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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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Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office

Office

 

Season Two: Inside The Therapist’s Office
Episode One

Feel The Love

 

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” She whispered sadly, pointing the gun to her head.  

“Noooooooooooooo”

 

 

“I’m sorry! I don’t know why I can’t stop laughing! You must think I’m a terrible person!” Salma leaned back in her chair and giggled. This was her second therapy session and she was still refusing to come to terms with her grief.

“I don’t think you’re a terrible person Salma. I’m more interested in what you’re thinking.” I replied. “Sometimes inappropriate reactions are a sign of denial. Perhaps you’re not fully absorbing what had happened to your best friend” I said slowly.

“What is there to absorb? One minute she was a bride-to-be and the next she was lying in a hospital bed circling the drain! And even though she survived, she’ll be living with a disability! She’s actually DISABLED!” Salma paused then cracked up again. “I know it’s not funny! I don’t know what’s wrong with me! I seriously need to stop laughing!”

 

Three months ago…

“SURPRISEEEEEEEEE” All the girls yelled when the bride-to-be walked into Salma’s living room.

“Oh my God!” She covered her face then whirled around to hug her best friend Salma with sparkling eyes full of so much love and gratitude. They called her ‘Supa’, a shorter ‘British accent’ version of her nickname ‘Super Girl’. No one knew how and when she got it, but given her kindness, smartness, talent, beauty and courage, it suited her perfectly. She really was a super girl.

“Tell us about him!”

“Does he have any brothers?”
“I hear he’s the hottest bachelor in the whole country!”

“When is the wedding?”

“I don’t know anything yet!” Supa giggled, her face flushed red. “He just met with my dad two days ago!”

“Girls come on give the blushing bride a break! The groom’s family is having a dinner party tonight, and of course I’m invited because you know, I’m her best friend and all!” Salma teased. “I promise I’ll take pictures and post them on their wedding website!”

“There’s a website?” Supa’s jaws dropped.

“Umm yeah! Now let’s get going. They’re waiting for us in the car. You don’t want to be late and get on your future mother-in-law’s bad side on the very first dinner!” Salma warned.

“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”.

 

“I still get nightmares about that car accident. The very same night Supa was thanking Allah for His blessings, she lost everything! She’s in such bad shape, no one is allowed to see her. Why? Why is life so messed up and cruel and mean?” Salma cried.

“It is, isn’t it?” I asked.

“I know I’m not supposed to ask these questions, but I can’t keep it inside anymore! The resentment is eating me up! Why does Allah punish good people and reward bad people? Like in college, the guys who used to drink and smoke and party all night, they were the cool and popular dudes! And the girls dressed in sleazy skintight outfits and had zero morals; they were seen as fun and sexy! And the worst part is good guys fell for them! How twisted is that? I know girls who have done the unspeakable with an array of different boyfriends in the past, and are currently happily married to rich, successful and decent men! Why does God let this happen and then call Himself Fair?”

“So you think if you had loosened up a bit or dressed provocatively, you would have been married by now too?” I asked cautiously.

“I wear the Hijab, pray, read Qur’an and do everything EXACTLY the way I’m supposed to do it! But it obviously makes no difference! I’m still invisible or unapproachable or even unmarriageable and it makes me feel rejected and lonely! I’m not saying I do all of this to land good suitors, but I certainly never thought being on the right path would turn them off either!”

“Why do you do it then?” I asked.

“Because I want to be a good Muslim! I want to go to Jannah! I believe in Allah and love Him but I’m not sure why He hates me so much! And why He constantly tests the believers with hardships and heartaches while rewarding the non-believers with fame, fortune and happiness! It makes me want to scream at the top of my lungs, WHY?! Why does God deny us even the tiniest sources of happiness? Why does He want to see us suffer?”

“Do you believe in the ‘Choco-Purpletine theory’?” I asked.

“I don’t even know what that is. How can I believe in it?” Salma snapped.

“I don’t know either I just made it up. But now, is there a chance that maybe the concept of God is also a fabrication and He doesn’t really exist?”

“No! I firmly believe in Allah and His existence. Nothing you say can possibly change that!” Salma replied.

“If you believe that Allah is Unfair, Unjust and likes to see us suffer then I’m sorry to say you don’t really know Him. And like you said, you can’t believe in something you don’t know. The first pillar of faith is ‘Belief in Allah’. Not just in His mere existence; but also in His lordship, His right to be worshipped alone and in His names and attributes. You say you do everything exactly the way you’re supposed to do it, except it doesn’t mean anything if it’s not from the heart. Like traffic rules, we do them exactly the way we’re supposed to do them. We stop at red lights because we are obligated to do so; it’s the law. Parking on the side to help an old woman or remove a blockage from the road; that’s humanity. Acts with sincere intentions are what purify our hearts and bring us real joy. That’s the difference.” I said.

Despite the unmistakable rage in her eyes, Salma spoke softly.
“I’m allowed to question, Lilly. Even angels questioned Allah when He created Adam. I just need to know, what did ‘Supa’ do to deserve this doomed fate? Why are good people always pushed to their limit? Look around you. Islamophobia, Muslims being shamed, banned and killed because of their beliefs, people defending and celebrating homosexuality. Cheating, adultery, terrorism, violence and death of innocent young souls have all become prevalent. In the face of all this heart ache and misery, why does Allah expect us to strive to be and do better?”

“Because this is the natural outcome of any strong belief; a constant endeavor to reach your goals. We are all fighting battles of our own, slipping in and out of physical, mental and emotional breakdowns. The few who survive and rise above are the heroes who change the world to the better. Look at the Prophets and companions.”
“Oh d, on’t do that” Salma protested, holding up a palm. “Those are unquestionably incomparable legends.”
“Okay then let’s look at modern day heroes. Martin Luther King overcame oppression because he believed in equality. Gandhi changed the world because he never tired from standing up for justice. 14-year-old Malala survived a shooting and is now one of the strongest proponents for education. These are all examples of people who stood up courageously in the face of torture. Their beliefs were strong enough to make a difference in millions of lives. How much more of a right does Allah, the Magnificent Almighty, have on the believers to stand up for their beliefs?

Allah says: “Do the people think that they will be left to say, “We believe” and they will not be tried? But We have certainly tried those before them, and Allah will surely make evident those who are truthful, and He will surely make evident the liars. (Holy Qur’an, 29: 2,3)

If it were easy, everyone would do it. Everyone would believe in God and be special, productive and successful. But it doesn’t work that way honey. Allah is Fair. This is what you sign up for when you aim for Paradise; being tested, tried and purified. You get what you work for Salma, not what you wish for. Faith isn’t merely a philosophy, saying we believe in one God and doing nothing to prove it. There’s a practical aspect to this concept; one we strive to achieve daily. We struggle, push boundaries, and hold onto ‘unseen’ reality. That’s the whole point. In the face of misery and tribulations, strong believers and heroes are born!”

“So you’re saying Allah allows evil only because good things will come out of it?” She asked, tilting her head.

“Exactly!” I smiled.

“What good could possibly come out of Supa’s disability?” Salma wondered.

“I’ll answer this question soon inshAllah, I promise. An act of God always yields positive outcomes. There’s no doubt about it.” I replied. “Tonight, sit alone with Allah and ask Him to show you. Ask Him for everything you wish for. It’s one of the most beautiful forms of worship, for it gravitates you towards Him even more and strengthens your belief. Because when you make du’a from the heart, you must believe Allah is listening. Otherwise you’re just a crazy person talking to someone who isn’t there!”

“True…” Salma walked out of my office completely captivated, I think she stopped blinking!

She went home that night and whispered a silent prayer.

It had to be silent; for no one knew the secret she’d been keeping from her best friend.

No one knew what happened was all her fault..

 

 

To be continued….
 

Lilly S. Mohsen