I’m not usually in the practice of sharing emails I receive from people. But I opened my email this week to find the following message:
“I clicked on some of our old emails about trying to get together at the same
time I happened to be on a blog called UNDER THE ABAYA. I thought it was you, but
wasn’t sure because the author of the blog sounded HAPPY!! Don’t get me wrong, I
sincerely hope it’s YOU. But, then someone asked for “your” email & the name didn’t sound
familiar, so I went back to our emails to double-check your name and that wasn’t it.
Just wanted to know if that’s your blog? Is that you? Your gorgeous? What happened?
I have a ton of questions!! Only because last time I read your blog, you were up and down
and miserable, blah, blah, blah. And, I kept thinking, I hope she gets back with the hubby
because it’s OBVIOUS she loves him & he loves her.”
I often look back at old blogs and old pictures of myself and realize how much I have changed. I can see the differences in myself, but most of the people who know me well enough to have been through this transition with me have, for some reason, never acknowledged the changes I’ve been through. So I didn’t realize that they were noticeable to most of the people in my life.
And then someone commented on an Instagram picture asking what had shifted in me. How is it that I am happy? And I had to think long and hard about that, you guys. Because on the other side of this change that I’ve been through, it is not only hard for me to recognize myself at different stages, it is hard to recall how I got here. But I’ve worked it out for you…and for me, should I ever need a reminder.
Firstly, I chose happiness. This doesn’t mean that I woke up one day and instantly became happy. But there was a definite choice that I was not going to allow myself to live a miserable life, no matter what kind of circumstances I’d gotten myself into.
The choice to be happy is not the solution to your problems. It is the goal. Your end point. It is opening the map and circling your destination. And there are a LOT of detours along the way, so be prepared. But if you don’t consciously make the decision to be happy, to decide where you’re going, you’ll never get there.
For me to set out on my journey to happiness, I’ve had to let go of a lot of things. I’ve had to let go of the need to control my circumstances, because there is no such thing as control. I’ve had to let go of the wheel at times and let others do the driving for me. I’ve had to let go of my ego and the need to be right. I’ve had to let go of being a victim and blaming others for my own choices. I’ve had to admit that I don’t know how to get where I’m going. I’ve had to be ok with being lost at times because I have been lost a LOT.
Letting go of the need to control helped me to deal with my anger. If control of a situation doesn’t exist, then there’s no use getting angry over something you can’t change. I was a terribly angry person when I came back to Saudi. I was angry at myself for agreeing to come. I was angry at The Mr. for using my emotional vulnerability to sucker me into it. I was angry at our marriage counselor for telling me I was a bad mother and our daughter would have a better life in Saudi. I was of course angry at the entire country of Saudi Arabia, the greater Arab world, and everyone living in it. I was angry at Islam, and I still am sometimes. I was angry with God. Letting go of anger has been the most difficult bump in the road so far for me. It’s still something I deal with occasionally, still something I’m trying to let go of.
Letting go of the need to be right has opened me up for learning. It’s a powerful thing to admit when you’re wrong of you’ve made a mistake. If I knew earlier in life that opening up about my mistakes and weaknesses would make me a stronger person, I would have boarded that train long ago. It’s ok to mess up. It’s ok to not know it all.
I have leaned on friends and I’ve learned to be weak. I have accepted well-intended, unsolicited advice when its been good for me. I’ve learned to let go of less than beneficial friendships. There are not many people who are allowed in my inner circle and that has created room for deep, meaningful friendships with those I’ve allowed in. I’ve allowed those people, the ones on the inside, to tell me harsh truths about myself and my situation.
I’ve had to learn to be humble, and that has been HARD. But learning to be humble has allowed me to see the world through different eyes. I have learned that everyone has a story. Everyone has been through battles. Everyone has experienced loss and change and devastation they never thought they’d come back from. Everyone is beautiful and remarkable and capable of things they have no idea they’re capable of. Everyone is beautiful. I said it twice because I believe it sincerely.
The most humbling act of all has been choosing acceptance. I’ve chosen to accept my situation for exactly what it is. The good and the not so good. That doesn’t mean that I don’t crave for change sometimes, particularly in the man in my bed department, but my life is what it is. And that’s ok with me.
I don’t want to run away anymore. Of course there are days when I curse this place and all who inhabit it, but my life is here now. I’m no longer resisting it. I live here, I’m making it work, and I am happy. Extremely happy. I am happier now, right here in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, than I have ever been in my life. My life is not perfect, but it is great. And I don’t think it would have ever been this way if I hadn’t chosen to allow it to be.
Today, right now, decide that you will be happy. Don’t waste any more of your time being miserable. You don’t have to know how you will get to Happy, but you need to decide that it’s where you’re heading.