It was exactly a year ago that I saved my husband’s life. I could’ve left him to it, choking on his fatty beef, but in that split second when I realised he might actually die, I decided not to leave it entirely to fate.
This is something we still joke about and probably will for evermore. He told me afterwards it made him realise I really must love him and want him around, in spite of lockdown!
I performed my first Heimlich manoeuvure, so forcefully that immediately after the gristle was jettisoned and we’d all managed to breathe clearly again, our son said to me: “I can’t believe you lifted daddy up like that!” I had literally lifted him off the floor with my upward thrust (possibly not textbook technique but it did the trick).
I’m being flippant but it was actually a very, very scary episode for all three of us.
I mention it now because an early morning brain-churn recently brought a piece of wisdom to mind. It was 4am and my darling brain was up and at-em, planning my morning, and my day, and my next day, and my next week. Reviewing in detail all that occurred yesterday and analysing the nightmare I’d just had, which was induced by watching Line of Duty at an ill-advised hour of the day.
My brain can wade into such a thick, syrupy fog during these first waking moments that I can be stuck there for ages before I’ve even really realised I’m awake.
But through the fog, in popped this little line and it wouldn’t leave me.
Trust in Allah…and tie up your camel.
Now, I know exactly where it came from but I have no idea why it appeared. But it succeeded in getting my brain out of the syrup (or the syrup out of my brain).
It’s something a very wise woman once told me, I forget why she thought it was useful at the time but it surely was, and has continued to be, over and over again.
I do not have religious faith, however I do find that there is much wisdom to be found in all sorts of religious writing and this one – attributed to the Prophet Mohammed – is a favourite.
“Trust in Allah… and tie up your camel.” My interpretation of this translates as: “If you don’t want your camel to run away or get nicked, by all means say a little prayer, but also, bung a tether on it, yeh, just in case?”
In other words, absolutely, put your trust in your God but also, do what you can do to affect your situation – if you combine both then it’ll likely turn out okay. Be prepared and then leave the rest to fate/God/the Universe. Administer the Heimlich on your husband and then hope for the best.
As I say, I’ve no idea why this little nugget forced its way through my curdled Thought-Soup the other morning but here I am writing about it.
Until very recently I – like much of the planet – have felt stuck in Limbo Land. And if you’ve been there, during this pandemic or at any other time, you’ll appreciate that it’s like the very worst land to find yourself in at the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. The land none of those adventurous Enid Blyton children would have wanted to visit but they all ended up stuck there.
If you’re unfamiliar with this classic series, you just need to know that if you can manage to climb to the top of the Magic Faraway Tree there’s a magical land in the clouds and it changes every time you visit – often it’s a fantastically fun place to be but sometimes it’s laced with dangers.
In my Limbo Land, there are none of the joys of the Land of Goodies or the Land of Dreams; nor the delights of the Land of-Take-What-You-Want (where my son lives 90% of his days) or the Land of Do-As-You-Please (where my son would like to live 100% of his days).
When you’re in Limbo Land, you cannot do as you please or take what you want because you’re not the one in charge. Someone else has control over your life and ain’t nuffin you can do about it. Hate that. [Listen, is that the sound of a distant control freakery klaxon?]
I run a camping and glamping site with my husband and we’ve spent a fair chunk of the past 13 months in Limbo Land. We are extremely fortunate because we are still in business and we are also among the first tourism businesses to reopen this season.
But the ‘will-they-won’t-they’ elements of waiting to find out if, when and to whom we can reopen has not got any easier and that’s the part of Limbo Land I’ve despised the most. Along with the ‘when the hell can my kid go back to school?’ part.
But what I have slowly learned is that when there is so much uncertainty and no end in sight, and the ball is not in your court, it’s fruitless trying to figure out or look for an escape route… you just gotta roll with it. If you don’t roll with it, you’ll roll under it, as I heard music legend Dr John once say.
Last summer and, now this spring, we gave ourselves false deadlines to get our campsite ready to reopen, rather than wait to be given a date and find we suddenly had about 3 days to do everything. As it turned out, we wouldn’t have known until the day before that we could reopen, so it was a good plan.
It was our way of trusting in Allah and tying up our camel. The decision on whether or when we could reopen was out of our control, but what we could do was get prepared and leave the rest to fate.
I follow this advice fairly often in another way too, if I am feeling overwhelmed by the sheer amount of ‘stuff’ – and especially worries – in my head. I write a list of all the things I am worrying about.
This can be an extensive list, ranging from “My kid hates me (and OMG I hate him back!)” to “We haven’t got a day off until October, I won’t make it through this season,” to “My friend is so sad and I can’t help her” (this one can quickly morph into the “I’m such a bad friend/person” one).
Then I write another list underneath it, a list of what – if anything – I can actually do about each item. If I find there is nothing I can do about it, which does happen, I cross it off. Gone! Filed under ‘Allah’.
If there is something I can do about it, even a tiny thing, I put it on my third list – the To Do List! Then I do it, and I cross off the worry. It might be as simple as texting that sad friend to say ‘I’m sorry you’re struggling and that I can’t be with you/call you just now but I am thinking of you and we’ll talk soon.’
With this ‘control what you can control’ approach, more often than not my list of worries is soon a lot shorter, my To Do List is clear and my brain is a lot less frazzled.
My husband turns 50 tomorrow. I’m glad I kept him alive so we can eat more beef together (that’s genuinely what he wants for his birthday tea!) I’ve been doing weights so it’ll all be good, with a little help from Allah.
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