I’m back with my annual craving to get my thoughts out into the world. I always feel this way as my anniversary of living in Saudi and my next birthday both approach. And I’m always drawn back here, to my old blog, where the new me was born so many years ago, to plant my feelings so I can come back to see how they’ve grown this time next year.
As I approach my 11th(?!) Saudiversary and 36th birthday, I feel a kind of peace in my life that I, at one point, believed was impossible. There’s nothing I’m anxious about. There’s nothing I’m desperately wanting. Other than the completion of the final stages of my official marriage permisson, there’s nothing I’m eagerly awaiting. I am content. Settled. Free. Loved. At ease. Alhamdulillah.
I spent my morning today at the passports office, a place that formerly would guarantee me a panic attack, trying to get my iqama (residence ID card) updated. I chatted casually with Abeer, every English speaking female visitor to this office’s personal guardian angel. Abeer has several Eiffel Tower pictures and statues, a book titled Get Sh*t Done, and an English textbook on her desk. I’m going to try to be her friend, just wait and see. She offered me a seat at her desk as she attempted to get an answer about my situation, and I settled in to wait.
I watched as she both sweetly answered questions to fellow Arabic illiterates and unashamedly scolded the women who ignored the signs (that she designed, she says) posted everywhere about not covering their faces, when I saw the familiar look of fear on a stranger’s face. I didn’t hear her, but I saw a divorce paper in her hand, and I knew that if she was sent to speak to the only fluent English speaker in the office, she was a fellow former foreign wife of a Saudi whose world was currently a whirlwind.
I’d given up my seat after a few minutes to an elderly woman and remained standing next to Abeer’s desk, swaying back and forth, trying to breathe through my searing back pain. The seat was briefly empty and I was ready to reclaim it when the woman with divorce papers in hand approached it, and I insisted that she please take it and relax. She looked tired.
She asked me where I was from. She too had lived in the States for 20 years. She asked me if I’d also been divorced, if I also had kids. I told her I had been divorced a while ago. That I’m happy here. That my life is good here. She couldn’t believe it. She was in awe that I have an apartment in my name, that I work, that I get myself around using Uber. That I drive. She told me about herself as well. Five kids. Divorced a month ago. Exhausted. No idea what to do or where her life here will lead her. No family here of course, and no friends. No community. No circle. The things that have kept me going here. Abeer encouraged us as she heard us chatting. I gave her my number and urged her to get in touch. And I really hope she does.
Life has been so good to me these past few years that I have at times forgotten that it wasn’t always this way. I sometimes take my happiness for granted. My stability. My contentedness. But God has impeccable timing. I saw myself in that woman today. I felt her. And my struggles all came flooding back. I was her, and not that long ago. Alone and afraid and unsure of where life would lead me.
I left the office with Abeer’s phone number and went out to find my Uber. I found the woman outside again and showed her my phone and how Uber works. I told her not to worry, she will find her people. She will find work. She will make it here. I asked her again to please call me. I reminded her that she is not alone here.
I climbed into my Uber and quietly thanked God for everything in my life on my way home. Especially for the struggles, because where would I be without them? Who would I be? How could I ever appreciate this life I have without them? I’m so grateful.
As always, readers, wherever you are in this world, and whatever life you’re living, I hope you’re well. I hope you’ve taken the time recently to stop and appreciate your life, however difficult it might sometimes seem.
I hope that if things are not going well for you, you can be patient and know that your struggles will help bring you joy someday. And I hope that if things are going well for you that you’ve taken the chance to be a friend to someone, to pay it forward, and to pass your blessings along.
Love (until next year, probably),