Within Four Walls

A bittersweet space.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash

After Fajr, you believe you read some Qur’an and then sat back into bed and cried, simply for the great pressure that comes with the challenge to make the most of the day. The morning broke into routine, which you followed, nonetheless still harbouring that same distress you had held for so long. Shortly before the noon prayer, you cry again. Angry tears, of frustration at so many circumstances, those beyond your control and those within it. you compose yourself and pray, finding some relief in the prayer, but without having tamed and prepped your heart for it, you are not able to attain the sturdy, lasting, and uplifting peace that the prayer should hold. Overwhelmed at this all, you cry again, either before or after the evening prayer. By the prayer at sunset, you are exhausted from feeling so much and so helpless. Once you finish praying, you go for a nap. You wake up for the night prayer and finally find peace and motivation, but that pesky circadian rhythm and prematurely dark winter sky tell you that that is enough for the day. And so you go to bed.

You should mention that in between these prayers, which formally define your day, and the crying, which informally does so, you live. You eat, You spend time with your family, you crack jokes and smile and read and watch TV and help in the kitchen. You live normally and try very much to do so. Crying and frustration are not scheduled into your day either. You try very hard to avoid these waves of sadness and anger and anxiety and go about your day.

Since a microscopic threat turned our lives around, you think you were immediately aware of the changing boundaries and functions of spaces that were to come. You had always been a fan of the concept of tiny houses, so the idea of maximising rooms in a house to serve multiple purposes efficiently. At first, it was a thrilling observation. You viewed clips and read essays of kitchen/offices, living-room/gyms, garden/restaurants, and hallway/studios. Bedrooms were the most flexible and fascinating of them all. With no defined associated smells or sounds and limited activities, and the only definite fixed furniture being a bed, the opportunities were endless. Humble sleeping quarters suddenly became the site for so much more.

You reach for the cup of tea on your desk from the side of your bed and draw up your laptop from the nook in between. You sit back into your bed and watch a video on YouTube. You hear a notification, put your laptop to the side, and lean to the end of your bed where your phone is charging. From there you stand up to access your bookshelf and sit back into your bed to scan the pages of your pick. Then a prompt arrives to write or attend to coursework, so you move all of half a metre to your desk to set up your laptop properly and sit in your chair. At some point, you kick your legs up onto your bed as you sit there. At some other point, your body is back in the bed. You take your journal from your windowsill and jot your entry with a view of your neighbours’ houses and the street below. To pray, you transfer yourself to the floor, the centre of the room, where you sit for a while afterward, reflecting and remembering God with feeble attempts to count your blessings. To look around after prayer, simply stretch your neck slightly and capture the whole room in one low-effort panoramic gaze. To wrap parcels, take centre stage on the floor again. Scoot a bit behind you to groom and style yourself in the mirror. The fashion show in your wardrobe is exactly two steps away. Slide under your bed to draw out your box full of birthday cards and old certificates and letters from your younger self and the warmth of nostalgia. The cosiness of this haven is profound, your own little world curated by you and the home of your every comfort. The refuge is addictive, so much can be done in this little space, and sometimes, even when you have nothing to do, you can sit and bask in the small joy of personal space. And if perhaps it were to ever get too quiet, a video call fills the room with jokes and friendliness, and you can spot a sibling perched on the edge of your bed, popping in to say hello and chat.

Yes, the laughter in the living room and the beautiful culinary processes of the kitchen are wonderful. You cherish the warmth of the sun and stretching your legs outdoors too. Sometimes you kick back in other locations of the house, for a change of scenery. You love these other places and spend invaluable time there. But you gravitate towards your space, where you live and breathe in your own company. Thinking, dreaming, and existing in the peace of your own standards and expectations. And you can see the stars clearly from your bed. In fact, if you sleep with the curtains open, the moonlight shines directly on your face as you sleep, an act of love from the heavens. How could this space not be a mercy from God Himself?

Then at some point, your stay becomes involuntary. You start to take long and frustrating calls in that space. It gets messy and stuffy at times which is an effort to manage. You have too many things taking up space that need clearing out. You are trying to remotely control your life, from your bed, your desk, or the floor. You are teaching yourself and grading yourself. What used to be the quaint habit of yours of talking to yourself has become full of more aggression and frustration. You have too much of your own company. It is too quiet, too lonely, too detached. You spend far too much time inside your own head, and are fed by a connection to the world that is constant and unstoppable. Your thoughts are invasive and persistent, full of indescribable fears, worries, and frustrations. They are frightening and morbid and damning. They are improbable and exaggerated and unrealistic, but you can’t stop thinking them. They cripple you. You get stressed by nothing in particular. The rhythm of night and day disappears. You can’t sleep. You stress, inviting headaches and muscle tension, hormonal imbalances, and worrying aches and pains. You are jumpy, full of paranoia and dread. You are annoyed at how easily you fail, at how fragile you are, how poorly you rise to any challenge. It seems you are getting nothing done and going nowhere. But so much seems to fall on your shoulders, and out of nowhere, it seems you are locked up, with a million things to do and no one to hold your hand. You struggle between bullying yourself for being unproductive and not seizing the moment and cursing the entire situation for putting you in this position in the first place. And you contemplate on how ridiculous, first-world affected you are, and how no material harm is in your way, no tangible suffering your lot beside the regular ups and downs that touch everyones’ life. This makes you feel ungrateful and pathetic. Deep down, you know you are neither doing okay, nor are you doing your best, but you are frozen in a position of helplessness, going through the motions and surviving at the bare minimum. You are wrecked and drained. You live and re-live something fabricated in the same place every day. There is nowhere else to go! Of course you do. Sometimes the walls seem to close in, and the room becomes a box, a mental cage. Sometimes you move around some things and it transforms into a sophisticated living quarters. Sometimes you write things down and the noose around your mind loosens a little. If the window is open and incense is burning, perhaps it was all in your head. Yes, it was always all in your head. It was always all in your room.

Months in, you reflect on the current that swept you along when it all began, and wonder if you knew then what you know now, how you would have taken it.

You now also speculate on how you will remember this time in the future. Will you laugh off the intensity of your emotions? Will it dampen your mood each time you remember? Will you smile at the lessons it taught you and how much better life has become since then? Will it have stuck with you, the same feelings still knocking on your door? Will the four walls of your bedroom still carry the same feelings? Physical space and emotion have always been incredibly intertwined, and it seems it took a pandemic to fully realise it.

The worst part about crying is the failure that comes beforehand. You hum, you talk out loud to yourself and clench your fists tightly, you blink furiously and recite phrases of peace and adhkar, but alas, you feel those terrorising tears behind your eyes, stinging you and dying to escape. And once the first little rebel succeeds, that is enough to fling you into helplessness and allow you to succumb to the bout of upset. Perhaps subconsciously, you are exasperated: tears, yet another thing you can’t control.

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Fadilah

Fadilah

183 Followers

A young woman attempting to seek and express reflections of knowledge and truth, trying to find meaning in everything under the sun.