Febreezing Your Life

I was watching a commercial that talked about odor masking febreeze fragrance and it sparked a unique thought outside the realms of my obsession with cleanliness. Odor masking fragrances mask odors – they don’t remove them. The commercial showed a back seat full of dirty clothes but with the febreeze masking odor fragrance, you couldn’t even smell what was in the back seat. People came in and out of the car as test subjects and none of them had any idea there was any odor emanating from within the car because they smelled the febreeze only.

My thought circled around the tendencies of our hearts. Rather, the realities of our hearts which we sometimes fear and mask. Within the deepest realms of our hearts are the most sensitive matters to us. And not being at peace with a matter in a deep portion of our heart slowly affects us more and more as time goes on. For some, they may struggle with feeling inadequate, for some they may struggle with letting go of something, for some they may struggle with a bad habit  – these are the dirty clothes. And we have trained our routines on a day to day basis to mask the smell of those matters most sensitive to us – not realizing that masking an odor will never eliminate it.

When I was younger, I remember I used to really have a hard time with certain things and thought processes that I have alhamdullilah, for the most part, overcome since then. One of the things I used to do was stay up late into the night so that when I went to bed – all I did was crash into it so that I didn’t have to bear my thoughts just before I slept. You think about matters closest to your heart when you lie in bed before you sleep. I remember going to sleep was the scariest thing in the world to me which seems so backwards because now – I love any opportunity I get to sleep. In fact, I just woke up from a nap when writing this.

While I am postulating the importance of getting rid of the odor rather than masking it, I’m also expressing the difficulty in breaking societal norms and daily routines to reach those deeper realms of your heart and thought processes. Honestly, it’s scary and almost unfamiliar even though they are your own thoughts. But the moments you spend embracing the realities of your heart will eventually give you an element of life that is very sacred – peace of mind.

Peace of mind isn’t just about feeling content with different aspects of your life. To me, peace of mind entails something greater. It entails that you’ve challenged the deepest levels of your heart and won. It entails that you could have a bad day but still lie in bed satisfied with who you are with a healthy motivation to be better. Peace of mind is understanding that you may not have got everything you’ve wanted, but you’re truly happy with what you have.

When you get rid of the dirty clothes, it doesn’t necessarily mean that a good fragrance replaces it. It means that when the febreeze inevitably runs out and you’re left with just you and what is in your car – you smell with peace.

Fabreeze smells good. Peace of mind smells better.

My Own-goal

I was playing soccer one day with some friends on a crisp autumn morning. At one point, my team was defending a corner kick which basically meant the opposing team gets a free kick from the corner of the field to try and set someone up on their team to score a goal. My task was defensive – to make sure the ball didn’t end up in the goal. As the corner kick soared through the air, I found it coming straight for me. My sole purpose and focus was to make sure the ball DID NOT go into the goal. I jumped, swung my head to head the ball out, and ended up hitting the ball with the back of my head and straight into the goal.

Yikes.

Focus is typically linear – but the result can sometimes manifest the exact opposite. I focused so much on hitting the ball away that I ended up hitting the ball backwards. Just like you can study extensively for an exam and receive an A or you can study extensively for an exam and still fail. It’s frustrating because that fact makes you second guess your motivation. Why even study? Why jump to head the ball if I could potentially mess this up?

Baseball is a great example. You can swing at a ball with the best swing in the world (and yes, there are very detailed mechanics into how you swing a bat), and completely miss the ball. You were focused. You knew what to do. You did it right. But the ball and your bat didn’t connect. On the flip side, you can do everything right with your swing and knock a ball out of the park.

But you can’t even hit the ball if you don’t swing.

You’re going to fail at times at the thing you wanted and focused on the most. You’re going to fail in the worst possible scenario and it will feel devastating. Not only that, your failure (which you focused on so deeply to avoid) will define your life for some time. The own-goal I committed in my soccer game defined the game because we were losing until our team scored again.

But you will fail always if you decide to give up. You’ll feel worthless, alone, isolated, and confused because you thought the worst feeling was failure but it’s not. It’s the feeling you feel when you know it won’t get better because you don’t have the heart to try anymore.

Failure is part of life. Own goals, strike-outs, mistakes – they are the shadows that make life prominent. They provide perspective the same way the darkness of a shadow does to a picture. But it’s important to continue to strive after failure even when you feel like your biggest enemy.

The best batting advice anyone ever gave me was to forget all the mechanics and just go out there and have fun. And that goes for life like it goes for batting. Mechanics are important but so is relaxation.

Life sucks and it’s all your fault sometimes. Who cares? Don’t let any level of failure permeate into changing the person you perceive yourself to be. You are all the great qualities you have ever attained and failure doesn’t take anything away from those.

If you get back on the horse you could fall again, but if you never get back on you’ll never go anywhere.

The Painting

Imagine your life as a painting. A creation that is completely your own that encompasses the many complexities of your thoughts, emotions, fears, anxieties, goals, dreams, aspirations, etc. Every stroke, every paint color, every brush unique to the presence of your life and soul on this earth. Growing up, I didn’t understand why life became unbearably difficult at times. I didn’t understand why God would withhold something that would make you happy. Why would God not let me paint what I wanted to paint? When difficult times came, it seemed like my painting just stood there with nothing new to show even though I really wanted to add what I believed was necessary and best for my life. It was confusing and difficult.

There were days I would wake up and the only good thing to happen to me that day was so insignificant compared to the many things going wrong around me. It felt unbearable at times. It felt dark. Then I thought about how painters create such intricate masterpieces and it dawned on me why God took away my paint brush at times.

My wife and I attended a painting class one day. I was a bit nervous given my mediocre artistic abilities, but confident in enjoying a pleasant evening with my wife. We sat in the front near our instructor who proceeded to go step by step through the painting we were to paint. The drawing was a silouhette of a tree in the evening with pink and red leaves. Our first instruction was to literally paint a large white circle – which was a task even I could handle. Immediately after we painted a light blue circle around our first white circle – and then a darker blue circle around the light blue circle until our entire canvas was filled with paint. At that point, we waited for the paint to dry and went to go grab snacks. After about 10 minutes, we were instructed to draw our tree with our branches before having to wait again before drawing the leaves and the stars in the sky.

I think that’s life. I think we sometimes want to draw various leaves in our lives before we even have a background. Or sometimes we want to draw leaves when the paint from the background is still wet. God withholds the brush from us because we aren’t meant to paint there at that given time. And this is manifested in the dark times we encounter when things go wrong in our lives. It can be frustrating but also a blessing in disguise. What we think would be best wouldn’t be best for our overall painting.Perhaps it isn’t the right time. Perhaps it isn’t the right color.

At the end of our painting class, we were to add small silver dots to represent the stars. In the grand scheme of things, the amount of paint we had to use to create the stars was very small, but the overall picture was that much more enhanced because of it. So when only one seemingly insignificant good thing is happening in your life in a sea of heartache, know that it’s still an important part of a bigger picture that will enhance your life that much more. And if it seems that nothing is going right in your life, then know that God is just allowing your paint to dry for you to paint only the very best for your life.

Your life’s painting is enormous. If paint is wet somewhere in your life preventing you from painting what you want, look around at other phases of your life that may be dry and see how you can paint into that. Your life will never be all wet paint at once. You just have the have the courage and trust in God to look away from painting where you want at any given time. In actuality, God may take away your paintbrush not to prevent you from painting – but to teach you the patience it takes to create beauty in your life.

“So endure patiently, with a beautiful patience” [70:5]

Indeed, Allah is the best of Painters.

How to Dance in Your Rain

Life somehow feels harder at times than it did before. Does anyone else feel it? The good still feels good, but the hard feels harder. I wondered why that was. Social media highlighting much of what we don’t have? Tragedies around the world subconsciously disturbing us? A shallowness internally based on an “instant-click” society? Perhaps some combination of all three?

I’ve noticed that I’ve repeatedly sat through various storms in my life recently and just waited for them to pass. After one storm left, another followed with only brief moments of sunshine – if any at all. It’s felt like a pretty miserable way to live life. All the while I lay curled up waiting for a particular storm to pass, I’m watching people around me bask in their sun. It’s made the raindrops heavier.

Here’s some advice:

Firstly, realize that a picture of someone’s sunshine is just that – a picture. A snap of their reality at a moment in time their storm briefly left. I think part of the reason the hard feels harder now is because we are wrapped up in everyone else’s sunshine (via social media) in the midst of our storms.

Secondly, interact with more people. Connect with them. Have conversations with them.  Some only interact with the world around them via social media, some just quick cliché conversations, and some just enjoy being in the company of people but not actually interacting. Before the dawn of texting and social media, people would create deep and meaningful relationships with people around them which was an important step in creating a deep and meaningful relationship with ones self.

Thirdly, realize that everything happens for a reason. The rain falls and the sun shines and both are equally important in your growth. Don’t lose site of that.

Whatever way you decide to do, make a decision to not sit curled up through any more of your storms. Just be you and find transcendence in the being that you are. Find depth in your life. Don’t just stand through your storms, walk tall through them. Do things that make you, you. Strengthen yourself from the inside out so that your life doesn’t become an amalgamation of various shallow connections. Don’t imbue into your life someone else’s sunshine – create something beautiful out of your storm.

My contention is this: before the dawn of texting, social media, and the internet – we harnessed a strength that allowed us endure our life. We thought more, felt more, interacted more, and saw things with a deeper sense of intuition. We can’t fight societies norms, so don’t. Instead, discipline your intake. Intake less of that which draws attention to what doesn’t fill you, and intake more of what fills you.

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about learning to dance in the rain”