Routines bring order to the day and to my life. Mondays I do something with family, community and admin work at the practice, Tuesday I see patients and so on…
Is it the predictability of the days, hours and minutes that gives comfort or the reassurance that I am living and nothing will hurt me if I can do the things I am used to doing everyday?
When routines become an obsession and one is impelled to do the routine otherwise it brings anxiety then one has crossed into pathological arena of OCD.
I am writing about routines of an ordinary day. The sages over the years have taught their students (mureeds) routines called “practices” which bring inner peace and thus outer peace”
One thing I have realized again and again that if the inner landscape is not peaceful, the outer can never be peaceful.
I get up in the morning it is an ordinary morning, I do my morning adhkaars after fajr, the sunrise comes through and is blood red and I am reminded of the sailors quote “ red in the morning sailors warning………” I get ready to go to work and see that I have received a text from a friend. While putting things in the car I open it and click on the link she has sent me. Suddenly I am rooted in shock, and I find myself falling into the well of grief. My scream is silent and yet I can feel it reverberating from the walls of the well of grief that I had thought was well covered and buried in the recesses of time.
I see myself walking the sidewalks of Chapel Hill, a new bride, whose husband works at the University of Chapel Hill. I am awed by the stately brick home of the faculty where we have been invited. It looks like a mansion to my inexperienced eyes. We drive by an apartment complex, where parking is right in front of the apartments. The red tips grow thick and lush along the parking lot, something I would see in a picture of the parking lot where the three lived.The Chapel Hill I knew was where People sat in roadside cafes sipped coffee and talked about intellectual pursuits. No neighbors ever shot their neighbors by entering their apartments, leave along three beautiful young, idealistic newly married couple and their sister? Chapel Hill! This was not New York or LA this was a sleepy town of NC that only awoke at basketball games.
Routines bring comfort; I had already prayed Doha so as I drove to work the routine of Dhikr came back to me something I had practiced for a very long time. I had first learned that routine when I had discovered that it was the only method that decreased the pain of parting from my son.
So today that routine came back like a well-worn leather glove to warm me as the chill of murder, settled into my bones.
As the day went by, I saw patients, the routine of reassuring them, listening to them and giving them comfort, made the day livable. The routine of seeing patients brought comfort and warded off the demons of grief that were waiting to claw me.
There was an additional factor in this crime in that it was pointedly focused on the three being Muslims not only in names but also in practice.
Fear entered the inner landscape, igniting suspicion. I drove out of my office parking lot poignantly aware that I was a sitting duck for a clear rifle shot by the white redneck looking male in the truck in the left lane waiting at the traffic light. His large gas guzzling truck was a sign of his wasteful demeanor and outlook on life.
Again well-worn routines nudged me and I started my recitation of Ayet al Kursi and just as I began the verse of the Throne the fear, and the heaviness disappeared. I added the four Quls and I felt the warmth engulf me not only with comfort but a shield of protection that made an invisible barrier to all threatening demons.
I came home and though the intense awareness of the murders of these beautiful young people stayed with me, the routine of getting ready for Salah, the adkaars afterward, the processing of mail, the sorting of laundered towels, the preparation of vegetables for food, all grounded me into my mortality and vulnerability. It soaked me with the absolute confidence that “nothing will happen to me without Allah’s permission and nothing can stop anything from happening to me if he gives permission” . I spoke to myself: “Rabbi will take care of me” I said and I felt He nodded.
Intermittently I prayed for the parents of the departed souls, and for myself to die an honorable death. To fulfill the dream that I leave something of His message of Peace and submission to Him, behind as per His instructions in His Book.
Night brought more routines, the perusing of the email and Facebook. Catapulted across cyberspace into the universal community of humanity who shed tears for this new bride whose veil was still crisp and whose dress had not even been put away yet.
I cried for the parents, for the mothers and fathers who hugged each other in devastating grief. I was vividly reminded of our three boys whose souls had been lifted in an accident on the interstate a while ago.
With a sense of deep grief I knew that when all the flowers dry, the candles of the vigil extinguish and the supporters and mourners leave, these mothers will have no son to embrace, no daughters to give them grandchildren and no opportunity to shower their love on them. No option to share their joy and milestones in life. At the end of the day their son and their daughters will still be dead………….
The night routine of preparing for isha and then bed was a comfort. I departed from formal masnoon duas and begged Allah to ease the pain for them, to allow me to do the right thing and to prevent me from dropping back into the abyss of grief again…….and He did.
I thanked him for a warm bed on a cold night, the freedom to pray on my musallah and the guardian angels guarding all entrances to my home while I slept for sleep is like death and I am defenseless. Truly as the last Qul faded on my lips I fell asleep and I was spared all dreams good and bad. The next day began, bringing me the comfort of routines, that brought me strength, order in life and connection with the Divine………
While the whole world rocked with grief, anger and disappointment, I prayed for the families. I knew from the core of my heart the pain that they were in and the test they had been given was beyond endurance without the mantle of protection of the Divine. I knew as I know my name that they would need all the love, affection, comfort, and promise of justice that they could get from those around them and those around the world that are watching Chapel Hill…
Chapel Hill, the sleepy little town where we began our newly married life as interns many years ago. We were an idealistic couple of a cross-cultural marriage forging a new path in the south. We walked the sidewalks of Chapel Hill just like Deah and Yusor except their life was snatched so early in youth by an islamophobic, new atheist white male. The murderer had come down south from Illinois leaving his wife and kid behind and harboring hatred for the children of others…
Chapel Hill will never be the same!
Routines bring comfort especially those that keep you connected to the Divine……….. I pray that is true for you too.