At exactly five minutes past midnight on the first day of this year, I layed down on a heap of cold sand and looked into the vast night sky. There were a few stars, not as many as I had been used to seeing of late back then, but it would do.
I looked at them blinking, shining, spinning, and it didn’t really matter that I was in an unknown country, on foreign sands, with nearly a dozen people who I barely knew. I realized that I still felt at home, cause my home was with me, wherever I would go.
I couldn’t imagine why I’d spent all my life crumbling under the weight of people, when lying there with the whole night sky on top of me felt weightless.
I decided that I would spend the next year being enough for myself, being there for myself no matter who was not able to show up, loving myself harder than I had ever done before.
With hindsight, I can say that 2016 probably looked at me at that moment and smirked. Cause I had no idea how much I would need that in the year to come.
It’s been a confusing, transforming, painful, and beautiful year. I didn’t think it would be this hard, but what did I know?
Of the so many experiences that shook me and made its way into me, some still swiveling around not sure how to find it’s place in retrospect, the one I cherish the most is that promise I made to myself on the first day of the year.
You are enough, S, heck, you are too much! (ala Mr. Big from SATC of course!).
I’ve let go of some people this year, made some new friends, been deeply hurt by some of my constants, questioned the point of any love that I give away, had to leave the home I grew up in, I’ve found gratitude and consistency in a job that I really like, I’ve watched the dreams of people I love come true, I watched my own dreams come true in unimaginable ways, I’ve moved on and I have again found powerful love, hosted a global flashmob in my city, fallen head over heels for a few canines, travelled a little, learnt the importance of the oxford comma, actually managed to nail a good number of physical books, met the dark side of my human more often than I would like to admit, moved in to an apartment of my own that remains to be decorated, sat under more night skies and sunsets than I can count, and I have watched the sun climb up into the sky and light it up with unending love every single day.
But what has constantly kept pulling me back up through the lows were the seeds of love and kindness I had planted through the years. I watched how so many of them bloomed into the shade and the refuge I needed this year, at times I least expected, from people I least expected.
Life always comes full circle, so here I am again, on yet another New Year’s Eve, under yet another incredible night sky filled with not too many but just enough stars, knowing that I’ve kept my promise and ready to set lanterns into the sky with wishes for the coming year.
Happy New Year’s 2017! I wish us all the best of the year to come.
Spend more time with mom and dad.
Get more green into the diet.
Learn the violin again.
Get back to reading more books.
Travel the Golden Triangle with my best friends.
Complete the novel I have been writing.
Get over the love of my life.
They say that if you sit by Time’s Square long enough, you will see the whole world pass by.
Now I have never physically been to Time’s square, but I feel something similar about life itself.
It has been my deep belief that if you stick by the same spot patiently for long enough, you will come across what you were looking for. Because the world is in constant motion, and some day, those who passed by one point are going to come back there to complete their journey full circle. And if you were there to meet them when they returned, you never know where things could go from there.
It was January the first, 2016, Friday.
New Year’s. You know, that time when we all beckon to the million calls we ignore all year (or most of our lives) and decide to make everything in our lives right.
Some people call it New Year’s resolutions. I find that definition really binding, so I call it my ‘Yearly Bucket List’. What makes the two different is that a resolution makes you feel as though you need to strive all year long to deem it done. Whereas a bucket list gives you the illusion that it just needs to be done once, and you can strike it off.
So I fill my list up with all sorts of things that seem like a great idea on the first of January. I even toss in a few that I am certain I will never strike off. Like finishing that novel, who am I kidding?
And then there are a few you write down that you are not even certain how to accomplish. You know which one I am talking about, you have it on your list too.
This year I decided that I needed to move on from the man I had been head over heels in love with for close to a decade.
I met him eight years ago, and we were together for four. The years after are a blur of claiming I was over him, realizing I was not, accepting that he did not wish to speak with me any longer, trying to be friends, deciding against it, thinking that someday we would wind up together, thinking that someday he would want me back, fearing he forgot me entirely, trying to remind him about my existence in subtle ways, dating other people, trying to convince myself that other loves were as big as what I felt for him, wondering if he cared that I dated others, stalking every woman he has been with since, accepting that his love will always be a part of me.. you get the drift.
Even though we barely speak, as most estranged lovers/friends/family members do, we mostly send each other a text on three occasions, birthdays, Christmas, and New Year’s because you know, it would simply be inhuman to not if you actually remember. And I always remembered, with him, always.
‘Happy new year you!’ I said, it had to be said. He said it back.
Our conversation didn’t last for more than five basic exchanges. But it got me thinking. Maybe if I texted him often enough, we could actually become friends.
I was hell bent on changing his mind about me. I didn’t want him to actually fall back in love with me, I think, but I wanted him to see me as the person I had become. I wanted him to know me for who I was at that moment, and realize that I was everything he ever wanted me to be when we were together. And then?
Who knew? Maybe he would regret not giving us a shot, and say it to me in a moment of weakness. And maybe then I could finally move on, I think. Or maybe we could just transition into those exes who become friends-who-will-always-be-more-than-friends to each other. I knew those kinds of exes. They were, as we millennials love calling things, ‘goals’.
The years we spent together was a time I spent on a quest to strive harder, to become someone he would want to be with. All those years later, the man still had me striving just as hard. This time, I decided, I would strive to make my way back into his life.
All I would have to do was wait. Be patient, wait, and let him know that I was here. So on that first day of the year, I decided that I would text my ex every single Friday for the rest of the year.
It began well enough. I don’t think he noticed anything at first. Just the psycho ex’s umpteenth effort to get him to talk to her.
Our conversations were brief, and never really went beyond pleasantries. I would ask him how his week had been, he would give me an answer squeezed dry of any real emotion. I would ask him what plans he had for the weekend, and he was always up to nothing much. Nothing much that he wanted to share at least.
Like clockwork, every Friday my mind would go off with an alarm to send that text. Sometimes it was right at the beginning of the day, I would assume that we would be in his classroom. Sometimes it was closer to late afternoon, tea time. Sometimes it was right before I left work, I would picture him reading my message and keying in his half hearted response before he proceeded to drink the night away.
One Friday morning in February, I went to work, plonked on my favorite blue couch, and opened my laptop. The screen was blank, it wouldn’t start. I went insane. The entire day passed in a mix of apprehension and planning what I needed to do to repair my most prized possession as soon as I possibly could.
It was around 8 pm when my phone lit up in my hand. I was trying to locate my best friend after handing over my laptop to a dingy little store which I prayed could do magic for cheap. Make my baby breathe again, somehow.
‘No have a nice weekend message?’ So he had began to see my pattern. I smiled.
That day we came quite close to a real conversation. I told him about how awful my day had been. And then I told him how I had recently written an article about long distance, inspired by him and our relation, of course. My boss said he liked it. I felt the need to thank him. I think we spoke for twenty minutes that day.
Things returned back to the same after that evening. I used several spare computers until mine was fixed, and I still wanted my ex to have a good weekend every Friday.
Somedays, I would sit back and smirk at how it must bother him that I didn’t want more, I didn’t even try. I would think to myself that it probably drove him a little nuts not knowing why I was doing what I was doing. I think that was half the fun of it.
But then there were days he would make his snide little comments that were almost mean but not quite. Not enough to make him a legit bad guy, but if you read the fine print on the Being A Decent Human 101, you’d know better.
I hated that it still got to me, but I didn’t realize how each time I voluntarily shook it off, I shook off a little more of his hold over me. But I still needed that one shake, the one jolt that would set me straight. I got it when I least expected it.
I work at a dating app. I know, it’s an odd sort of job to have, but I love it. One of my personal favorite things about working for love is that you get a chance to retrospect and place your past into neat pockets, structured articles, with clean closures. But that can sometimes be a double-edged sword.
When all day, every day, you are trying to help people find the love of their lives, sometimes you wander into that lane you always get lost in, no matter how hard you try to steer clear of it. The love of your own life.
It was March 11th, Friday. I was on a ride back home from work when it happened. I don’t know what the trigger was, but I found myself bending over, holding on to myself for dear life, wishing that it would stop, the love. It had to stop. It had to leave me, all of it, all of me.
Was I going to spend the rest of my life a little in love with someone who would never love me back?
I couldn’t breathe. Something inside me was contracting, shriveling up, and I could feel it’s weight, ounce by ounce, coming together and knocking me down.
I don’t know how I made it through that ride.
The next day was a big day because of the day after. The day after was an even bigger day, it was the flea market day, and we had spent close to two months preparing for it. I was on yet another ride to a friends place when he texted me, out of pattern. An extra text on a Saturday, I wondered what was happening.
And then he said something to me that I will never forget. And suddenly I knew that I would never love him again.
You see, that was when I realized just how difficult moving on could be, or just how easy.
When we were together, I had confided in him a certain something that I rarely ever tell anyone. Oftentimes I have felt the silence on his tongue want to throw it at me, but until that day, he could never bring himself to say it out loud. Not even when he looked me in the eye post-breakup and said to me “Let us tell each other mean things and get it out of us”. I had nothing mean to say, and he chose to taunt me with what he would always leave unsaid.
That silence was what kept me hanging on for years. The hope that that silence meant something else, or perhaps nothing at all. But on March 12th, 2016, Saturday, I realized that it meant exactly what I thought it did, it always meant that. He never understood and he would never understand.
My only regret was that he didn’t say it sooner. So long, nice guy. So long, my love.
After a lot of thought, I decided that the only way to honestly know if I was over him was to keep at my Friday ritual. This time it was more a test I had set for myself than a snare for him. I had to know if the feeling would ever return if we remained in contact, or if it had indeed left me forever. For good, as they say it, and I finally know why.
Weeks that turned into months passed, there was more jeering from his end, and each time it only made me happier. Whenever he tried his usual antics to rile me up, I thought to myself how I was not with this man, and I never would be again, and how that was downright fantastic news.
It was June the second, Thursday.
That evening I thought about my ex and suddenly it dawned upone me. He was never my love, my love was mine and belonged solely to me. But it chose to wrap itself around him, and until it came back to me, I would never really be able to give it to another. And right then, I decided that I would give it to someone new because I finally felt that I had it back, all of it.
Along the course of all these strange events, there came a man I fell in love with. Head over heels, madly, passionately, ridiculously, insatiably in love with. That afternoon I mustered up the courage to say it to him and he returned the sentiment.
I think it was my favorite June second, it was also my current boyfriend’s birthday.
Speaking of birthdays, you know what they say about those things. It’s one of the few times in a year when you get to talk to those people whom you talk to only on Fridays. Okay they don’t say that but I did.
It was August the second, Tuesday. My birthday.
I thought he would wish me but he didn’t. So I asked him to. I had a lovely day. That was the last time I texted him.
I realized, along the way, that in all those Fridays, he may or may not have seen me for who I had become, but I saw him for who he had now become. Or perhaps I finally saw him for what he always had been.
It was December the second, Friday.
The day before had been his birthday and I didn’t wish him. I believe it is inhuman to not wish someone on their birthday, if you remember. But that’s the thing, I didn’t.
There are those moments in life you look back on and know that it was one of your lowest lows. I remember this day back in 2011, sitting legs stretched on the footpath outside my university and weeping on my blackberry. Beside me sat my best friend, who on repeated occasions I have called my soul sister for sticking by me through days like this one, cringing her eyebrows in concern.
It was a Monday, and that entailed wearing a musty blue blazer and trousers with a white shirt that I could never really call crisp. My blazer was off and my friend kept signalling towards the dust from the brick wall that I was leaning against that was directly in contact with my white shirt. Well, there is a reason it was never crisp.
As the tears rolled down my face I bent my head down, and then looked sideways, to ignore the glances from the passengers and drivers of the cars passing by five feet away from me. I knew they were looking, and I knew they were talking, I was used to being that girl. All I could do was look away and not meet their worried, pitiful glances.
In another fifteen minutes, I cut the call and told my friend that I was now ready to “hang out”.
All my best friend and I have ever done whilst we hang out is walk, meander really, and talk till there is no breath left in our lungs. Sometimes I grab a cup of Costa and she gets a fruit bowl from a roadside stall.
We have never really made plans, or even chosen a path to walk along, we go where our feet carry us.
During this particular walk, for the millionth time in eighteen months, I told her about how difficult my significant other back then was being. Nothing about my loving him made sense to her. But I guess that’s just the thing about love, seldom does it make a lot of sense.
After a good few hours, I decided to call it a day and head home. I walked past ‘our mall’ and took a right leading towards the lane I lived in. I could feel the roots of my hair as worn out as my heart. Somehow, my hair always showed my state of being better than my eyes, the supposed windows to our souls.
As I continued down the pavement, I felt someone buzz by me and stop a few steps ahead of me. He turned to me and said “Hey, excuse me, can I just talk to you for a minute?”
I looked up at the aforementioned individual, quite a striking chap clad in a black satin shirt with a guitar strung across his back. He had terribly unkempt curls falling over the sweat beads on his forehead and a vacant but pressing look in his eyes. I threw him a quizzical glance and said “Yeah?”
That was the first time I met Tommy.
Unfortunately, it was far from the last.
Since that evening, Tommy would somehow infallibly find me every two weeks and approach me. He spoke to me, but I was never really sure what he said. Somedays I thought he liked me, other days I thought he was high on one of his German pills. There were days I thought I had found the mad hatter himself.
He never took more than a few minutes of mine and always let me walk away. Always, that is, until that day.
It was one of the first few days of December, when the chill was setting in along with the joyous season. I was moving to a bigger house a good 8 kilometers away. When Tommy learnt of this (because Tommy knew everything), he stopped me at the mall with my friends and told me that he needed my phone number, lest he ever stopped seeing me. I refused.
We parted ways at the mall less than cordially that day. My friends threw me questioning looks which I refused to acknowledge. I had no answers.
That evening I ran into him again on my way home. We stood by a signal at the red light and he began talking to me. I don’t really know what it was that he said, he told me it was one of the pills making him talk, but I couldn’t move, I had to listen.
I heard him ramble on about his life, his cruel family, his Gina, about days he slept on beaches and roads because there was no place to go back to. He said he needed a friend, earnestly. He asked me for my number again. I gave it to him.
“What do I save your name as?” he asked.
“S” I said, “I need to go now.”
The calls began pouring in after that night. I told him about my boyfriend but he didn’t seem to care. There were times I thought that it didn’t even really register in his brain. There were so many things like that, things I thought didn’t register in his brain.
“I still don’t know your name, this is ridiculous,” he said to me one evening a few days later.
Everything about this was ridiculous, I thought. But instead, I told him my name.
I learnt more about him over the next two weeks than I knew about most people in two years. He called himself The Lizard King, just like his idol Jim Morrison. He told me where he was born, he told me about his brother and his father, he told me about why he never cleared college. He told me that he found Bon Jovi’s Gina to his Tommy, but she didn’t love him back. He told me he hated my country and my race, he hated most things really, but not Meg Ryan. He loved Meg Ryan, she drove him crazy. He told me that he learnt to roll a joint from his African friend, no one could roll a joint like that guy. He told me he dreams of becoming a singer, riding his way through fame in a limo where the champagne and beautiful women are free flowing.
He got me a box of galaxy chocolates that christmas, and I got him a poster. I wrote him a letter but he didn’t take it. I don’t think anyone had ever refused to take a letter I had written them, or ever has even since.
“I need to see you before you leave the country for Christmas break,” he said to me.
He bid me adieu at the bus stop. I missed my flight that holiday and waited five hours at the airport to catch the airplane home.
I spent christmas with my family, my boyfriend, and all my friends. I read his letter, and wondered what would become of the words I wrote in there. What becomes of words that you put on paper for someone, that never reaches them? I wasn’t sure.
I have never spoken to Tommy after that Christmas.
But I know he returned to college and graduated.
Gina got married to another lad.
Five Christmases later, I think of him and his dreams. I think of his broken soul and his undefeatable spirit.
He told me that love was the most powerful thing in the world, more powerful than hate, more powerful than death, even more powerful than life. And he said that Christmas was for those who believed in the power of love.
I wish he has a perfect christmas this year.
n. an image that somehow becomes lodged deep in your brain—maybe washed there by a dream, or smuggled inside a book, or planted during a casual conversation—which then grows into a wild and impractical vision that keeps scrambling back and forth in your head just itching for a chance to leap headlong into reality.
“I am afraid to show you who I really am, because if I show you who I really am, you might not like it–and that’s all I got.” ― Sabrina Ward Harrison
As I sat down on the floor with a big grin on my face, he stood up, reached his hand above the wardrobe and pulled out a box.
“It’s filled with all the little things my friends have given me since school,” he said proudly, with a glimmer of nostalgia in his eyes.
I loved everything about gifts and memories, so I took the box into my own hands and began sifting through it.
Trinkets, I would call them. Whoever said only women kept little things!? Inside was a kaliedoscope of curios. Frienship bands, a tiny book with quotes about love, a scrapbook filled with photographs (as scrapbooks tend to be), keyrings, sketches.
He said friends, but it was mostly all from her, his first love.
“It’s beautiful that you keep all the little things,” I said out loud, ignoring the lump in my throat and trying really hard to stretch the corners of my lips into a smile.
I will fill that box up with my love, I thought. So much that hers won’t even be seen amidst all of it.
Over the next six months of our short-lived relationship, I took it upon myself to ensure that I did indeed fill up that box with my love.
Books, 20-page-letters, photographs, little notes of love, memories from places we visited together, drawings of those memories. My gifts were dowsed in genuine affection and drizzled with a vying to erase her.
Did I succeed?
Well, we parted ways less than cordially after a while. As for her, she remains his dear friend till date. So I am gonna say no, I did not succeed, not in what I set out to accomplish anyway.
But I would like to think that I did grow a little wiser from the experience.
M. G. T. P.
Sometimes it feels like that’s all you are. Another name, another initial, just another person like the so many who came before you and the many who may be there after you. How do you make a mark? How do you leave a mark? How did these other women manage to do what I never seemed to be able to?
The truth, I accepted begrudgingly, was that I would never in a million years be able to completely be certain of who ‘the other woman’ was. It may be the ex, or the one that got away, or it may just be the friend who I never suspected. Maybe there wouldn’t even be another woman, if I was lucky enough this time.
So it really began to look pointless to worry myself sick about that one person who I decided was better than me for my man for some odd reason that I couldn’t even figure out. Where was the trust in this to begin with? Why was I with someone who I thought there could be someone better for?
Several years later, I looked at another boyfriend’s list of ex lovers and loves and heaved a fatigued sigh. This time I decided that I didn’t wanna compete.
This time, I decided to be enough.
Now let me tell you, being enough has not been easy. While there are days you wake up and gloriously look out of the window as the sunshine wraps itself around your skin and whispers “You are so enough” in your ears, that’s not what most days look like.
Most days, you fight hard to shove the thought of her away like she doesn’t exist. You strike your sword against the green monster by repeatedly saying it like you mean it. I am enough.
Somewhere along the battle you begin to understand that you must be enough because you are all you can be. And if that isn’t enough for someone, then you probably never will be. And there isn’t a damn thing in the universe you can do about that. Your call was never to fix the love between yourself and another, it was only to fix the parts of yourself that couldn’t love all of you, green monster and err’thang.
And suddenly, you go back within and realize that you need to hold the part of your being that you keep dehumanizing. You pick it up and hold it gently. You look at it for the first time and see it look back at you like a child you had orphaned. And you realize how much more complete your self feels accepting her back. And the sunshine warms you from within and whispers into your heart “You are so enough.”
He mentioned her the other day, well, in a round-about sort of way.
I wondered what it was about their chemistry that made them click right from the beginning.
I told him that I loved him.
On my last night back home (a place I still choose to call as home), I woke up at an unearthly hour to watch the sun rise.
This may be the last time you see the sun rising on your country, you don’t want to miss it, I told myself. I slept three hours.
I woke up to this. It looked like a page from my Kuwait Social Studies textbook back in the seventh grade. Who knows, I thought, maybe someday it could fill a page in another book.
I knew that there was more.
Miles away from the grainy sand, I knew that there was more. Look at all those footprints left behind by all those feet, treading towards more.
There was more, when all we ever saw was a thin blue line, legends promised us that there was a sea, an ocean. We closed our eyes and believed.
There was more, past the enervating heartbreaks, tucked away in marshy pockets of promises made by dreams. There was more.
I thought you would ride the ocean with me. But there was more. I saw you and I realized that you are the ocean. You were more.
Some ways to spread the cheer and love this beautiful season!
With Christmas and a new year right around the corner, it’s time to rejoice and reflect on everything that we have received in 2016. Look around you and soak in the joy of the festive season – families coming together for celebrations, Christmas trees fully lit and surrounded by presents waiting to be opened and excitement in the eyes of little children who’re waiting for Santa to bring them their wishes. If you’re one of the super lucky ones you’ll see snowflakes on your window pane and hear children playing in the snow.
So wherever you are, if you are enjoying the Christmas spirit as much as we are, we challenge you to step it up and go out there and be someone’s Santa. Make someone’s day 🙂
Here are some fun ideas:
- Bake some cookies and surprise your neighbor.
- Write notes of appreciation to your family and friends.
- Donate books…
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