“Today is our 25th wedding anniversary.

So what did I learn?

I learnt that a marriage is a game of give and take in which the more you give, the more you take. And that unless you give you can’t take.

I learnt that the trick is to collect memories. What kind of memories? Any kind you want. That is up to you. Only, in the end, you will only have what you collected.

I learnt that not only can you collect memories but you also get to make them. Once again, you get to make whatever kind you want. Those that will bring a smile to the face, warmth to the heart and perhaps a tear of happiness. Or the other kind.

I learnt that to be married is to be prepared to be surprised. All kinds of surprises – that the delicate person in lace who smells sweeter than a rose garden has a core of steel. And the day you have to lean on it, you are very happy indeed that it is there.

I learnt that to share meant to give up your ownership – then you get back what you gave up, enhanced and enriched. She said to me once, a few days after we got married, ‘If you call everything ‘mine’ then what do I have to call mine?’ To ‘give up’ ownership is sometimes nothing more than to use the term ‘we’ instead of ‘I, me, mine, my’. I learnt that it is not about the semantics but about the soul of being married.

She is an artist in many ways, one of which was as a painter. She was painting a seascape. Stormy clouds, lashing waves and one boat. Then she started to paint another boat in the scene. She worked on it for many days but the second boat would simply not fit into the scene. It looked out of place. It looked alien. It looked clearly as if it did not belong there. So she rubbed it out. It took me some years to realize that it was not about the number of boats in the scene but the number of people in the boat.

I remember the strange warm glow when I was introduced for the first time as, ‘This is my husband.’ Never knew that there was so much pleasure in being ‘owned.’ My husband. Hmm!!

I learnt that it is not always necessary to say, ‘I love you,’ ‘Thank you,’ ‘I miss you.’ But it is always necessary to say, ‘I am sorry.’ I also learnt that leaving your partner to read your mind opens you to the danger of your partner never having learned how to read minds. I learnt also that in the end even though you say the words, it is what you do, the light in your eyes, the ‘charge’ in the hug that conveys more than the words ever will.

I learned the joy of opening my mouth to say something only to hear my words coming out of my wife’s mouth and then we both laugh. Who said telepathy doesn’t work? Maybe it doesn’t work all the time. But then neither do the phones.

I learnt the value of being thankful. Thankful to Allah for granting me someone who I neither asked for, nor could have hoped for and to see us through highs and lows such that at the end of 25 years, all I can do is to thank Him. Thankful to my wife for walking with me on the road of life – walking on my road, perhaps at the cost of the road she wanted to walk on (never had the courage to ask her). Thankful to her for being the only person about whose support I never had to wonder or guess. Thankful to her for always being in my corner, even though sometimes that meant giving me some tough feedback (that is part of being in the corner after all).

I learnt that in the end, the only thing that matters is trust. Not beauty, not wealth, not status or grace – although I must say that I was blessed in her with all of these in full measure – but trust. And that I was blessed with even more. I learned also that trust must be built, one day at a time; one incident at a time. I learned that trust is the most valuable of assets and so must be guarded accordingly.”

I learnt the difference between a house and a home. A house was what I would get and a home was what she would make it. I learnt that a home was where there was harmony, comfort, peace, grace, beauty and caring. And I also learnt that all this was possible to do with very little money. 

I learnt that support sometimes means to be left to face your own fears and to overcome your own terrors with the knowledge that she would back me no matter what path I chose. But the decision was mine to take. 

Companionship, a meeting of looks, a smile. Language and words that nobody else can understand. Shared memories over 25 years. Hard times, easy times. Alhamdulillah life goes on, each day a new discovery. A life of thankfulness for what we have been given. 

Believe it or not, it is actually possible to fall in love afresh every time I look at her face – and I do. As for your unasked question, ‘All this is good. But surely there must have been something negative.’ My answer, ‘If you had to choose between keeping roses and garbage, which would you choose?’ Remember what I said about memories earlier? We get to keep those we want to remember. Having said that, the truth is that at least for me, there are none that are negative. And Allah knows that is true.”

Mirza Yawar Baig in Leadership Is A Personal Choice

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