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Between One Breath and the Next

Once again I find myself in the position of marking time, holding space, suspended between one breath and the next. It’s a lesson I learned long ago, the art of waiting, living on the inhale, knowing the exhale is sure to come.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin: My marriage arranged, I’ve said yes to a person I’ve only spoken to a few times on the phone, and seen in a black and white photograph. The only common ground I’m sure of is a great love and commitment to living Islaam. I receive the call- he is on his way from Virginia. Now all there is left to do is wait.

Baltimore, Maryland: Nine months pregnant, the specialist tells me the only way my baby will live is if, in his words, someone else’s child gets hit by a car and they donate a kidney to us. They plan to induce labor so that a full team of specialists will be available when she makes her entrance into the world. I call my husband, two states away, and wait.

Ma’bar, Yemen: Word about my critically ill sister trickles in, sporadic, incomplete, unsatisfying. My letters and emails go unanswered, daily messages in bottles I release with no hope of reply. I hold my breath with a land steeped in drought, wait ing for the final news to come.

Sana’a, Yemen: Two choices before us: to return to the States after being in Yemen for only a couple of years, or to go to Damaaj, a center of learning I have dreamed of going to. Two very different paths, both with possible benefits and possible hardships. My heart longs for Damaaj, the decision in my husband’s hands. Praying for guidance and success, I wait for his decision.

Too many times to count, between births, deaths, comings and goings…

almahwit9Life is like that, isn’t it? Full of time suspended somewhere beyond our reach. Too many make the mistake of always, always, looking forward, eyes trained on the future,  blind to where they are right now, this moment, this breath of time, either dreading what will come next or hoping for some golden moment when all will be well and life will be perfect.

That time never comes in this lifetime. Tomorrow is always just that- tomorrow- and it holds no guarantees.

The moment we are in right now, this crystal drop of clarity in which we wait, breath held, is too precious to waste. As we wait, trusting in Allaah, we should be living, loving, learning, dreaming, creating, laughing, crying, praying, always patiently persevering.

The past becomes fuzzy with time. Events forgotten, feelings watered down, dreams discarded as our lives change and evolve. The future is unknown to us. No matter how many plans we make, charts we draw, ideas we put forth, it lies solely with Allaah alone.

The present is what we have, the gift of now to savor, to roll around on our tongues, to squeeze every bit of goodness, of alive-ness from its fragile shell. This moment- in all of its sadness, misery, anger, pain, confusion, happiness, joy, celebration- will never come again, should not be discarded in favor of a tomorrow that may never come.

So breathe, thankful for the inhalation, the pause, and the release of this gift of air, this gift of time, and most of all, for this gift of life.

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