There are some things about life that you can never truly understand until you have experienced them first hand. I’ve always heard people say that grief never goes away, you just get used to living with it. We grieve many losses throughout life. Marriages end, once special friendships fizzle out, jobs are lost, grandparents and pets and school friends die. But we move on. We reflect on those losses and we look fondly upon our pasts that they were a part of and we move on. But this has shaken me so deeply. I believe there will always be a part of me that will never be able to truly move on and let go from the death of my father.

The loss of my father has ripped an enormous hole directly through the center of my being. It’s hard to describe this kind of grief. It is bottomless. It is graceful. It is messy. It is riddled with guilt. It is quiet. It is endless. It is filled with rage. It is a crackling fire buried deep in my stomach where some days I’m sure it will succeed in burning its way through me. My mind knows his body is gone and yet the very same mind refuses to accept his loss.

I never realized how much I thought about my dad until my thoughts of him began to serve as daily reminders that he’s gone. I never knew that I could be destroyed by a loss while also managing to continue living and enjoying my life. I’m fine on the outside, so naturally everyone thinks the grief is finished, but inside I’m a wreck. Life ends and Life goes on, it’s so strange.

Strangely, both my best friend and a coworker lost their fathers within weeks of me losing mine. There’s a strange sense of camaraderie between us. I look at these women and I know what they’ve experienced and I know they know what’s going on inside of me without me having to say so and while I hate to see them in pain too, I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that someone around me knows what it’s like in real time. But I’m angry at the rest of the world and the people in it who, while sympathetic to my loss, remain unaffected by it. I’m not even sure it makes sense. It’s the kind of pain I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but at the same time it’s a pain that I wish everyone could comprehend.

I want to go home. I want the comfort of familiarity to somehow dull the pain caused by the chunk of soul ripped from me when he left, but I’m scared that when I get there it will be too different. I’m afraid that my dad’s house won’t smell like my dad anymore. How can going home ever be the same? Is it still home when I’ve lost half of what tied me to the place?

My father’s death has given me a new awareness of life and death and their natures. It has made me consider my own mortality. We think we will die when we get old. Fifty five years seems like a lot of time to live until that’s all that someone has been given and you’re there to witness the end of that allotted time. Death is more present for me now. It is real. Some days it feels just around the corner.

I want to be able to take this experience and use it in a positive way. I want to be able to gain wisdom and to direct my life accordingly in the same way I’ve done so through other painful and seemingly impossible to survive situations. But I’m just not there yet with this. All I have gained for sure is the desire to scream in everyone’s face that they should stop taking their parents for granted.

Visiting Myself

I was going through old blog entries today, visiting myself like I often do, trying to figure out who this woman was who started writing here five years ago, when I ran into this. Most days my previous marriage no longer crosses my mind. Sometimes I actually forget it ever happened. At best it feels like a movie I watched a long time ago, not something that definitely happened to me.

Despite doing my best to block out an entire decade of my life, I still deal with the secondary effects of my experiences, which are delightful: I’m afraid of loss and abandonment. I have a hard time with trust and letting others in. And I still struggle with my self image and self esteem, especially when faced with the disappointment or disapproval of those I care about. But other than these leftover gems, I’d consider myself over it.

This entry was never published. I remember sobbing when I wrote it, and I still vividly remember the day this happened. I remember leaving the entry unfinished. I think I may have shared a version of it with a friend or two. Today I’m sharing it here.

March, 2015

I have flashbacks sometimes. These flashbacks are like reoccurring dreams that take place when I’m wide awake and they’re rarely pleasant. I discovered over the course of my marriage that if someone tells you something about yourself enough times, you begin to believe it. It begins to become a part of who you are somehow, even if you are the only one who can see it. You begin to doubt your own sanity.

In one such flashback, I am taken back to an argument. I wanted out of the marriage. I was standing in my living room. Tan carpet under my feet, sliding glass door at my back, entertainment center to my left, green sofa to my right, and ahead the view of my dining room.

“Look at you, who is going to want you?” Those words stung. They hit me like a punch to the gut. Who would want me?

“No one is going to accept you with a kid.” True, no one will want to take on the burden of raising another man’s child.

“No one will love you.” Am I even worthy of being loved? Look at me.

A lump forms at the back of my throat as I choke back the familiar burn of tears trying to escape my eyes.

“Alabama Man,” he says as he tries to stick out his gut and talk with a terrible Southern accent, spit flying, words slurring. He’s always convincing me that the only man who will want me would be someone who has no other options and isn’t an option for anyone else. The unwanted accept the unwanted.

For the longest time I believed with my entire self that there was no man who would ever find me worthy enough of his sincere love. I had been made to believe that my idea of a loving, committed, gentle partner was a fantasy and that no such thing actually existed. And definitely not for someone like me. Men to me were users and I was meant to be used. My options were to stick it out with my husband or settle for Alabama Man, the lazy, welfare dependent, abusive mystery man that had been crazily concocted and presented to me to remind me of my worthlessness.

I believed it so deeply that it knocked me down to my rock bottom, onto the kitchen floor, studying the blade of the knife in my hand, trying to determine how much pressure to apply and which direction to go and how much it would hurt. It knocked me down so far that the only direction that I could look was up.

Whew. Those were hard years. I’m doing much better now. Those days of believing terrible things about myself are long gone now. I now recognize those terrible things I once believed as lies. It took me a long time to get here, but I now know that I am worthy of love, and I even know how to receive it and accept it. And I can now recognize that the person who said and did these things to me was himself lacking in love. Hurt people hurt people.

Looking back at this helps me come to terms with the fact that the healing from my previous marriage is ongoing, even if it usually goes unnoticed by me. There’s still a quiet voice inside of me that is shocked that she is loved and cared for. She still gets nervous that maybe it’s all just a dream. She still questions the universe about what she might have done to deserve another chance at love and happiness. And this is exactly why, from time to time, I like to come back here and remind myself of what I’ve been through and how it’s shaped me. Perspective is a priceless companion on the journey to self improvement.

What’s Been Up

Hi everyone. I know I’ve been MIA. I’ve been so on purpose. I also know my domain expired. I let it on purpose. Truthfully I’m just not driven to write about my life anymore. I want to keep my life safe and secret and just for me and those closest to me. Although sharing throughout my separation and divorce was extremely therapeutic, sharing since my divorce has felt almost like a chore. I can’t promise I’ll keep writing or if I do, how often, but I think I’m finally ready to talk about something.

One of my greatest fears about living Saudi Arabia has always been something happening to one of my parents. I’m so far, it’s so hard to get home. What would I do if one of them was sick, on their death bed, or needing long-term care and I can’t get there? I thought this was something I wouldn’t have to face for at least the next 20 years. I was wrong.

Friday June 10th, just before sitting down to break fast with my best friend and our kids, my mom called to tell me the devastating news that my father had passed away in his sleep. My mind raced. I didn’t believe it. He wasn’t sick. I’d just talked to him. I’d planned to call him that night. I collapsed to the floor. My hands and body shook uncontrollably. I messaged my dad because I just couldn’t process it. My dad?! I sobbed into my best friend’s shoulder. I called my step mom and listened to her scream and sob incoherently. I pulled myself together to tell my daughter. She screamed. Neither of us ate much for breakfast that day. I didn’t eat much for days. Plans were made and money was borrowed and tickets were bought for a trip home that I swore I wasn’t taking this year for a reason I could have never imagined.

Walking into my dad’s house without him being there was overwhelming but for the next nine days I made it my mission to hold myself together for everyone else around me, especially my dear step mother. I’d lost my father, but she’d lost her husband, a loss that must be impossible to bounce back from, so I was determined to catch her as she fell as best as I could.

Everything from that week and a half now feels like a blur. Friends were there and I can’t even remember what conversations I had with them. So many people came to the viewing and funeral. I must have received hundreds of hugs from people I don’t know. It still doesn’t feel real. I always thought the concept of denial in death was ridiculous. How could someone deny a death? It’s obvious and real and there’s no denying it. But now I realize that denial isn’t a choice. It’s so difficult for my brain to process. One night I made a huge pot of spaghetti and homemade sauce for the dozen or so people gathered at my dad’s place and before I could eat I thought I need to make my dad a plate and set it aside for him. I even said it out loud. It sounds ridiculous, but I still keep thinking of things I need to tell my dad. I’m not sure that feeling will ever stop and I’m ok with that.

There’s so much more I wanted my dad to be around for, but your time is your time and my family and I have experienced the brutal reality of life’s unexpectedly short nature. His death has motivated me to take a serious inventory of my life and my choices. My heart is sad that he is gone, but I refuse to live a sad life. I know he wouldn’t want that for me, especially since my life has been otherwise amazing and he was so happy for me. So I’m still choosing happiness and to enjoy life and to be a good person as long as I’m still around.

Most days I’ve really got it together. I struggle internally with my life’s circumstances, but I get up every day and put on my big girl panties and a smile and do what I have to do to, at the very least, keep myself and my struggle financially afloat. But there are some days (and today is one of them) that I feel such a heavy weight on me and I feel so thinly stretched that I can do nothing other than come home, toss myself into bed, and have a good cry. It’s as dramatic as it sounds.

I have no right to complain about my life. My struggles pale in comparison to those of others in this world. And despite my struggles I’m very happy with my life. But I’m human and there are days when it all just feels like too much. And I want things to be easier. And I don’t want to worry about money. Or my lack of a husband. And I don’t want to be tired all the time. You know?

I’ll be fine tomorrow I’m sure. But please, wherever you are, just send a hug my way.

Forgiveness

I sat at work this morning with a friend discussing life and men and relationships as we usually do when the subject of forgiveness came up. It’s a funny subject, isn’t it? It’s something every single human being struggles with, yet many are hesitant to discuss. We expect it from others but often refuse to give it ourselves. We tuck our forgivenesses for offenses both petty and devastating away inside of ourselves and move on with our lives. We share what people have done to us, but we never share our journey to forgivness with each other. Why? Here’s what I think.

I think that a lot of people view forgiveness as a sign of weakness. “You forgave someone who did something horrible to you? How could you?” The how could you is not a request for information on the actual hows of how you did it, it’s a statement of disbelief. It’s more like an “I can’t believe you forgave him/her.” Because the other person doesn’t deserve forgiveness. But here’s the thing: forgiveness isn’t for the other person.

Forgiveness is not a get out of jail free card for the offender. Forgiveness is a gift you give to yourself when life has given you less than what you expected or deserved in any given situation. Without forgiveness you are left with the burden of carrying the weight of what someone else has done to you. Forgiveness is simply allowing yourself to set down that burden and move on with your life. It’s a release. For you.

Forgiveness is hard. And it’s a journey. Saying “I forgive you” isn’t the end. That’s not it. It’s not a one time thing. It’s a constant, deliberate choice to let go, to not dwell, to move forward, and to be appreciative of lessons learned. But let me tell you, it is a hell of a lot easier than holding hurt or bitterness or hatred in your heart.

I’m not an expert at forgiveness. I still struggle on a regular basis with forgiving my ex-husband. But I do it…sometimes daily. Because life is short. And hatred is too heavy a load to carry and it takes up a place in my heart I’d rather use for love. So, my friends. Forgive. Every single day. I promise it’s worth it.

The Struggle

I try to visit with my daughter most days after work. After all, this is why I live here. To give her a happy life with both of her parents in her daily life. Some days this means she comes to me, and some days I stop by to see her at her Grandmother’s house where she lives with her father, which is what I did today. Usually on days like today I’d have her Grandmother’s driver take me home since it’s only five minutes by car, but he is on vacation and I had some steam to blow off after a particularly trying day, so I decided to walk the 20 minutes home. In terrible shoes. Everyone who knows me is rolling their eyes right now because I’m famous for my poor choice in practical footwear. Naturally I began to develop blisters on the walk home, so I jokingly huffed this popular phrase to myself: The Struggle is Real. And then I got to thinking.

The struggle is not only real, it is necessary. Where would we be without struggle? We struggle to learn in school. We struggle to stay fit and healthy. We struggle to get out of bed in the mornings to get to work on time. We put up with struggles AT work to ensure that we receive a pay check. We struggle to make ends meet financially so we can have a place to live. We struggle to learn to communicate with our partners in relationships so that our relationships remain healthy. We struggle to move on from relationships that are no longer healthy or serving a purpose in our lives. We struggle to raise our children into decent human beings, all with the hope that they will someday learn to bear their own lives’ struggles with grace and humility.

Several weeks ago my ex-husband offered me an apology for the role he’s played in my struggle. It was an apology and acknowledgement I craved several years ago rather than now, but it was nonetheless an apology. I truthfully didn’t know what to say to him because I’ve worked hard to move on without his apology, but I told him I was still working on forgiveness. But today’s blistered feet inspired thinking has me wanting to not only forgive him, but to thank him for the role he’s played in my struggle. I don’t want to know who I’d be if I hadn’t gone on this journey.

I’ve never known an incredible person who hasn’t struggled in life in some way. So, as crazy as it may sound, I am thankful for my struggles. Every single one. Struggles give us perspective, without which we couldn’t truly appreciate the easier times in life.

There’s a concept in Islam that the hardship we face in this life saves us from punishment for our sins in the afterlife. Expiation. But I think it goes even deeper than that. Whatever struggle you’re facing in life, be it emotional, physical, financial, or spiritual, know for sure that it is only playing a part in making you better. So welcome the struggle. Invite it in. Dance around the room with it. Open your eyes to what it has come to teach you. Know that struggle is never placed into your life to break you. It is there to make you into who you are supposed to be. To polish you. To lift you. To shape you. To save you.

The state of my love life is always directly proportional to the amount of Sex and the City I’m watching. And I’ve been watching a hell of a lot of my four old gal pals these days.

You see, I have a knack for attracting men who don’t want the same things I want. Most probably because I have a knack for meeting men in the wrong ways. I’m also great at ignoring the fact that a man isn’t looking for what I’m looking for when I really like him, which leads to me staying longer than I should and trying harder than any sane person would to make it something it’s not meant to be.

What is it I’m looking for? Marriage. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just your basic, peaceful, normal life with someone. And the only men who have expressed interest in marrying me as of late have been taxi drivers. And I’m beat.

Although the local way of finding a spouse does seem like a fantastic idea, I happen to lack the key ingredient for the arranged marriage scenario to work out: family. So I have, up until this point, tried things the old fashioned American way: Meet someone. Get to know them. Feel a connection. Invest time and energy and feelings. Realize that things will never go any further. End up disappointed. Repeat until forever, apparently. It’s just not working out for me, you guys. I just can’t.

I’ve agreed to complete a 30 day commitment challenge with a coworker and with the encouragement of my best friend B, I am going to try to use these next 30 days to focus on myself. I’m going to do lots of praying, a little exercising, and some forgotten reading. I’m hoping a spiritual/physical/intellectual realignment will at the very least help me to remember that I’ll be okay until someone eventually comes along.