgot that He says “No one despairs of Allah’s soothing mercy except those who have no faith” (Holy Quran, 12:87). Her hopelessness affected so many people. Her loved ones will never be the same again and they’ll probably never forgive her. If you give up now… Zahra I don’t know what will happen to them, to Ibrahim, Ali, Omar, Salma, Aisha, your parents, your friends. It will change them. If you fall apart now, you’ll drop their hopes to their ground, shattering their faith and willpower. And like poison, this anger and bitterness will spread around and it won’t end. It will never ever end.”

“This is a huge burden to carry…” Zahra wept softly.
“Life is a test; it’s full of hardships. But we must remember the events that take place during our journey don’t control us, our decision do. And you have a decision to make. This is the tipping point Zahra, whatever you decide today will change everyone’s life forever….”

 

Three months later

“I can’t find Zahra” Aisha panicked; still holding her sister-in-law’s abandoned wedding gown. “I think she ran away”

“How could she possibly run away? She’s BLIND!”

 
To be continued….

Lilly S. Mohsen