I’ve got my own back

When bruises are compared to thumbprints and a marriage is only validated after it exceeds a certain number of calendar days, you know you live in a questionable society. When the physical appearance of a trauma holds more significance than the emotional and mental impact caused, you know you live in an illiterate society.

“How bad was the bruise? Do you have a picture?””

“…it almost seems as if the stories you tell are like The Boy Who Cried, Wolf…”

“You know, people are raising questions. Have you ever thought about that? Your story doesn’t make any sense!”

My twenty-seven-year-old self was beyond eager and excited to get everything right for “the big day”.

Fabric swabs, embroidery patterns, shoes pinned to my “Wedding” board on Pinterest, trials for the perfect makeup look, honeymoon destinations, cooking tutorials, intense workout regimes and above all – an extremely warm, welcoming vibe from the family I was about to step in to. Everything was up to par.

As I completed my twenty-eighth year, I realised that none of these things ever produce any ROI. It isn’t about how beautiful you look or what song you play as you “walk down the aisle”. The winsome flowers don’t matter and the wedding planner doesn’t drop any disclaimers about “what’s next?”.

Here’s the thing about people – they come and go. Physically they may always be there but emotionally there is a fair chance they become nonexistent because the barcode scanner in your brain disallows you to accept their invaluable contribution to your system. This imaginary wiring in the brain is an extremely effectual coping mechanism.

While the music boomed, I had a cult behind me dancing to the tunes. I woke up every day to fifteen notifications following up about when to join the party, numerous calls and even uninvited guests who I hadn’t seen in years.

Fast forward six weeks – cheers turned in to Chinese whispers, my mere presence seemed to draw awkward silences and those who I labeled as lifelines began to slaughter the pieces of my heart that they owned.

If this sounds too far-fetched and theatrical, here’s a mathematical breakdown:

My closest wedding entourage consisted of 30 people. The number of spectators that were interested in what happens in my “new house” were 40. When my world, life and my marriage came crashing down – 11 people held my hand. 5 of these spoke to me.

What was left of the original 30 were 3 people who cried with me and still follow up every passing
day.

It is quite fascinating to see the cliched saying “hard times reveal true friendships” parade its way in front of you. Not all numbers showed a decrease though, I definitely had at least 50 experts who provided me with insights and analytical data about what could have happened, what should have happened and laid down my past from ten years ago to track down trends that could project what definitely happened.

Let’s discuss when the real struggle begins. Until the time I was confined to my “vows”, I answered nobody – I made my own calls. I decided what to do. What I didn’t know was that it takes a day to be downgraded from a director to an actor.

Here’s the thing about society – it’s so used to standard royalty that anything outside of it is considered taboo. By signing on legal documents, you are now free to do whatever it is that you want. The society trusts you enough to zip up your belongings and move into another set of four walls, God forbid, you were to ever move out alone – that’s a ridiculous thought!

Once this permit is dawned upon you, overnight, no one questions when you come back home or what you wear. The second you are “back” (the dark, scary, unspoken situation of ‘she is back’) it’s like “sorry, you saved your own life and you walked through a situation 90% of the people around you haven’t seen but hey – you don’t have a plus one with you anymore so we shall take care of you and bring you back to where you belonged”.

“For me, it’s like you weren’t even married because it was for such a short time you know. It wasn’t even a marriage.”

I’m really glad that, conveniently, believing a couple of days invalidated my level of marriage helped you go to sleep at night. It didn’t help me and I only wish your belief was the reality.

“Do you think a part of you was also amused by the glitz and glam?”

My father raised me much better than yours because if that was even a thought in your head then I wish a little glitz and glam was, at some point, invested in your education. Maybe then you would’ve felt differently towards a sister, a daughter or even a random scarred girl. The aftermath is always the worst. It’s when you develop PTSD, it’s when you have to swallow what happened no matter how much it chokes you and it’s when you look up and see a flight of five hundred steps and you must climb it no matter how badly your knees ache.

Here’s the thing about acceptance – coming to terms with something doesn’t mean that it’s a closed chapter and, in no way, does it entitle you to completely disregard it from your memory.
“You will get over it… Erase it from your memory!”
“What happened has happened, who cares what story the story is. Good riddance!”
“Imagine, so many people have had it worse”

Let me tell you one thing – embrace the complexity of the situation but you DON’T have to “get over it”. Moving on literally means to continue living and that is something you can’t stop doing – unless you commit suicide or someone stops your breathing. You might get depressed but life, time and you will inevitably move on and nights will always turn into mornings.

Your experiences define the person that you are in this very moment and they help you remember how you picked yourself up from what smashed you in the face a year ago. You are strong. You will always be strong, but it’s okay to be weak. Be weak. The anger may want to gush out of you, the frustration may make you want to punch a hole in the wall, the anxiousness might make you feel your heart pounding outside of your body and the
depression may make you curl up in a corner and just howl out in sadness. Do it.

Give yourself the credit, importance and respect to feel that way. You didn’t come into this world with a manual but you wrote a case study for many others to follow. Don’t keep quiet, don’t keep your “grace”, don’t kill yourself for nobody. If you feel like running away, go. Run away. Don’t get over it.

“Even when someone dies, people get over it in a few days”

No, they don’t. They learn to accept it. You accept it when it hits you, you accept it when you remember what you overcame, you accept it when it’s over. I remember praying one night and not saying a single word of Arabic. All I did was speak my heart out in my language, to my God. I asked why everyone had so much to say to me in times of happiness and why no one knew what to say when I was at my lowest.

Divorce aside, why had I just seen the worst of everyone I loved around me? Why were there so many speculations and so much talk? If I had gotten so many ‘Congratulations’ hugs – why did no one pull me together and say something as simple as “it’s going to be okay”.

My silence would scream and my body would shake with fear because everyone who had raised their eyebrows, not reached out to me, used me as gossip and made notes of all my actions – I lived between them with a deep breath and a smile. I had walked through the storm in one piece, it’s the backlash that left me so heartbroken.

“Do you still hold a grudge against those who disappointed you?”
“Why do you still behave the same with everyone? Laugh like nothing is wrong, make jokes about
yourself and still go out of your way?”

Here’s the thing about sympathy vs empathy – “Sympathy comes from a position of power. Empathy is getting down on your knees and looking someone else in the eye and realising you could be them, and all that separates you is luck”

Empathise with yourself – only your heart can feel the love it needs and the ache it felt.

My father taught me two things: (1) Self-pity can destroy you (2) Talk to someone in a language they understand, even if that means to drop yourself down for a bit. I realised that if my true voice could give people the response they deserved, I would’ve never been able to set an example for my own self. So I stooped down to their level. If my situation ever invited humor, I allowed it and sometimes even endorsed it because the joke lasted 5 seconds and a a reaction would last 5 minutes. Opportunity cost – what’s worth more?

It’s not my fault education doesn’t come with literacy and I was not going to burden myself by taking up the initiative to be their Dalai Lama. When I heard uncouth and lifeless opinions and remarks, I would take a deep breath and remind myself that I’m not the controller of anybody’s tongue and am grateful that I’m at the receiving end.

I felt empathic – luck separated me from carrying the heartless personality of these talkers.

“Fight for yourself – fight for what YOU want. Say it, you owe yourself this much”
“Close your eyes and think of where you want to be – go there! Make it happen!”
“This is one of those checkpoints in your life that you have actually made it past. Live for yourself –
only yourself”

When something strikes too close to home, it shakes up the entire neighbourhood. It’s heart- wrenching to see others bear the loss of your pain, they can only feel your pain from the outside, but they are sufferers nonetheless. Parents. They stay up the nights you fall asleep only out of the fear that you may wake up from a
nightmare.

A mother. She cries when she you cry and howls when you’re silent. When it’s time to counter the world, she’s a lioness protecting her cubs – the wrath in her eyes and the bitterness on her face. A father. He will push you forward and show no worry, no pain. He will shower you with success stories and exaggerated wins. The second your face dries up and you walk away in confidence, his shoulders will drop and his eyes can’t stop pouring.
It’s moments like these when you know that, after yourself, they’ve got your back. No matter how much anyone ‘feels’ for you, no matter how much they grief – the battle is yours and yours only. A battle is hardly ever with a person or incident – it’s with yourself. It’s the battle with acceptance, your anger, your downer, your recovery, your strength, your weakness and every ounce of emotion that’s felt by you.

How to win that self-battle is the struggle.
“We just want the old ‘you’ back”.

Here’s the thing about picking your self again. The journey is beautiful. The parts of you that broke, only you know. After all this time, you realise how much of your inner self was undiscovered, how much about yourself you didn’t even know. You start seeing every one differently and realise how everyone has a different version of the same phrase and it’s amusing how many ways actually exist.

There’s only one person who can tell you otherwise – you, yourself. You allow yourself to play the blame-game without any restrictions, you allow yourself to think unrealistic things, you allow yourself to be free with your emotions. Because you can, and it’s okay. Also – you allow yourself to smile again, you allow yourself to stand up again, you allow yourself to swallow that heavy heart down your throat, you allow yourself to smile at a stranger, you allow yourself to wing an eyeliner, you allow yourself to move one step forward. No one in this world has that power, but yourself. No one can control the mind that’s tired of thinking, no one can relieve the heart that’s congested with the burden, no one can make those forehead muscles relax and no one can stop your knee from shaking uncontrollably. Don’t go back to being your “old self” – why waste all this learning and all this new knowledge? There’s a reason fate paved a path the way it did, there’s a reason why you have been injected
with strength. The “old me” was never a part of a catastrophic event, the old me was never married, the old me
wasn’t divorced and the old me had never experienced the taboos of society.

Shouldn’t I be praised that I survived and walked through as a whole new person who now knows
what to do in a storm? Here’s to the new me – the one that learnt. The one that will fight every day to win back every part of me I’ve lost, every part of me that deserves to be respected by myself. Here’s to the new me
who won the rat race of trials – here’s to the new me, who began to love more and more and endlessly more. Here’s to the new me who stood up and didn’t show my limp. Here’s to me who walked through
with grace. Here’s to the new me who made her way up on her own.

Here’s to the new me – the one that walks in a world of strangers every day who think I might not
have ever even tripped on a pebble. Thats what makes me smile 🙂 I allow myself the freedom to feel and respect the new woman I’ve become – as narcissistic as it may sound, but whatever, I know I deserve every second of it.
Here’s the thing about me and you – I’ve got my own back. You’ve always got your own back.

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