“Maktoub,” he said, smiling and calm, telling me a story of how he realized his destiny, how life worked out for the best. And I knew what he meant in a flash. This North African man reminded me of how to let go. “Maktoub” is an Arabic word meaning, “it is written.” I know some will be put off by the idea of a predestined course of life and there is also a part of me that does not understand this concept. Can’t I decide? Can’t I set the direction of my own life?
The idea that everything that happens is already known to the unified cosmic knowledge that is Allah is very soothing to me. My driven, independent, willful and impatient nature appreciates the break. Being American always makes me think of the immigrants who started this country and continue to build it. In spite of the many negative things we could say about the founders of this nation, they were adventurous, they were determined and they faced hardship and many unknowns in their efforts to make their lives better, to take the reigns of their own destinies. And that’s great in a lot of ways. Inspiring, even. But it also makes me tired. And my personal experience of the modern USA that I live in is that we feel like we have to control everything. We are always in a fight or flight mode, trying to make life go the way we think we need it to. Sometimes that isn’t necessary. There are times when it is okay to let go.
They’ll tell you that in your local yoga studio and I’ll be the first to advocate for loose hamstrings and steady headstands as a way to get closer to learning the art of letting go. But it is Islam and my life in Morocco/with Moroccans that has really shown me the value of putting faith in the natural rhythms of the universe. Things are going to go forward. The sun with rise and set and rise again. It is necessary to participate, to create a life practice of working, playing, loving, but I do not have to drive everything, charging forward, white-knuckled grip on my heart’s desires. I know this now. I am working on living it.
So last night, I was standing at the kitchen sink, washing dishes and thinking. “Why did my life work out exactly as it has so far?” And more particularly, I allowed myself to slip into the kind of language you hear among the religious (and aren’t I religious?): “Why did Allah want me to write my books, start my blog, and create a huge next step in my life while I have a very young child and many other challenges taking up all of my time – time I could be using to study and edit my work and make myself into the star writer that I know I am and long to embody?”
I laughed as soon as the thought was finished. Maktoub. It couldn’t happen any other way. There is no perfect condition. If I didn’t have a full-time job or if I had a nanny to stay with my son or if I had not yet had my son – there would be other things to distract me. Maybe I wouldn’t realize the value of my time. Maybe I wouldn’t be so motivated – being a mom has motivated me to set an example by living my dreams. With all of the distraction and responsibility I have now, I am motivated to follow Rumi’s advice:
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you truly love.” And by the stronger pull of that which is maktoub.
Oh, I am much more relaxed now.