A Look Back — Part 3

We’ve made it to the final part of the look back on my past three years of blogging. Of course, if you haven’t read the first two parts, it would be helpful to do so.

 

May 31st, 2013
Living in Saudi has forced me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have if I’d lived elsewhere, so I feel almost attached to the place. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’m kind of bummed to be leaving it, even if only for a few weeks. Perhaps I’m crazy.

July 5th, 2013
Every time I travel home I imagine it getting easier. I imagine that it will be a little less painful to watch my dad cry as I leave, that missing out on holidays and family time will feel less depressing. That coming back to a place where there’s no one to hug, where getting to the people whose company I enjoy is such a hassle, where basic daily tasks are a major production will somehow become like second nature to me. I’m always wrong. And it’s not because I don’t try to make it different, or to think about it differently, or to look at the positives. It’s this place. I swear it is evil. A place that makes otherwise normal people behave selfishly and strangely and makes simple, peaceful living nearly impossible.

July 13th, 2013
I cry for many reasons. Sometimes I don’t know what that reason is, but if you’re a woman you know you don’t really need a reason to cry. My tears most often represent the anger, frustration, fear, loneliness, helplessness, or regret that I find difficult to otherwise express or share with others. Sometimes it’s all of those things at once. I’ve tried just letting it go, but letting things go for me usually means burying, and we all know how well buried issues eventually find their way back to the surface. And it’s usually not pretty when they do.

I have begun to imagine each tear as a wordless prayer to the only One who really knows me inside and out, hoping that my sobbing comes across accurately as pleading for help out of the situation that only that One can get me out of.

August 7th, 2013
There is no such thing as the love of your life. We are not put on this earth with only one chance at love. I know that in the midst of it all, the one your with feels like the only one, but that’s simply not the case. Heartbreak sucks, but it doesn’t have to kill you. You can and will move on and find someone new if the relationship you’re in comes to an end. If he wants to let you go, let him.

August 23rd, 2013
I hate that after everything we’ve been through, and even though I so desperately want to move on, I still have “what if” moments about my marriage. I’m worried I’ll never really feel closure. I’m a slow learner it seems.

September 2nd, 2013
The last few weeks for me have been the ultimate test of my claim of doing whatever makes my daughter happy and putting her needs first. Believe me, walking the walk is much more difficult than talking the talk. It’s also been a major exercise in letting go of my ego, my need to control & to define, my need to be right, and my tendency to believe that everyone around me has a divine obligation to cater to my wants and needs.

I’ve learned that I have a long way to go on this journey, but that I’ve also come a long way from the person I used to be. And I feel pretty good about the little human I’m raising, that she feels secure enough to be without me sometimes.

September 14th, 2013
A few weeks ago on one of our regular Thursday night get-togethers, my friend B and I stood in her kitchen and compared our guts. We squeezed our love handles and I talked about my crazy stretch marks and we had a good laugh. We’re at opposite ends of the body size spectrum , but it felt good to laugh and talk openly about our jiggly tummies. And it feels good to really deeply love my whole self, imperfect body included, and not envy how anyone else looks.

September 22nd, 2013
It was hot and I was pouring with sweat and my clothes were sticking to me. Do you know how hard it is to shimmy out of shapewear when you’re sweaty?! I considered throwing it away and letting everyone see my underwear, but I NEED that thing and it was expensive. So 15 minutes later, after an intense aerobic routine, I completed my potty break.

September 23rd, 2013
Saturday was the wedding anniversary and I didn’t care! It doesn’t sound like a big deal, I know, and I even hesitated on writing this post until I read my post from last year’s anniversary misery and realized how far I’ve come. I was worried that day would always haunt me in some way, and now it will only haunt me as the day I wore shapewear to an un-air conditioned bazaar.

September 24th, 2013
In Riyadh, a place I was once comfortable in because it’s so easy to blend in, I get tired of feeling like one of the crowd. One of dozens of other women wherever I go dressed exactly like me. Sitting here I’m aware of how good it feels for people to be different. Different races, languages, and styles of dress. An old man walking slowly and whistling just like my grandpa used to. Individuals. It feels good.

Life is funny because not only does it take you to places you weren’t expecting or planning on going, but because it puts you in situations that force you to appreciate it.

In a way I feel like I needed this whole mess I’ve been through. I know it’s corny to say that everything happens for a reason, but I really believe it does. I have such an overwhelming sense of appreciation and gratitude for everything in my life, the good and the bad, the planned and unplanned, and I have to admit that it’s only because life had its way with me.  I’ll let it do so more often.

October 27th, 2013
I feel it coming the same way you feel that nagging scratch in the back of your throat the night before you wake up with an ass kicking cold. I feel sadness pulling at me, trying to drag me back down into that dark place I wish I wasn’t familiar with.

I don’t like using the word depression. I’ve felt worse, that’s what I keep reminding myself, so this can’t be depression. I don’t feel like the people look like on commercials advertising the latest drug, all sad and weepy, struggling to get out of bed as their children hover nervously in the doorway.

I get up every morning, do the mommy thing, try to keep in touch with close friends and family, but I’m sad. It’s not debilitating, but it sucks ass. Sometimes it keeps me up late at night and sometimes it sends me back to bed after mommying and school running has been completed in the morning.

November 14th, 2013
I’ll keep coming here, however sporadically, to remind myself and to let you all know that no matter how sloppily you get through your messes, the thing that matters most is that you get through them. I’ll get through this because I have to, even if I’m not so graceful about it.

January 7th, 2014
I watch the old me like an out of body experience. I see her pain, her disappointment, and her fear. I want to be the one friend she wasn’t afraid to confide in so I can tell her it’s ok to let go and move on. I want to tell her she’s so much more than she gives herself credit for. I want her to know she deserves more than what she’s getting. I know that she knows deep down that leaving him would be for the best, but she can’t see beyond her blinding love for him.

January 12th, 2014
There are times when my alone-ness sinks into loneliness and I can’t help but miss his presence, the smell of his cologne after he’s left for work in the morning, his lap which made the perfect resting place for my feet, and his chest which made the perfect resting place for my face.

I know this will pass. I’ll cry myself to sleep for the next week or two and then he’ll say or do something that will make me sure that I hate him and thankful once again that he’s not around to pollute my environment. But it always comes back again.

February 2nd, 2014
I feel like I’ve been lied to about love…like maybe we’re all being lied to about love and that maybe that love in its purest form is rare between a couple. I think the things that we’re taught in the name of love are really just cleverly disguised symptoms of attachment, and considering the temporary nature of life, attachment to another isn’t something we should be longing for or teaching our children about. This idea that someday I’ll find someone to love who will love me in return and then my life will be worthwhile and complete is toxic. It ruins lives. I’ve wasted a good chunk of my life trying to make a man want to be a part of my life, thinking that my life is less real if I’m not giving myself to a man instead of just living while I’m alive. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want to redefine love for myself and I want to teach my daughter differently.

March 28th, 2014
On the other side of all the hurt and shame there is healing, love, and forgiveness. On the other side of mistakes and regret there are lessons and there are second chances. And even though our life often times ends up being everything we could have never planned for ourselves, life can still be great.

April 26th, 2014
Stop hanging onto men and relationships that are no longer serving their purpose in your life. Learn to let go. Learn that letting go doesn’t mean that the love you feel for someone is over. Learn to love without attachment or expectation. Learn that loving without expectation doesn’t mean that you should love without standards or boundaries.

May 4th, 2014
Freedom, no matter how trivial it seems,  is priceless, my friends.

May 17th, 2014
There’s nothing I look forward to more living in Saudi Arabia than the act of getting on a plane and leaving it behind.

May 27th, 2014
People will abandon you and sometimes those people might even be your friends or family, but despite that abandonment, in whatever way you can, in whatever circumstances you’re in, find a way to be authentically you. Be just as proud to go against the grain as you would be do go with it. Don’t just march to the beat of your own drum, dance to that shit, too. You’ll never regret being true to yourself, I promise.

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A Look Back — Part 2

If you haven’t already, please read Part 1 first.

April 27th, 2012
It would also be easier perhaps to give in, keep my mouth shut and go along with The Mr. on his reconciliation attempts.  My life would be set, money would never be an issue, I’d have all the material possessions I could dream of.  I would live comfortably.  It’s not easy to hear hurt in his voice and still say I’m done.  It’s not easy to take a blind jump into a future alone.  With him I’d be content as I’ve always made myself to be, but I would never be happy.

I have come so far in this process that I am no longer concerned with possessions or the picture perfect life and family.  I don’t want to be in a marriage with someone who has settled with me because of circumstance.  I don’t want to have things.  I want to have what money can’t buy.  And I deserve it.

July 13th, 2012
No one I know was a fan of Carrie’s relationship with the Russian, so we were all pretty pleased that she came to her senses and broke up with him, and NO ONE can forget what she says when breaking up with him.  “I am someone who is looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.”  And that’s where my tears always start.

Every time I think about that line…I see myself.  That’s me.  I could have written it if someone hadn’t done so already for God’s sake.

August 9th, 2012
I’m letting it go.  My name is Mandi, I’m an American, I’m not sure what I believe in or what I want out of life, but I do know that no man will ever give me that answer.  I no longer fit in single-digit jeans, I no longer fit in my marriage, and I’m no longer ashamed of either of those things.

August 19th, 2012
As I look outside at my daughter dancing around and hear the familiar tune of Suzie Q that my father used to play and sing to us when we were little, I’m reminded that I”ll have to leave soon and I’ll have to find a new definition of everything is great.

I wish I could say that I’ve made peace with going back at this point, but I haven’t.  I’m still praying for a miracle or even a disaster as long as it keeps us from having to get on a plane.  I still haven’t completely ruled out a public meltdown at the airport as a last ditch attempt at showing him I’m serious about not wanting to go.

September 12, 2012
I’m so thankful to finally be getting some place to call my own.  I’m happy for the space and the privacy.  I’m happy for control over the kitchen and the remote control.  I’m happy that my daughter can laugh and play as loud as she wants to in her very own room.  I’m happy to have space for my parents to stay when they visit.  I’m happy that I’ll be able to have friends over any time I’d like.  I’m just happy.  And although it may be short lived, I’m going to let that feeling be and enjoy it for just a little while.

September 15th, 2012
As confident as I am that the decision to end the marriage (although not the simplest) is the best thing for me, I still have my days where I panic and wonder if what I’m doing is really the right thing.  I mostly worry about how my decision will effect my daughter’s life.  If I will get enough time with her.  If she will have emotional trauma.  If she will resent or blame me someday for being the one who broke up the family.  I do have selfish concerns as well, like what if the person I’d like to move on with doesn’t happen to live in Saudi.  What if I have to be alone for a while.

September 22, 2012
I think I’ve talked about this before, but just before things all went to Hell between The Mr. and I, life was perfect.  He’d straightened up practically over night and became my dream man.  We were spending time together as a family, we were looking at buying a home, and planning on having another baby.  Nothing could have brought us down.  Except what did.  Just when I felt like my life was coming together, it all came crashing down.  I feel a lot like that now, and I have all week.  I’m scared to get too comfortable or too happy because chances are it won’t last.

I know I’m my own worst enemy.  I know what I should and shouldn’t do.  I know that I shouldn’t dwell on the past, use past events to judge the present, or worry about the future.  Maybe it’s my hormones, maybe it’s part anger about being here, part stubbornness about not being THAT unhappy here after all, and part fear and uncertainty about my future.  Whatever it is, it’s definitely taking its toll on me.  I need a break.

November 8th, 2012
The Mr. asked me once again last night if I really wanted to live in the States (as if that’s some sort of mystery still), and I answered yes.  The answer will always be yes.  I fantasize about having a cute and artsy little place all to myself, working enough to pay my bills, having my family close by, and not having to depend on anyone.  But it’s just not possible for me to be the kind of mother I want to be living in a different country than my daughter.

November 11th, 2012
I’ve not had my own room since…actually, I can’t even remember when.  Maybe the 10th grade.  No joke.  I’ve shared with siblings, roommates, a boyfriend, a husband, and a child.  People say that the bedroom is where the magic happens.  I think by magic they must mean sleep.  Beautiful, uninterrupted by someone else’s quirks, sleep.  As a parent who didn’t sleep through the night for 6 solid years (pregnancy+my daughter’s nightly “please come and cover me” routine until she was 5 years old), sleep is a serious luxury.  In my bedroom, there’s no blanket stealing, no snoring, no kicking.  Only sleep.  Glorious sleep.  There are no clothes on the floor that do not belong to me.  My lotions, perfumes, and makeup are all exactly where I put them.  There are no man-things in my way.  There are no kid-things in my way.  I can make it as feminine as I want to.  My sheets are beige and I am not worried about anyone jacking them up.  My pillows are all for me.  Every side of the bed is MY side!  It is my sanctuary.

November 14th, 2012
The good thing about being a part of a failed marriage, is that I can now tell other people how not to screw theirs up.  I have the hindsight you’ll wish you had if your marriage goes south as well. Men: Appreciate your wife.  Chances are she does more work than you could ever handle all while trying to maintain her appearance for your sake.  If she works outside the home, that probably doesn’t stop her from also working inside the home, doing most of the domestic chores and cooking.  If you have children, she’s probably the primary caretaker of those children.  So speak up.  Say thank you, and mean it.  Tell her how much you value her contribution to the family, then show it.

November 29th, 2012
As much as I try to work through the idea that I really don’t want to be here, the concept never leaves me and I am never free from it.  Even when I sleep, if I do sleep, I have terrible dreams about being back home and begging not to have to leave, about being trapped, about losing my daughter or being kept away from her.  It just never stops.

December 3, 2012
This morning, I lit my three fall-scented candles as I always do before getting ready to clean, but today I decided that each one would represent 10 years.  Who needs birthday cake?  I blew them out happily, all by myself, with a wish that life that remains filled with the unconditional love of incredible friends and family, and somewhere, someday, somehow, I get to have the new beginning I so desperately need and have been waiting so very impatiently for.

February 13th, 2013
I never dreamed that my life would someday lead me from hearing about Saudi Arabia on the nightly news to actually living there.  Even when my tall, dark, and handsome Saudi walked into the bar where we met, even when this friend of a friend became my lover, then my husband, and the father of my child, I never imagined that his over there would be my right here, just outside my heavily curtained window.  But nearly 10 years after that meeting, here I sit, in the country’s capital, enjoying a nice warm breeze blowing through said curtains on a typical February afternoon.

March 2nd, 2013
I know it sounds a little crazy.  This is what I’ve wanted for a while now…to be separate from him, having my own space and my own life.  This would be the first step to moving on.  But I couldn’t and still can’t get past the idea that my involvement in my daughter’s life would be restricted and would be entirely up to him.

I worry who would she cuddle with in the mornings when she wakes up.  Who will she come to when she’s had a bad dream or can’t sleep?  Who will brush her hair in the mornings, pack her lunch for school, or make her breakfast?  So many things.

I guess these are all things I’d have to face with divorce no matter where we are, but just not to this extent.  And at least back home I’d have her some nights.  I’m the one who does all of the actual parenting, so what happens when I’m not there?  How will it affect her?

I’m beyond ready for a life away from The Mr, but I don’t know if I’m ready to be away from my daughter, even if it’s just a 20 minute drive away.

March 13th, 2013
Once you love someone, do you ever really stop? Falling in and out of romantic love is easy and it comes with the territory in any marriage or long-term relationship. But even if you’ve been hurt or been through rough times, is love something that just goes away? I think love is a constant. It’s not something that is there one day and gone the next. Even through terrible times and experiences, you can’t make it stop. I use love as a sort of post-mortem test on my past failed relationships. If I don’t love them now, I never really did.

May 25th, 2013

I’m afraid that in some ways I’ve outgrown this blog. I’ve mostly learned how to deal with my issues, or at least keep them all safely tucked deep down inside me, so I rarely feel the need to come here and work things out. The things I do want to work out here are now off-limits since people know who I am,  The Mr. is now aware that more than a handful of people read here, and since the people I sometimes have issues with read what I write.

This can no longer be the diary that it used to be, and it turns out I suck at writing fluffy stuff, so I feel stuck a lot of the time. It was much easier when most of my posts were inspired or accompanied by an emotional breakdown or breakthrough of some sort. Now life is normal and I’ve released or worked through most of my crazy and I have nothing exciting to write about. Talk about white people problems.

The longer I wait between posts, the harder it is to find something to write about, and the harder it is for me to be satisfied with what I write. I write tons, believe it or not, and then I either trash the posts or place them in the draft folder never to be seen again. 

Sometimes I’d like to say goodbye to this little work of mine and start a new blog where I can write about the next chapter of my life under the comfortable cover of anonymity, but I know how much what I’ve done here has helped people in situations similar to mine, and I feel almost obligated to stay here. You can take all of this information and imagine how terrible I am at ending and letting go of relationships.

 

I’ll get to the next installment of look back posts tomorrow, but first this. So many things have happened today that some of it must be talked about.

For starters, I’m writing to you from The Mr’s bed. But it’s not what you think.

The great thing about living 3 blocks apart is that if my daughter needs me I can be there in a jiffy. Take tonight for example. I’d just returned home from a night of eating and people watching with a friend when my phone rang. The Mr. was in a panic. He’d gone to a friend’s house to watch soccer and left our daughter and her cousin in the care of his mother, and not long after he left they both had emotional meltdowns and rather than have him leave his friend time, and since I was finished with my friend time, I grabbed some pajamas and made the journey to his house on foot. The girls were calmed, I showered the 5 minute walk off of me, and climbed into my old bed. No idea where he’s going to sleep tonight. Sorry not sorry. 

Before the tween drama, a friend of mine came to hang out. She came because after 7 months in the kingdom she’s had enough of it and somehow miraculously convinced her husband that they and their kids must leave asap. I’m happy for her. And sad for myself. One of the crappy parts about expat life is that people are always leaving. You develop deep and meaningful friendships and then they leave and you’ll probably never see them again and it sucks.

Anyway, we decided to brave the public, because there’s strength in numbers, and have some dinner. We grabbed a taxi and went to a great Italian place on Tahlia street (Google it), stuffed ourselves, walked for a bit, and then grabbed another taxi in the name of frozen yogurt.

Our taxi driver was a Saudi guy, which almost never happens. He was very polite and he didn’t smell. We were ready for a pleasant experience. Until a white SUV rolls up next to us and the two begin to converse in Arabic. Too bad so sad my friend is fluent. The dudes were discussing exactly where we, the women in the back seat, we’re being dropped off at. I panicked, naturally. I was so sure that we were possibly being kidnapped I went to dial 911 on my phone and realized 911 doesn’t exist here. I was so happy when when he dropped us off at our destination and did not kidnap us,  I happily gave him a 30% tip.

We arrived at the frozen yogurt place and got our goodies just before prayer time. A large group of Saudi women joined us in the seating area, along with their African maid who was awkwardly juggling shopping bags and a stroller. They all sat down and ate happily while this woman, lest we forget she is indeed a woman and not an object, stood there watching. I was nearly in tears watching it all go down. I offered her a seat and she thanked me, sitting down with her back now facing her employers. I wanted so badly to give her a hug, a kind word, a scoop of ice cream. The shop was closed. A smile was all I could muster.

After frozen yogurt and a horrifying public bathroom incident, we walked around, did some window shopping, and then went outside to grab a taxi home. As we waited I noticed a familiar logo on the side of an approaching white SUV. I nudged my friend, who happens to be blonde and uncovered, that the religious police were coming. Such a silly concept, the policing of religion. It was too late to run, and dammit, we needed to wait for a taxi. As predicted they peered out their windows, miswak in their mouths, and started in on us.

RP: “This is Saudi Arabia, cover your head.”
My friend made a motion for them to move on, they didn’t.
RP: “This is Saudi Arabia, cover.”
Me: “Why? We are just waiting for a taxi.”
RP: “She needs to cover.”
Me: “Just let us wait for our taxi and go home.”
RP: More rambling about Saudi Arabia and covering
Me: “Inshallah”
RP: “You arabi?”
Me: “No.”
RP: “Ok fine.” Drives off.

I was proud of myself for a minute. I didn’t run. I spoke clearly and confidently. I wasn’t afraid or intimidated. But I was disappointed that I didn’t say so much more. I wanted to ask them why they didn’t lower their gaze. I wanted to ask them why they were sending their time policing people’s choices in head wear when they could be concerned with the maid who was being made to stand and watch while her employers sat and had dessert. Or why they weren’t concerned with the men cleaning the streets who probably haven’t had a break all day. Or with the mothers letting their children ride roller blades through the mall unsupervised. I wanted to let them know that actions like theirs do no favors for Islam and push those who may be having a hard time with it just a little further away. Maybe next time.

On that note, readers, goodnight.
 

A Look Back — Part 1

It’s my 3 year blogaversary, folks. Three years since I made the move back to Saudi. Three years since I was hastily divorced via text message (I didn’t tell you guys about that, but it really happened). Three years since my main mission in life was undoing that divorce and winning back my husband (obviously, I should have let it be, but I digress). Three years since it was all too much to handle on my own and a friend suggested starting a blog to sort out all the things in my head.

You may find a lot of things here that you’ve not seen before, even if you’re a long time reader. Most of the excerpts I’ve included, especially those with earlier dates, are private entries. They’re still too raw and painful to open for the public in their entirety.

As a celebration of three years of progress and with the hope that it will help me to realize how far I’ve come, and to look forward to making even more progress in the years to come, here’s a look back at some of the things I’ve written. Saying this was hard is a massive understatement. But here it is.

June 21, 2011 (First post)
So here I am, back in the Magic Kingdom.  I’ve lived here before, but this trip back is much different.  The first time I came here I was a newly married, starry-eyed, young American girl who thought that this place would be the magic solution to having the perfect family.  Now, after living in the USA for the past 2 1/2 years I have returned.  This time I’m a slightly jaded, more realistic, still young woman who is trying to accept the reality of my failing marriage.

June 25, 2011
I’ve only been here 2 weeks, but loneliness has officially kicked in.  So, I’m going to do what my friends and family would encourage me to do.  I’m going to suck it up, stop crying immediately after I finish writing this post, and know that everything happens for a reason and that it’ll all turn out ok in the end.  I’m going to find myself a job, a hobby, a friend, a good book, or anything else to pass my time.  I’m going to count down the days until vacation when I can see them all again.

June 29, 2011
My husband will be arriving in 3 days.  I’m not really ready for him to come here.  I’m not ready for my “everything is great” front to be busted wide open.  I’m not ready to deal with the reality of my situation.  I’m not ready for the inevitable fights, for the separation between us, for living in different houses, for answering questions.  None of it.

July 13th, 2011
Everyone who I have asked for advice tells me the same things…”you have to move on”, “you have to let go”, “you have to separate yourself” etc.  My parents have both told me to take the time to figure out who I am without a relationship.  Get to know myself.  Learn how to be independent.  I think it is all very reasonable and rational advice.  The problem I’m having is finding out HOW to go about doing those things, especially when I’d rather not.  I’m going to need someone to pry this marriage out of my cold, dead grip one of these days.

July 25th, 2011
I know I will be ok someday, but today is not that day.  Maybe tomorrow.  Because today I still have worrying to do.  I still have hurting to do.  I still have regrets to go over in my mind.  I still have hopes to keep up.  I still have tears that need a place to fall.  Maybe tomorrow.

August 2nd, 2011
I miss him. I have to get through the missing him phase eventually, so better sooner than later.  But it hurts, people.  It hurts at night when I’m alone.  It hurts in the morning when I’m still alone, and there is no one to make coffee for.  It hurts in the evening when there’s no one to talk about the events of the day or the news with.  It literally hurts.  But I have to feel the hurt.  I just keep telling myself that it’s a necessary part of the process and once I’m through this, no matter how long it takes, I will be one step closer to being a whole and healthy person again.

August 11th, 2011
But then it happens.  Just when I’m getting a little comfortable with my plans for my future singledom, Worry knocks on my door.  He insists on visiting when he’s not welcome.  He won’t leave when I ask him to.  He knows nothing of wearing out his welcome.  He usually brings his friend “What If” and together, they are an unstoppable pair.  What if I get lonely?  What if I stay lonely?  What if all of these things I’m planning to do to fill my time are just distractions?  What if I break down?  What if I can’t take it here anymore and I want to go home?  What If is happy that he’s done his job, so he takes a seat and Worry starts to try to break me down.  He tells me that no matter how happy I make myself, The Mr. will still be unhappy with me.  He tells me that The Mr. will never want me back, despite all of the improvements I’m making.  He tells me that no one is happy alone.  He tells me that finding a husband here is going to be nearly impossible.  He tells me that even if I do find someone else someday, it may mean losing my daughter.  He laughs at my attempts for happiness.  He’s a bastard, I swear.

August 17th, 2011
I made an oath to myself and to God that I would not have any male friendships until I was emotionally healthy enough not to fall in love with the first guy who is nice to me.  It’s a problem I have.  I have only recently realized it, but it’s been a problem for a long time.  I realize now that it’s probably what happened between The Mr. and I.  I was alone, he was there and he was nice to me, he spent all of his time with me and I was in love immediately.  I think that it resulted in a very unbalanced relationship where I was desperately in love with him, to the point that I put myself and my wishes and my hopes and dreams last, and pleasing him first.  He grew to love me over the years, but only after I exhausted myself trying to make myself into something that I hoped he wouldn’t leave.

August 19th, 2011
I’ve spent the past 3 nights sobbing myself to sleep.  Although it hardly qualifies as sleep.  Let’s call it pharmaceutically induced coma, with bits of panic and nightmares injected here and there.

September 5th, 2011
I want so badly to continue the process of healing, of moving on, of letting go, of making a new life for myself, but there are so many things that are preventing me from doing so.  I can only move as far as the debris of my circumstance will allow me.  A friend told me yesterday to take the reins to my life here, to take some initiative to moving things along.  I’m trying to do that.  I’ve got the reins in my hands, but my horse is tied to the fence.  I’m want my own space, but I have to wait on The Mr. to do it.  I want to have a social life, but I have to be careful about who knows about my situation.  Even though he’s done with me, I still have to depend on him financially.  I still need his approval and permission to do anything.  It is maddening.

September 17th, 2011
All I want is for The Mr. to come home, hold me tight and tell me that everything is going to be ok.  That he can’t imagine his life without me, and that for better or worse, ’til death do us part, he will always be with me.  I’m so scared of my unknown future and I just need that little bit of assurance that I’ll always have him to lean on.  But that’s not going to happen and I don’t know how to let go.

September 19th, 2011
I have to trust that we can and will make this work and that there is such a thing as an amicable divorce and that I will be the exception to the rule.  While it’s no secret that I still fiercely love him and that I’d take him back at the drop of a hat, I can feel myself releasing my grip bit by bit.  It’s not an obvious feeling.  I don’t wake up in the morning and love him or want him less.  It comes in the tiniest feelings of “I’m ok” when I realize I haven’t talked to him in 2 or 3 days, and that I’m still alive.  Or when I realize that I’m not obsessing over his personal life, not worrying about what he’s up to on the weekends or in the evenings.  When I don’t feel the need to call him on an international call to tell him my plans for the weekend and make sure it’s ok.  When I can go to bed at night and not cry about my situation, but instead can picture the place of my own that I will someday have and what color I’ll paint the kitchen to match the new plates I bought.  I’m not picking fights, I’m not easily upset and I’m letting go ever so slowly.  I find myself focusing on building a strong friendship instead of the loss of the marriage.

October 5th, 2011
I’m learning each day through my experience that sometimes things really do have to fall apart for other things to come together.  And they surely do fall apart pretty frequently, but that only means that better things are to come.  I’m in the fire, but soon that fire will cool and I will rise from its ashes as a better and more capable person.  My mother always told me that life is not supposed to be easy, because then what do you learn.  Wise words.

Octover 13th, 2011

So there I was, sitting on the couch after talking to him on the phone, tears welling up in my eyes, when everything GF, DC and everyone else has been telling me from the start, along with my own advice to The Struggler, finally hit me. FINALLY!  I was my own Person.  I broke it down tough-love style.

Get it together
It’s over
You’re no longer his priority
He doesn’t owe you anything
He doesn’t want to be with you
This is not the end of the world
Don’t let this break you
You are more than your marriage
Suck it up
You’re stronger than you think
You’re going to be ok
Stop crying
GET IT TOGETHER

November 23, 2011
Like tiny slivers of cracks on a once shattered vase, the destruction of my marriage will always be a visible part of who I am to those who are closest to me, but those cracks will only highlight the beauty of my love, loss and healing and to remind me of what I’ve come through.

December 8th, 2011
Today I overcame an almost single girl’s biggest nightmare: putting something together with 1297 parts and a picture for guidance. I was horrified when I opened the box to find all of the parts, which were not labeled, and directions without words.  My first thought was I need The Mr.  My second thought was the hell I do!  I put that sucker together.  I did it all by myself and I only broke one of my mother in law’s glass vases in the process.  I was so proud.

January 19th, 2012

When I don’t think about my problems, when I don’t identify with them, they are not really problems anymore.  There are two ways of looking at my life.  There are the facts and then there is the way that I choose to react to the facts.

My marriage is going through a very trying time, my relationship with my husband is far from normal, the possibility and even probability of divorce exists, I’m living in a foreign country away from family and friends, I am parenting alone, I do not have my own home, and getting around and doing much of anything in KSA is very difficult without a man.  These are facts, but they can only have as much power over me as I allow them to.

February 9th, 2012
You know that scene in Eat, Pray Love where Liz is on the rooftop of the ashram and she’s imagining a dance with her ex husband, and she’s trying to let go, to move on, to forgive herself?  He tells her that he misses her and he still loves her.  She tells him “so miss me, so love me”.  I’m her husband in that scene.  I get what she’s saying.  I can still love him, I can still miss him, but it doesn’t have to hold me back.  It doesn’t have to define me.  I don’t have to let it take me over.  Those feelings can just be there.  They can exist, but they can only have as much power over me as I give them.  Does this make sense to anyone besides me?

February 14th, 2012
Maybe it’s because most people going thru the end of a marriage have to deal with their soon to be ex spouse on a more regular basis.  So I just fall apart on the rare occasions that I not only see him, but stay in the same house with him.  If you’re going thru a divorce and you see your soon to be ex when he’s picking up your kids and things get awkward…you can easily cut your interaction short.  You can close the door to your house, or drive away in your car and no one will know that you start bawling  your eyes out or that you decide to eat half a log of cookie dough out of the fridge.  When you miss your soon to be ex like crazy and he shows up to live with you for 2 weeks and have to just deal with the awkwardness and still somehow NOT present yourself like a crazy person…how the hell do you do that?  Seriously.

February 26th, 2012
If I’m being honest this isn’t all bad.  I’ve become comfortable with myself, with not having anyone to be concerned with other than my daughter.  It’s convenient.  It’s peaceful.  I have time to think clearly and reflect and less things to worry about.  There’s no one to argue with, no one to wait on, and no one to tell me that I’m not absolutely fabulous.

March 12th, 2012
I’ve experienced many versions of love more than once.  Some of them were real, some of them turned out to be nothing more than fleeting feelings based on wishful thinking or lustful desires.  Some of them have faded but a few still stubbornly linger.  But I sit here at 29 wondering if I really know what love is like at all.  I know there is so much in life that I have yet to experience.  So much more living to do.  Many lessons to learn.  There has to also be more love to experience and to give.  I’m just a little sketchy on how it’s supposed to be and when to know if I’m ready for it again.  I WANT it.  I NEED it.  But for now, I’m terrified of it.

March 21st, 2012
Finally, I realize that I matter.  I am smart.  I am beautiful.  I have a mind.  I have ideas that deserve to be heard.  I am not always wrong.  What I say means something.  I am talented.  I am not a fly to be swatted away.  I am funny.  I am caring.  I deserve to be happy, despite my shortcomings and mistakes.  And I’m going to make that happen for myself each and every day. If there is such a thing as past lives, collective consciousness, collective soul then I have bits of me that have experienced this seemingly unattainable love before.  And my soul will not rest until I find it, experience it, live it and become it.

March 30th, 2012
He says he’s coming back here in a few weeks so we can “work something out”.  There’s been talk of reconciliation, but I do not want any kind of reconciliation at this point.  I have come too far to take a step back into a relationship with a man who doesn’t love me completely, respect me, value me or cherish me.  I want my fresh start, my new life, my someday.

April 6th, 2012
So I’m here.  I have to be.  I’ll suck it up for as long as I have to.  I accept that if I’m here, even if it was due to some crap planning on my part, I must be here for a reason.  I don’t really know how I’ll ever be able to move on with my life, but I want to desperately.  I want to be done.  I want it to be over.  I want to hear the words and sign the papers and breathe.  I want to be free from it all in every sense of the word.

To be continued…

Living on a prayer

Do you know that each day when I wake up, I pray that it will be the last day that I live in Saudi Arabia?

Do you know that each night when I sleep I pray that hearts will be softened and stars will align and that the Universe will eventually agree with me that this is not the place I should be living and that I will be able to peacefully and agreeably be able to go home, daughter in tow?

I survive on prayers and hopes and wishes. Forget day to day, I live from prayer to prayer. Seriously.

My latest prayer of course has been to be able to make a trip home this summer. At the suggestion of friends and family, I created a fund raising account in order to raise the money for the plane tickets that I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to come up with. I shared that fund raising page here, hoping that maybe those of my readers who were able to would donate.

Things have been moving along slowly despite a few emails complaining about the round-trip nature of my visit, and I’ve been humbled by the generosity of strangers. Every time I get notice of a donation, I end up in a heap of grateful tears, happy that I’m $10 or $20 closer to hugging my parents.

This evening, just as I was about to go to bed, I received an email from my GoFundMe page, letting me know that complaints have been made about the authenticity of the information I presented, and that if I could not confirm that the information was in fact true, my account would be shut down in 48 hours. I don’t have any information on the person(s) who filed the complaints, but to cover all my bases, I’m letting you all know.

I appreciate that so many of you, most of you perfect strangers, support me even though many of you don’t understand why I chose to come here and why I choose to stay. I understand that many of you downright disagree with my reasons and choices. I even get that some of you dislike me and the things I have to say here, and that’s ok with me.

Anyway, I am here tonight, when I should be sleeping, to ask you all a favor. I know it’s entertaining, perplexing, and maybe even a little bit exciting to have a look into a perfect stranger’s life. I know that to some of you the things you read here are out of this world and that my life at times reads like a novel. But please remember when you are reading these words that they are those of an actual human being. You finish a blog post, close the web page, and I’m still here. These pages that you scroll through catalog my life; in some cases the most difficult and emotional parts of it. I am real. These are real experiences. I’ve never told a lie about my life on this blog. Not one. And finally, despite opening parts of my life and myself to the public for the past 3 years, I have real feelings and your words and your actions have the power to uplift or to destroy them, so please choose carefully.

If you dislike me or disagree with what I have to say, please move along.

If you’re tired of getting posts to your email, please unsubscribe.

If you don’t have anything positive or constructive to offer when it comes to my personal life, please keep quiet.

If you don’t want me to go home for the summer, don’t donate and don’t share the link…just please, please, please don’t sabotage my chances.

Thanks and goodnight.

– Update –

The page is still live and active and I haven’t received any further requests for confirmation of my situation, and I am hoping that it stays that way. If you’re still interested in donating, you can do so until approximately the beginning of July.

Let’s be friends

The best part about blogging is not writing, it is making amazing new friends and contacts from all over the world. And let’s face it, sometimes I suck at being consistent with posts because I get into my little funks (like the one I’m in today) and I just don’t feel like writing. So if you’d like to keep in touch, here you go. I’ll talk to just about anyone, as long as you don’t ask for a date or my hand in marriage in our first email exchange.

If you’d like to stay connected outside of the blog, here are a links to my social media accounts and such (most of which are listed on the sidebar as well).

Facebook — I finally got around to making this! I’ll share blog posts, interesting news on Saudi Arabia, funny stuff, pictures, etc.

Twitter — Links, sarcasm, OMG guess what just happened, and occasional, accidental flirtation with strangers

Instagram — Mostly food I cook and eat, my kid’s awesome fashion sense, and the occasional inspirational stuff

Good old-fashioned email (which I admit I am sometimes slow to return): undertheabaya@gmail.com

Yes, I have Whatsapp. No, you probably can’t have my phone number ;)

 

 

 

More on Hijab and Other Things We’re Not Supposed to Talk About

Several years ago when my personal crisis of faith began and I knew that I could no longer pretend to fit into the neat and tidy box of devout, conservative Muslim that I’d packed myself into, I’d scour the internet looking for people who had felt the same as me. I didn’t need spiritual answers. I didn’t want to be told that this sheikh says blah blah blah and you have to obey because that’s just the way it is. I knew what my beliefs were and what they weren’t. I needed practical, been there, done that, and this is how I did it advice. I wanted to know that I wasn’t alone in the way I felt. I wanted to know that the way I felt was valid.

This post isn’t one where I want to discuss the issue of the nature of hijab. I don’t want to battle about which school of thought believes it to be mandatory and to which degree. I don’t want to know your thoughts about those who don’t believe the headscarf to be necessary. I don’t want warnings of hellfire and damnation or reminders about sacrificing our comfort in this life for the hope of the hereafter. There are plenty of other places on the internet to debate those things (like this post, for example). This post is about something different.

I want to talk to you about what it feels like to be abandoned as a Muslim, specifically as a convert, and specifically by other Muslims. But first, a little background info.

When people ask me about my journey to and through Islam, the question “How did your family take it?” usually arises. People want to know if my parents were supportive, if they threatened to disown me, or if it caused tensions in our relationship. Thankfully, with exception to minor issues that were remedied with time, education, and unconditional love, I can proudly answer that question and say that my relationship with my parents is stronger than ever and even when they don’t understand my faith, they support my choice and my right to practice it. But many converts are not so lucky, so they look to the Muslim community around them for support and guidance.

When I was considering converting to Islam, although I didn’t lose my family, I also searched for Muslims to supplement that family. My parents didn’t understand my beliefs or why I was considering embracing something so foreign. My friends thought the idea of things like fasting and hijab were strange and ridiculous. How silly that I could no longer relax and have a drink with friends. And what?! No more BACON? I needed a community of fellow Muslims behind me. I needed that common ground. I needed people to look up to and learn from. I needed understanding. And of course, as an eager, young potential convert, I received everything I was looking for.

The community in my hometown was small and people were thrilled to meet the new girl. I was invited to homes for meals and family celebrations, I was given gifts, I was allowed to ask questions during religious lectures I attended, and I never once in that two years of searching and studying that led up to my conversion felt pressured or forced into accepting the religion. Once I became an official convert, however, things changed. Support faded and the community seemed to be no longer interested in the shiny new toy that was me. I was expected to conform. Quickly and without hesitation.

I admit that I always found it hard to fit into my local community after I recognized them for what they were. Other than offering salaams to other hijabi women when I ran into them, I kept my distance. And thanks to the newly blossoming social media movement during that time, I did find a great community of friends online. I was excited to “meet” women from all over the country who were exactly like me: young, outspoken women who had embraced Islam and who were loud and proud of their beliefs and identities. It felt good to have that support. 

I met one of those friends in a group for women who were considering hijab. I was 22 at the time and I thought that since the headscarf was a mandatory part of my identity as a Muslim woman, that’s what I was supposed to do. The love and support and encouragement flowed freely. Mashallah’s and alhamdulillah’s were showered upon me and I was congratulated for standing up for what I believed in and for what I believed was the right thing to do. I adopted hijab without a second thought and began to proudly defend my choice to do so to anyone who asked, even The Mr., who at the time thought it was a terrible idea (spoiler alert…he was right).

Time moves on and people grow in different directions. Many of these women are still my friends today. Some have married and divorced. Some have become more conservative or fiercely liberal. Some have left Islam altogether with whispers of “She wasn’t really a Muslim afterall” following them, which makes me wonder about the nature of the whispers that have included my name. The friend who I met in that group, after more than 8 years of friendship, became hostile and arrogant once our views on religion no longer complimented each other’s, and I ended the friendship without a second thought.

I still identify as a Muslim, but it’s obvious to anyone who knows me that my beliefs are of a progressive nature, which is obviously not the most popular movement with Muslims these days. People would rather defend the necessity of suicide bombing when no other weapons are available than the right for a woman to dress as she pleases and marry who she chooses.

I stand by my choice to remove the headscarf, but I can’t help but feel abandoned by my Muslim friends a lot of the time. The response of personal, long term friends to my choice has been mostly crickets, ya’ll. Those same friends who Mashallah’d and Alhamdullillah’d 8 years ago are silent. And I have to be honest and say that even though I’m doing what’s right for me, it hurts like hell.

There’s an obvious lack of support for Muslims who choose to take a non-traditional path. Why is that? If we as Muslims are willing to stand up and fight for a woman’s right to choose hijab and not be discriminated for it, why aren’t we also there defending a woman’s right to remove it and not be a social outcast for doing so? Where is the freedom of religion that Western Muslims hold so dear to their hearts when someone uses that freedom to practice their religion in a way that they don’t agree with? I don’t get it.

My journey to and through Islam isn’t something that is easy for me to talk about. I worry about what people will think of me now more than I ever worried what they would think when I considered converting. It’s hard to be outspoken about things that are supposed to be swept under the rug. But it needs to be talked about, because I know I’m not alone. I know that other women have faced similar struggles and I know that women end up on my blog because of it.

Hijab was the hardest thing to undo, especially as a convert. I’d spent so many years fiercely defending my choice to practice Islam and wear a headscarf that the thought of admitting to myself and my family and friends that I no longer wanted to wear it was horrifying to say the least. I wish I could tell you how many times I typed “I don’t want to wear hijab anymore” into the Google search bar, looking for the support and advice I so badly needed.

So if you’re one of those women who are searching for answers, I want you to know that even though you may feel abandoned, you’re not alone. Here’s the been there, done that, here’s how I did it advice that you’re looking for.

I can’t tell you if you should wear hijab, not wear hijab, cover your face, not cover your face, marry that man, allow that man to take a second wife, divorce that man, accept Islam, leave Islam, come out of the closet or not, move to Saudi or not, or go against your family’s wishes. But I can tell you that no matter what your choice is, I’m one person who will support it and be your friend through it.

People will abandon you and sometimes those people might even be your friends or family, but despite that abandonment, in whatever way you can, in whatever circumstances you’re in, find a way to be authentically you. Be just as proud to go against the grain as you would be do go with it. Don’t just march to the beat of your own drum, dance to that shit, too. You’ll never regret being true to yourself, I promise.