Life is all about constant tests and new beginnings - from the very first day of your life as an infant held upside down by your feet and taking your first breath, to many years later when you wake, with your back and knees aching, four different types of medicine beside the bed and a grandchild sleeping beside you when you realise there is a whole new beginning ahead. The beginning of a new era, a new stage in life, or a new year is a time for re-evaluating what has happened and how, and what you want and why. The start of the new Hijrah year 1432 two weeks ago, and the year 2010 two days ago is a good time for us to pause and look back on the highs and lows of the past 12 months.
For me, 2009 was a long year that seemed as if it would never end. Although it held more smiles than tears, it was a tough year and a very intense one. I learnt a lot. I graduated from university, started my masters, wrote my first feature, was given a car by my father and a cat by a friend (both of which I love dearly). My cousin and one of my brothers got married. Nahyan bin Theyab, my friend's son, and Shreenah bint Hamed, another friend's niece, were born, both named after their grandparents and both very much welcomed and hugely loved by their parents. My father received a 30-year service award for his contribution to Adnoc Group in the energy industry. Finally, in the middle of December my fourth-grade brother Abdulrahman became a member of the Arab Council for Innovation and Creativity, in recognition of his prowess as an artist, which made us all very proud.
Alongside these happy highlights was a whole layer of complex emotions: I was overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, hopeful, expectant, disorganised and disappointed. I learnt that although we are taught as children to always look ahead, from planning out our day to planning out our life, sometimes God chooses a different path for us. God knows what we don't and, though we don't realise it at the time, usually this new path leads to greater happiness. I learnt that even when we pray for something we desperately want, we can add "fe kheer oo lutf oo afaeyah" at the end, meaning that it happens with God's mercy and care, and in good times and good health. I learnt that life is about different perspectives; it's about what we think of events, and how we feel about them.
When I sat with my grandmother remembering what happened last year, she said: "It took Khali Hussain with it." The death of her last living uncle, Hussain, was hard on all of us, but especially on my grandmother. He didn't have children but he was a father to us all. We remembered every moment with him as "the good times". He had a wonderful sense of humour, and with his death we lost something that we can only hope to regain with him in heaven.
A good year is about all the memories that will stay with us for ever. It's about births and deaths, new and old friends, initiatives and change. It's not about falling, but about how you stand up again and make every experience something you can learn from. Every morning when we open our eyes, we should take a long breath and thank Allah for the blessing of a new chance and a new beginning and then we will be ready to face the challenges and the tests of the day and year ahead.
2010: be a good one, please.
Fatima al Shamsi is away.