What 2019 taught me
We are now almost a month into the new year, so I thought I would take stock of 2019 and all the lessons it has taught me which I hope I will carry forward into 2020. 2019 started off with a bang and not the good kind. Black January as I will forever call it, was quite traumatic for me. Suffice it to say that within the span of a month, I found myself in an unsafe situation and was therefore, rendered homeless, and with barely any friends in a foreign country. My daughter and I were taken in for a while by a kind friend, then stayed in a hotel for the next couple of weeks. After a while, I had to quit my my job and move back to the UAE, as I could not find an apartment to live in due to Dublin's housing crisis. In one fell swoop, our lives had turned upside down.
Back in Dubai, we were safe, if a little stunned by everything that had happened. Over the following couple of months, I found myself facing divorce - (but if I were to be honest, it was a long time coming and the traumatic events in Ireland were just the catalyst that finally brought matters to a head) - and a garden's variety of other challenges such as: processing what I had experienced while trying to minimize the upheaval and disruption in my daughter's life as much as I could; the loss of my residency permit in Ireland, and alternatively the lack of residency status in the UAE; financial difficulties due to unemployment; no health insurance coverage, and not even a valid driving license: the emotional stress of it all, and the effect it has had on my daughter who has been out of a nursery for the almost 8 months.
But in spite of all of the above, I consider myself to be very lucky. I escaped a dangerous situation and came to Dubai, back home to my family. Here, I am surrounded by friends who gave me unlimited support and made the aftermath easier to coast through. My mother helped me with my daughter by babysitting her whenever I needed time to myself and supported me throughout the lengthy healing process.
Furthermore, I have my health, my daughter is happy despite the disruption in her life over the past year and I find myself looking forward, feeling hopeful and strangely excited about this new stage of my life.
More than anything, I feel stronger, more empowered. I made a life changing decision and I have never felt more liberated. I decided to remove myself from a situation that was not serving me. Rather it was harming me, and by extension, harming my daughter. After all is said and done, I'm not alone. I have my family, my friends, my daughter, my health, my peace of mind. And so I have everything.
I won't bore you with all the other little curve balls life has thrown at me this year. Needless to say, 2019 has not been a friend to me. But I would still wake up most mornings with a sharpened sense of clarity as I look out the window at pre-dawn light . And in this heightened moment of awareness, I would feel a rush of gratitude. I am alive, I am breathing. I am here, now. And that is more than enough. Everything will be alright.
Despite the many hardships, I've had moments of joy with friends, women who taught me the meaning of true sisterhood, community and what it means to belong to a tribe. But I also feel like I'm starting to come into my own, finally, challenging accepted truths I've been indoctrinated with since childhood. I'm shedding it all and I feel lighter. I spend more quality time with my daughter, I paint more, I dream more. Ironically, I even laugh more now.
I never understood why people who had undergone trauma would say they are grateful for what happened. Why would anyone be grateful for the awful things that have happened to them? Because it has shaped them, it's made them stronger and defined them in stark contrast to the people they were, pre-trauma. And with this new-found strength comes gratitude. Gratitude and hope is the only way out of darkness.
Let me end with this thought: New beginnings are terrifying. I face the years , as a single woman, a single mother, without the tenuous protection of a man. I am navigating an entirely different terrain, with a child, no less. But then again, those are the stories I have always loved best: the ones that begin with the heroine rising up and starting over, after a failed marriage, loss or any other kind of trauma. There is fear but this new path is also replete with new opportunities to reinvent oneself at any age, at any stage, whatever the circumstances. I may still have my off- days, I may not be quite "there" yet, wherever "there" is. But I find myself here, now. And that is as good a place to be as any.