A Meeting With Myself - Hiba Noor
Awoken by unease, I opened my eyes and found myself beneath a waterfall that poured cold water at such a pace that it almost seemed like it would soon run out of water. I looked around, confused, at first. But soon I started to recognize this place. I realized I was in the mountains, the mountains I had always seen in my dreams but had never gotten to visit them in real life. I didn't even know what this place exactly was, but it felt familiar, it felt peaceful. Surrounded by greenery, I felt genuinely serene in such a long time. I decided to move around, but then I saw something … someone, which dropped my jaw.
It was me. But at the same time, not exactly me. It was an older, tired, wounded version of me. Those eyes seemed to be quite shiny, but as I looked in closer, those eyes shined as a consequence of the million tears just waiting to fall. I flinched. I had never imagined myself to look like that. I looked so sad, and tired.
As I started to get over the shock, I asked in a weak voice, "Who are you?"
"I am the inner you. I am your soul. And I am here to hold you accountable for all the things you have done to me."
Confused and puzzled, I queried further: "I don't understand. Why do you look so injured and...weak?"
"You did this to yourself. Beneath that smile, this is who you are.
Do you think you become stronger if you dismiss any sort of sympathy for yourself from within you? Do you think you become stronger if you keep overworking yourself in every aspect of life? Do you think telling yourself that you deserve all the worry and pressure, makes you stronger? All those times you let people walk all over you, do you think that was fair to me? At every stage of your life, you sacrificed me. You sacrificed your own soul to please other people, and to meet their expectations, and yet, you still failed.
Remember the time you were 17, and your father forcefully married you off with a stranger, 22 years older than you? You let your guard down, just to please your family. You thought it would resolve their financial problems, and refused to take a stand for me, leaving me wounded.
And to make things worse, the marriage seemed to be the next big stage towards my downhill. You didn't take a stand for me when your husband abused you. You preferred to endure it, because that's what you thought would make you stronger. You decided to sacrifice me yet again, because that's what you thought would make you stronger.
After you gave birth to your child, you refused to accept the fact that you were going through postpartum depression. You dismissed all the signals that I gave you to seek help. Instead, you decided to deny the suffering you were going through and pretended everything was fine. You validated your mother-in-law's forced opinion of your mental health being trivial.
That was when I needed your care the most, but you left me stranded.
And do you remember all those times you gave up your needs just to provide adequately for your child?
You cursed me for being sad even when you had a 'stable family' and a 'big house'.
You did not have to be so hard on me.
Being cruel to me will never bring you inner peace...
The reason why my eyes have darkened underneath is because you always suppress your crying, your feelings. The reason why my wounds are still ripe is because you keep presenting yourself to be walked over. The reason why I look so old is because you keep worrying about everyone else all the time.
Everyone but me. You never make time for yourself, for me.
Does this feel good? Looking at yourself. A gloomy, depressed version of yourself. I am sure you wouldn't want such a state for any of your family members, or your friends. Then, why me?"
I was dumbfounded. I felt guilty, yet disgusted by the sight.
"I understand you may not be enjoying this.
But don't worry.. You can make me better. I could look healthier, happier.
You would just need to stop sacrificing me. I am tired..
You need to prioritize me, value me, invest your time in self-care.
That's it, and I will meet you with a smile.
A smile similar to the one you wear everyday, but a more genuine one. A smile, that would represent peace and happiness… within you."
The voice echoed. I flinched and opened my eyes. A mosquito had bit me on the arm. I looked around, I was in my bedroom.
"Oh, a dream. Phew!", I thought to myself.
Just as I said that, I felt a gush of energy inside of me and heard a voice, a voice I was familiar with, that said,
"It was in you all along."
I looked towards the mirror and widened my lips. I smiled. Genuinely. I smiled, after so many years that I had lost count. I smiled, at peace, looking forward to the present and the future, which I would make better by taking a stand for myself. Starting that instant.