Rouhi’s Rehab: Day 2- My Apartment

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I know I’m a little bit behind in chronology. Life in Egypt is, like I said, unpredictable and often doesn’t follow a set schedule. Plus I’ve been working through the jet lag (more so Shukurah’s than mine) and doing a lot of things to settle in. So I will try to play catch up as quickly as I can.

My apartment is on the 11th floor (which happens to be the top floor) of a building still under construction. It’s not at all uncommon here for buildings to be occupied before they are finished completely, and in some cases that NEVER even happens anyway. Apartments here are generally for sale for ownership, much like a condo in NYC. However, in my case, one was leased for the month I will be here. It was already completely furnished, which increased the rental price of course. However, leases here can be for any length of time- from a week or two up to several years.

My apartment normally rents for $4500 Egyptian pounds per month, but since it is “off season” the final cost was only $3000, which is $400 USD. The utilities are included in the rent. It is actually a very nice apartment when compared to the standard apartment available for the average person. Where I am staying is in the northernmost area of town called “the villas”, which is locally known to be the nicest and most affluent area. I think my apartment reflects this.

elevator

This is the elevator I take to my floor. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a full size elevator in Egypt. They all are just big enough for two people, though 3 will often squeeze in. What I like about my elevator though, is that every time you push the button to call it, Quran recitation starts playing over the speakers and remains playing the entire time it is in use. I tend to believe that one of the reasons I find being in Egypt to be less stressful than the US is because everywhere I go, it seems like Quran is playing. In clothing shops, in cafes, in the cabs, on the streets even at times.

front door

One of the things I was most impressed with when I first saw my apartment was the doors. As you can see, they are much more elaborate than the doors we see on apartments or even houses in the west. This is my front door. I found the blingy gold doorknob a bit amusing. But, it doesn’t turn. It’s just for decoration, I guess. The only way to secure the door- whether from the inside or out- is to lock it with a key.

treedoor

This is a door of another apartment down the hall. I thought it was beautiful, and I really wish we had the taste in the US to make our doors so elaborate and of solid quality.

diningarea

This dining set is what is immediately on the right when you walk through the door. It’s a pretty decent set, as you can see.

sofas

This entire living area is called a “hall” in Egypt. I loved the colors of the sofas and draperies. One thing I noticed last time I was here, was that window treatments are big deal. The colors and fabrics are rich and the presentation is lavish, so I was really tickled that my apartment had the coordinating draperies to match the other furniture.

entcenter

One of the other things I love about Egypt is what a typical westerner might call its “tackiness”. What I mean is, I’ve noticed that the style of Egypt is focused on looking decorative, but at the same time there is not necessarily the same criteria as to what constitutes tastefulness in pursuing that. So as you can see, I have tinsel garlands hanging on my hall walls, and the entertainment center is painted lavender (not quite the match of the red/black color scheme going on everywhere else). Even though my western upbringing registers it as incongruent, there’s something about it that seems innocent and childlike, and so it has become endearing to me.

hallway</a

This is the main hallway of my apartment.

hallceiling

Even the ceiling here has amazing details, as do most of the other rooms.

detail

On the wall are several of these floral stencils, too.

insidedoor

But I think my favorite part was the doors. Like the front doors outside, each room had gorgeous solid wood doors that were a nice touch.

bath1

Bathrooms here are called water closets, or WC’s for short. This bathroom is the first door on the left. I don’t use it, but it’s still tastefully decorated. One of the things I want to point out here is the shower: see how it just sits in the middle of the room, with no curtain or containment? This is something I noticed last time I was here, and apparently is commonplace. You can take a shower in a small bathroom like this one with nothing to block the spray onto the toilet or sink, and the water will naturally drain to a corner of the room (usually behind the toilet somewhere). Any excess water you can squeegee toward the drain, too.

kitchen

kitchen2

The kitchen is the next room on the left. You can see it’s not very big at all. Large kitchens don’t seem to be a priority here, and in fact this one is considered large by comparison. The clothes washing machine sits openly next to the sink, but clothes have to be hang dried- either out on a balcony or on an indoor drying rack. From what I’ve seen, the balconies are used most. Dishes must be hand washed.

bath2

This bathroom is the third and last room on the left side of the corridor. It’s the one I use most, and I’m only including it because I continue to be impressed with the details in the tile work. The red and black verticle tiles are on both sides of the wall, and complement the overall color scheme in the kitchen and hall. But I would have to say my favorite thing about the bathrooms here is that they have bidets! I need to look into getting one for my own house.

girlsroom

I call this room the “girl’s bedroom”. My apartment has a total of 3 bedrooms, and this is the second furnished one. It is the one straight at the end of the corridor. Behind the draperies is a small balcony, which has a limited view.

balcony view to the east, and believe it or not that is not even the main part of Banha

balcony view to the east, and believe it or not that is not even the main part of Banha

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West view from the balcony, the river is part of the nile delta

lookingdown

Indeed, most of the windows open only to other brick walls that are part of this building or the adjoining ones. All of the bedroom furniture in this and the room I use are matched.

wardrobe

One of the main differences between the US and Egypt is that there are no closets here. Instead, clothes are put in old fashioned wardrobes like this one. Although I don’t like what that means in terms of space (there is no way my entire closet could fit into a standard wardrobe!), I like the elegant feel of opening a wood cabinet to get dressed in the morning.

spareroom

This bedroom is the second one on the right hand side of the corridor, and it is vacant. Some miscellaneous things were left in here, such as an iron and ironing board, a generator light for possible power outages, and some other odds and ends. I don’t go in this room, but I wanted to show a picture of it because it shows how clearly the ceiling work looks here. I think it’s a fantastic detail and another I wished we had more of in the US.

mybed

myroom

mywardrobe

And this is my bedroom. These photos were taken before I took full possession of it. I’ve actually moved a few pieces of furniture around and left my clothes everywhere lol, I don’t need everyone seeing that. But it’s clear this room was as tastefully coordinated as the others.

So really, I am very pleased with what I’ve got here. Indeed, it will be that much harder to return home and leave this nice refuge behind (as if that wasn’t going to be hard enough!).

So to conclude, what happend for me on day 2 was basically waiting for the internet guy to come connect the wifi and a late night shopping trip (the one that didn’t happen the night before). I had to be taken some bit out of town for a decent grocery store, and really it was kind of like a walmart with appliances and household supplies on the top level, and the groceries on the bottom. All the produce had to be weighed before it could be put in the cart. There was a complete bakery, meat deli, and cheese deli. I was overwhelmed trying to familiarize myself with where everything was, find the right product among everything on display, and then choose something that was affordable and not to expensive. After it was all done, the grocery bill was $800 EP, which is about the same amount I would spend on an average shopping trip (roughly $100 USD).

In shaa Allah, my next entry will be coming soon!

Rouhi’s Rehab: Day 1

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egyptplane!

I arrived in Egypt yesterday afternoon. I thought that since the longest leg of the flight (8 hours) into Frankfort was overnight, I would sleep well and be somewhat rested when I got here. But between the time difference and my time of departure, I was only getting sleepy when we were about to arrive there. So no sleep on that flight. I didn’t get any on the flight into Cairo, either.

One of the characteristic things about Egypt is that it is extremely unpredictable. I was reminded of this as soon as I arrived. When I came here in November, I was told to pay in Egyptian Pounds when I requested my entry visa. Of course I didn’t have any EP on me, so I was directed to an ATM machine that dispensed in the local currency. I thought I was smarter this time, and went to the ATM first to get the EP before getting in line for the visa. HOWEVER, when I got there, I was told they do not accept Egyptian Pounds, only US dollars or Euros. The ATM only dispenesed EP, and I had no American cash on me. I went to two different windows and was rejected like this, so I got stern with them and told them this is what I had and asked who I needed to speak with to get my visas. They took me to a third window who was willing to take the currency I had, but nicely added about a $30 EP surcharge (without telling me, of course- I saw this when they gave back the wrong amount of change) to reimburse themselves for going to the trouble. This sort of thing is really not unheard of here- and rather than risk my ability to get through immigration I just took what they gave me with my visas and headed out.

Egypt is truly whimsical. Following standards is not a priority, and you can never know how things will go. When I got to customs I was expecting to have my suitcases searched and answer questions as to what I was bringing with me. Instead, I was passed right through the checkpoint without even being requested to present my passport as everyone else was.

Fortunately, getting out of the airport only took me about 45 minutes this time. Last time it was about 2 hours. I had to find my host outside, as they were not letting anyone in to the lobby to meet arriving travelers. Even though I was ridiculously tired, and it was about 80 degrees out, the day was hardly over. I was taken directly from the airport to a nearby mall. The malls here are much larger than the ones we have in Atlanta. We are talking FIVE levels of shops. There are many similar vendors as what we see in American malls- particularly in the food court. And yes, I took advantage of the opportunity to get a halal Hardee’s burger there! But one thing I wasn’t expecting was a security checkpoint (like the kind you have entering a government building- scanner and baggage check) upon entry into the mall. I was told that the reason for this is because malls are sometimes targets for terrorists attacks (on the infrequent occassions they happen). The irony to me in this is that while Americans are so afraid of what happens in Muslim countries like Egypt, thinking it is overrun with extremists and terrorists, they are just as concerned about it and actually going to greater measures to secure themselves against it than we do (at least when it comes to shopping at a mall lol)!

When we left the mall, I saw a group of about 10 men walking past. Four of them were military police, and I was told that the rest were probably troublemakers and they were probably being taken for questioning. What was interesting about all this was that they were all walking like a group of friends- one officer even put his arm around one of the other guys in an affectionate way. There was no sense of anyone being in trouble, nor any unnecessary show of authority by the officers- in fact the opposite! It’s always amazing to me when I see incidents that totally contradict the American stereotype of Egyptians or Muslim nations in general.

I fell asleep immediately in the car ride back to Banha. That was despite rough roads, blaring horns and frequent sudden stops because of traffic. Driving in Egypt is a story in itself, and in shaa Allah I will go into more details about it tomorrow. I will also have to write a separate blog about the apartment I am staying in- it’s phenomenal! I think I spent the entire evening after we got back in last night checking it out, then finally going to bed early around 9:30 PM local time.

Since the apartment still needs a better internet connection, I am writing right now from the cafe I spent a lot of time at in November when I first came to meet and visit with Ahmad, the man I will be marrying here in Egypt before I return to the US. One of my favorite things about coming to Egypt is just this- sitting in a cafe enjoying some tea and the social atmosphere. Indeed it is a daily ritual here for most everyone, and something I miss a lot when I’m back in the US.

The plans for the rest of the day are to go grocery shopping and fix up the apartment in a way I like a little bit in shaa Allah. Tomorrow I will include a lot of pictures in the blog post!

Soaring…yes, Soaring!

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I’ve written a lot of poetry in the past few years about being real, becoming my true self, Finding my real fitra, etc. I’ve written a lot on this blog about my uncertainties, struggles, weaknesses and pain.

Today I’m writing about something very different.

I no longer feel like a helpless ragdoll being thrust over cliffs. I no longer feel like I’m a flailing girl spinning and falling through the air, victim to whatever fated rocks or sudden gusts await me. I don’t feel like I’m trying to achieve something that’s just always a little out of reach, something that is meant for me but never attained.

No, now I feel like I am above earth and wind. I am fully activated, fully bloomed, fully Amy. I have finally become myself, and I am strong, peaceful, purposed, powerful, free, secure and REAL. I am being congruent on the outside with what I believe and value on the inside. I have self respect, and I am living it in my choices. I have value, and I am showing it in my actions. I have worthiness, and I am accepting what I deserve. I have faith, and I am building on it to become even more beautiful in soul. I have everything I need to live the life Allah wanted me to live.

I see now it was never a matter of finding these things, but of activating them. They were already inside, but I was looking for something outside of myself to unlock them. I was looking for others to validate me and accept me. I was hoping that finding security with the world, or even certain other people, would bring security to my heart.

No one could do that for me. Not good people encouraging me, nor bad people challenging me to better myself. Not one person- no friend, family, spouse or lover- could help me come to the next level of my being. In fact, I couldn’t even do it for myself through will power. Sure, I had the insight. I had the desire. I had the self awareness. But that’s not enough.

Only Allah can bring a person into the one He meant for them to be. And surely, Allah wants that for all of us. It’s not that He’s holding out on us, wanting to make things more difficult than they need to be. No, He is being true to Himself and what He revealed, “Lo! ALLAH changeth not the condition of folk until they (first) change that which is in their hearts.” (Sura ar-Ra`d 13:11, Pickthall). Some translations do not use the word “hearts”. Some just say “themselves”. But in reality, it has everything to do with the heart. Why? Because we cannot serve Allah truly, we cannot worship Him properly, unless we make the pure intentions in our hearts to do so.

And in the end, that’s what it boils down to. That’s what makes Allah come running to us, as we begin crawling to Him. When we sincerely intend to submit ourselves to His plan for our life, His ways, and His qadr, we know we have to do something to show that sincerity. So however weakly, we begin to act on it. And true to His words, Allah comes and finishes what we could not possibly finish on our own, and raises us to levels we would’ve never reached in our best attempts.

For me, it was something very simple. Something I had already been doing in many ways, but never as a conscious decision per se. It was just natural, I guess, and it never struck me that putting my full attention to it and making it a more deliberate part of my submission was the key to my needed change. It was simply, observing the proper boundaries with non mahrem.

Like I said, this has never been a big problem for me. I don’t talk to any non mahrem regularly. The friends I have who are non mahrem, I am easily able to maintain propriety with. But like someone blinded, I struggled to maintain the appropriate boundaries with my ex husband, who continually challenges me to change or except them for him.

For a long time I thought I had to fix this problem with him. That I had to figure out a way to set something up for him specifically, and do it in a saavy way so as not to trigger his hurt feelings and cause his wrath and punishment to come back on me. I never could figure out a way to, until I came to a place where I was nearly forced to.

As I was driving to work Monday morning trying to solve this longstanding problem, I realized that I just needed to make my intention to Allah to follow the prescribed Islamic adabs with all non mahrems. Then I could tell him I’m doing it with everyone, and he could find no fault in that. I committed to doing it, and felt at peace. I followed it through, and though it was met with some initial resistance, everything is as it should be now. Everything is in balance.

And so in the past few days where I’ve been watching it all align, I’ve also watched myself transform without any efforts on my part. Everything else unrelated that was out of balance, was also re-aligned back to where it should be. And the satisfaction in the way it all feels and is happening, there is NOTHING I would do to sabotage it. It’s unthinkable! It’s been a truly amazing and humbling experience, and has made me realize so many other things about myself I hope to share here soon in shaa Allah.

But for now, I’m content and delighted to be one woman, instead of a fragmented girl.

So now that I understand better how the economy between our hearts, actions, intentions and Allah’s blessing, raising and support works, I will be striving to explore it more and teach it to my children. I will be doing all I can to gird myself to this new place, as this new person. It’s a phenomenal thing, and it’s something I hope everyone can find a way to experience for themselves.

Allahu Akbar!!!

Oh, Gaza!

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I was standing at a bus stop in downtown Atlanta, waiting for the Marta bus to arrive. I never spent much time downtown, so I was looking around at the cars as they passed by, the roads shaded by the tall skyscrapers’ shadows. There were cracks in the sidewalk where I stood, and a presumably homeless man sat against the tiled wall next to the entrance of a hotel. Next to me stood a businessman, I guessed. He was talking on his cell phone, looking up through his Tom Cruise sunglasses. He was clean shaven and dressed in a suit and nice tie which was a muted shade of yellow. He was waiting for the bus, as well.

Then the sound came, loud like it was happening all over the earth at once. It got louder and the pitch changed in a way I couldn’t readily comprehend. Something was approaching. A bomb? A meteor? A whole entire planet? The Hand of God itself? I don’t think it mattered- the inevitable conclusion was fixed in my heart, that this was my last moment alive.

I looked at the business man, who had since removed his glasses in alarm. He looked back at me, then turned to the homeless man, who gazed back at both of us with eyes which had long ago become familiar with accepting the inevitable. We all realized, at that one final moment, that we were in the same boat together. The businessman, the homeless man, and everyone else now running, screaming their panic in the streets- we were all equal in this, our final destiny. None of us could help each other, none of us could save each other. We could do nothing except live what was to come, our end.

I awoke crying from that dream nearly 8 years ago. It was so real, so gripping. And yet, it’s what people in other parts of the world are living every day FOR REAL.

The other day I was making wudu in my bathroom. As the water flowed from the faucet and dripped down my arms, I looked at the sink counter. It was clean, a little cluttered, and cool. It wasn’t covered in dust from rubble, or streaked with blood…as other sink counters were at that very moment. I finished my wudu and looked out the bathroom window, where the trees were green and the sky was blue. I knew the sky in Gaza was grey with smoke, dust and ash, and the trees leafless outside most of the broken windows.

I prayed on my rug. A rug not tattered, in a room that was cool and comfortable. I thought about the Gazans, about the many praying on just bare cement- their prayer rugs long left behind in a hasty vacating of their homes. There is no electricity, no air conditioning, no barrier between them and peril where they are. How can I think that my life, as I know it, is guaranteed to always be this way? Theirs wasn’t, theirs wasn’t.

Every day the peace and ease I enjoy seems like an illusion. I can’t forget how easily it was snatched away from those in other lands, and how easily it could be snatched away from me, if Allah wills. I am not better than the Gazans, the Syrians, the others around the world living in conflict. I am just someone fortunate to have what I have, as long as I have it.

My heart is not in my vacuumed carpet. It’s not in my cupboards full of food, or the blankets on my bed. It’s not in the fan that spins to my right, or the keys that I press beneath my fingers. It’s not in the phone that charges under my left elbow, or these day old clothes I wear right now. Although I am very, very grateful for what I have- I want these things for my oppressed brothers and sisters and not myself. They’ve earned them, they’ve earned them, Subhanallah.

Ya Allah, every time I make dua for the Gazans, the Syrians, the endlest nations who are being treated in the worst of ways…when I think of all Your beloved creation being demeaned, tortured, killed, and all manner of unimaginable things befalling them, I am speechless. What words can there be for what’s going on? What words will save these horrible things from happening? What words can express what I and so many others want for these martyrs? All I can do is cry, and love, and feel. My words cannot carry what my soul wishes for them. Just, please, Ya Allah. Please. Make it right.

Tears for Palestine

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The first time I ever heard about the conflict between Israel and Palestine was in the early 90’s, when I was in high school. I had read an article in Seventeen where two young women -one Israeli, the other Palestinian- were interviewed about the true nature of the conflict. Both of them wished for peace. Both of them did not wish harm on the other country’s citizens. Both of them felt that things had gotten wildly out of control, and that a peaceful solution could be reached. Yet both described the core dispute as one over land, land they each claimed their people had a God-given right to.

Looks like nothing’s changed in over 20 years, unfortunately.

Soon after reading that article I converted to Christianity. Christians tend to side with the Israeli’s, who are predominantly Jewish (there are Muslim and Christian Israelis, too). Christians, having adopted the Torah into their Bible as the Old Testament, still believe that the Jews are God’s chosen and that Palestine etc is the promised land God charged Moses with leading His people to. I was too young to care to understand the complexities of history and politics, so I followed the party line. Not passionately, but the belief stucture made enough sense for me not to think about questioning it.

After becoming Muslim, I realized that those Philistines mentioned in the Bible are the ancestors of modern day Palestinians. The same Philistines the Jews often killed and fought repeatedly in the Old Testament (usually at “God’s command”) were still being fought…but was God truly commanding it? It seemed like the biggest flaw from what I remember reading was that those ancient Philistines were of the ‘uncircumcised’, and practiced idolatry. Modern day Philistines are majority Muslim, which makes them both circumcized and anti-idolatry. Seems like a significant enough change to end the bloodshed, I would think.

The thing is, I don’t let the religion I’m practicing (then Christianity, now Islam) tell me what to believe about God. I have an innate understanding and belief about Him, and I follow the faith that aligns most with what I already know of Him. This is what I know: Even if God did promise a particular plot of land to a particular group, He would also most likely tell them to share with those who wanted to live among them, to live peacefully with surrounding groups, and not to fight with another people unless there was a serious need for it. He would command tolerance and compassion, not violence and hate.

Even though I became muslim over a decade ago, I didn’t become a “jew hater”. A lot of muslims unfortunately have a disdain for Jews because of Israeli oppression and divergent theology. I never adopted that. In fact, I have several friends who are Jewish, some more “practicing” than others. They don’t shun me for being Muslim. Our friendship supercedes that. We can get along despite our differences. And I think I can safely say that they are just as horrified at the crimes against humanity as I am, or as any humanist would be. None of us want conflict, bloodshed, or tyranny. All of us believe in finding a peaceful solution that works for all (and they do exist).

What is not being highlighted is the fact that what REALLY is going on has nothing to do with land, beliefs, God, ethnicity, religion, or even politics. What we are seeing is really an attack on the human race by forces we don’t see, and often forget. Our war is not against one another, but against a common enemy. He might be chained during this month of Ramadan, but he is clever enough to create enough discord among men to sabotage the strength we might have against his forces. We are all victims and vulnerable in this regard, and that’s why it’s so important we find a way to unite on our common human ground and realize the nature of this reality, this world, who we share it with, and what our true purpose is. If there is a way to remember Who is our Lord, the one we ALL promised ourselves to, then we can begin restoring our innate purpose and potential. Then we can end these mortal tragedies.

Flipping the Coin

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I’ve been working through a particular ambivalence. It’s about remarrying.

A large part of me has no desire whatsoever to remarry. My life is busy with my kids and work, and I am enjoying my new freedom. I don’t miss the emotional investment into another adult and their lives. I don’t miss putting a husband as a priority over myself and my own desires or whims. I don’t miss sharing a home with a man. I love having my space feel like my own and being able to do as I please without having to clear it with anyone.

But what I do sometimes miss is companionship and intimacy. I know that’s normal, considering I’ve been attached to a male significant other all of my adult life. I miss making out, I miss hanging out and watching movies in bed with a bag of candies, I miss joking around in walmart and holding hands in the car. Stuff like that.

But do I miss it enough to want to marry again? Honestly I don’t. And that’s what I’m having a hard time with, is that in Islam it’s only one or the other. It’s only marriage = companionship and closeness with a male, or singledom = none of the above. I don’t like having only the two choices. It’s not like I’m going to go ‘break code’ and get a boyfriend, or a FWB. That was never my way even before becoming Muslim. Even then, I dated with the intent of finding a suitable husband, or moving toward marriage. But now….I’ve had marriage- 15 years total of it. And I’m a bit full of it’s taste.

Sometimes I wish I could marry someone who would be willing to live in his own separate house and have his own separate life, allowing me to retain my current level of freedom. Someone who would get together with me on evenings and weekends to be ‘husbandly’. Maybe even someone who would be satisfied with a long distance relationship. Unfortunately, the only muslim men I’m aware of who would entertain such an arrangement would be someone looking for a second wife. Having been in polygamy already I know that’s not what I want, either.

I suppose things wouldn’t seem so bad if I was surrounded by family and friends and spending a lot of my free time with them. But the reality is that I’m not. My friends and family all live thousands of miles away. The only way it could be remotely like that is if/when I move back to California. So that is making me think perhaps I need to do that. Meaning sooner than I originally planned. I find the idea exhilerating, but it rubs against my sensibility. I have a house that hasn’t built up much equity here. I have a stable job. Jed is just starting high school and developing his college goals.

The rational side of me says I should stay the next 6 years until Eden graduates high school, and in that time pay off my debt and build equity in the house so I can walk away with more cash in hand. Then I would be leaving with only the two younger kids. Jabiyr would be starting high school by that time, and Shukurah would be ready for kindergarten. It’s nice timing, and a solid plan.

But on the other hand, I’m reminded that I’ve spent the past 20 years living pretty much vicariously. I’ve made my life about whatever was going on with my ex husband(s), and never really lived my own life. I made a lot of choices that were not necessarily what I wanted, but what I thought was needed. I am almost 40, and I feel like I’m tired of waiting for my own life and dreams to begin. I have my own direction and path I want to choose, but the sacrifice would be a degree of stability.

It’s the same old dilemma, I guess. Do I choose something reliable and safe, like I’ve always tried to do? Or do I finally blaze my own path? Marry or stay single? Stay in Atlanta or go to Cali? Movement or stagnation? Selfish or unselfish? Is that even the right question?

I feel pulled by the invigorating lure of changing the game and taking some risks. But I’m also grounded by my sense of obligation to my kids and overall responsible nature. But maybe a decision I’m thinking about making much sooner will help me clarify my inclinations…

…I had been planning to go to California for a trip next week. I haven’t been able to get a good flight on plane tickets. I have always been able to find tickets under $300, but they’ve not come below $400 for those dates. In fact, they’ve been averaging $500-600. This is way beyond what I can afford, since I was going to be bringing one of the kids with me (originally it was going to be Jedidiah, but due to some recent significant changes in circumstances I decided to bring Jabiyr instead). I still need money for the rental car, food, gas, and other expenditures.

I have a sum of money right now, and I am actually thinking about driving out there instead. Take a long road trip, visit with family for a few days, then come home. My new nanny and her son would accompany me. It would be quite an adventure! One I desperately need right now. I am intoxicated with the thrill of the idea.

Yet, my conscience reminds me of all the other ways that sum of money could be better spent if I just forfeit the trip altogether. It tries to sweeten the deal with suggestions to take the kids to White Water or even to a nearby beach town for a weekend. But it’s not enough to satisfy that passionate recklessness in me.

So what will I do? Right now I’m still undecided. I don’t know what will push me in one direction or the other. I don’t even know what I would need to know to make a choice. I desperately need a vacation and break from everything that I’ve been dealing with here since my last trip out there. I need an adventure, a memory to savor in my old age, a story to pass down to my grandkids.

But I also need to be wise. But what happens when the wise choice- the very thing I decided a while ago to guide myself with- is not the most satisfying? 

 

What’s Different This Time?

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I often find myself thinking about the differences between this most recent time I divorced my second husband, and the previous time at the end of 2012. Of course it feels totally different, but that’s nebulous. It makes me ask myself, is it actually different?

Looking back at that time, I felt a lot of uncertainty and insecurity. I felt desperate to find clues as to what my future would look like. In the back of my mind, I wondered if I had done the right thing. I wondered if I had made a hasty decision, since it was precipitated by a single event instead of being something I had planned out with deliberate thought. I questioned whether living in the house together would’ve made a difference, or having a little girl, or even him getting a job.

Even while I was in California last year, I was seeking something I couldn’t describe. Security, familiarity, comfort….whatever it was it seemed out of reach. I felt unmoored and directionless. Sure, I was glad to be out of a stressful situation, but I felt unprepared to go forward. I didn’t have a plan or a sturdy sense of self-worth.

Last year, after we reunited, I learned what it was like to live in the house with him, to have a daughter with him, and for him to have a source of income. It didn’t change a thing. Not a thing. So I began thinking -rather quickly after our reunion, actually- about what I really wanted. And it was not that life I was experiencing with him. I wanted out, but the situation was not exactly ideal for that. I tried getting out in several ways, but they backfired for various circumstantial reasons. But I wasn’t about to give up, because I knew what I really wanted. I begged Allah for it nearly every day, to make it possible, to make a way for me to go forward without him even in spite of all the factors that had come into play.

Masha’Allah, in the end I gained that victory. And you can bet I made certainly sure that there were no hidden loopholes to negate the divorce like last time! It’s final and clear this time, and I feel such peace, such confidence, such certainty that I have put myself and my family in the right place.

I don’t in the least feel insecure or uncomfortable. I don’t feel like I need someone, like I felt before. I feel content and satisfied and capable of going along as I am as long as necessary. Don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to remarry eventually. I don’t have an ultimate plan to continue into the second half of my life forever single, and dying a lonely old woman. I value companionship, and I have a lot of love I would like to give someone. But I am never going to settle again. If I do ever remarry, it’s going to be someone who I will be able to enjoy a much healthier marriage with than I did with my first two husbands. And if I don’t ever remarry, I really feel I can accept that and still have a full, meaningful life.

Another difference I notice is  that I truly have stopped needing validation from others like I used to. I feel confident in my own thoughts and feelings. I accept my own reality and views, even if others don’t. I’ve learned how to give myself what I thought I needed someone else to give me. And that truly satisfies. I find peace in deciding what I want for myself, and creating a plan to achieve those dreams. I don’t feel hindered by unmet needs inside.

These aren’t just things I’m saying trying to convince myself, or pump myself up. I’ve always had a personal integrity to write what I really feel and think, even if it comes back to bite me in the tail someday. This is my reality, and this is my joy. This is my peace WITHOUT the freefall.