I wish I could build a time machine and just fast-forward. This school year is my time to heal from divorce and heartbreak, but that is a really lame way to spend one’s time, honestly. All the self-help tells you to feel the pain and allow the hurt and caress the scars or whatever, but after a few months of that, you’re emotionally exhausted. And you’re ready to stop wallowing and start moving forward in the lonely solo life you’ve been forced to accept.
Of course, since I have a nasty habit of falling in love and staying in Abu Dhabi for men, I don’t actually want to move on when it comes to men. Which means I have to keep being lonely and solo, which means there is a lot of time to fill. (Dating/relationships are very time consuming. Being alone all the time makes you realize that there are seriously 24 hours in a day, whoa.) I’ve been filling that time with wallowing or watching a plethora of mindless entertainment or playing mindless phone games or just staring at my phone, willing myself not to contact my exhusband. It has not been productive.
I need to visualize more productive uses of this alone time and set goals and whatever. So here are some goals for the next months:
- Get back on that OCD bullet journal train and overflow your weeks with impossible goals and to-do lists
- Delete your ex-husband from your phone and get some Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind therapy to forget his number
- Stop ordering overpriced delivery food and justifying it with “self-care;” it’s not that hard to chop your own salad, you lazy expletive
- Exercise more. The Kardashians do not just eat the salads, they do the workouts. Hashtag asspirations (sic)
- Get some new clothes. That white T you love sporting is literally stained and falling apart. Ya gotta upgrade ya.
- Write an essay about the impossibility of modern marriage. Or the cancer of self-care. Or the idiocy of corporate-shaming. Get your Didion on. You know you want to and on some level it would be cathartic.
- Join an online writing community. The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing, shout out Socrates.
- Paint again. Yes, it reminds you of him, but you’ll get over that. Inshallah. Right? Maybe…
- Hem those pants already. And get new contacts already. Etc. There are literally things on my to-do list that have been there for years.
I’ve been back in Abu Dhabi for… three weeks now, I guess? (I could look at a calendar, but that would ruin my flow.) My America trip was a big success. Smashing, really. But it was also extremely exhausting. On so many levels.
Two weeks before I left Abu Dhabi, bae decided to divorce me for the third and final time. (Under sharia, we cannot ever get remarried now. Well, actually we could, with penalty. The penalty being that first I’d have to marry and have sex with another man, then get divorced again, then we could remarry… he told me to read the Quran after he divorced me. I think he wanted me to find some loophole to get around that whole thing. I did start reading it, but I have yet to find the loophole.) As a result, I spent most of my socializing time in America catching people up on the last two years of our torrid marriage and divorces. I spent my alone time mostly crying.
It was good for me though. Because I am now thinking that I’ll move back to the States after this school year. So, I spent a lot of my time trying to reimagine my future and see what would work and how do-able it would be to reassimilate. And it’s do-able, maybe. I still have plenty of friends in NYC, plus I’d be a much shorter plane ride away from my other friends, so they might actually come visit me. (Americans don’t leave the country, I tell myself, to assuage my sadness that roughly zero people have visited me out here. Then they tell me about their Eurotrips and I’m like, oh I see how it is.)
I will definitely have to reassimilate though. America really is this little bubble of self-obsession, which is hard to deal with when you’ve lived outside the bubble for eight years. But I’ll get used to it again. I totally fell right back into watching horribly staged reality TV shows and pretending trips to museums are cultural. It’s still extremely jarring that everyone has an American accent, but I’d get used to it. And in a few months, I’d be just like everybody else. Except I’d have this juicy past that I’d dole out in little drips to potential suitors and new friends. “Ah yes, my exhusband used to wear that perfume.” “Ah yes, I loved the doner when I was living in North Cyprus.” “Ah yes, I’ve heard of Dubai, spent many a brunch there, once upon a time…”
In America, the summer after graduate school when I was underemployed and there was a freeze on new teaching hires in NYC, the 2010 World Cup happened. Growing up I had never really been around people who cared for the sport, but that year I cared. My roommates were also very into it. And we were all underemployed, so we had far too much time to sit around watching football all day. We printed out the schedule and hung it on our fridge and had a million inside jokes about teams and players. We didn’t have an A/C for much of that hot, hot summer, so we lived off of popsicles and football. And it was amazing.
There are only three games left in this World Cup, (or four if you count the third place game) and I would hardly say that I’ve watched all the matches, and I definitely can only name like three players (who wouldn’t learn the name of the fantastic flopping Neymar?), but I have so enjoyed it once again. The other day bae and I were watching Russia lose to Croatia and it was so fun to just cheer and pretend we care and see these strangers who’ve trained all their lives play so nicely for our entertainment.
And it’s such a lovely excuse to get together. For more than one game, I’ve gathered with people I rarely see anymore, and yeah we enjoyed seeing the game, but it was also fun to see each other. As we get older, sometimes we need excuses to get together. Because we’re all in our lives and our routines and unless there’s an important event, sometimes it’s easy for people to just flake on the plans or for nobody to initiate a plan or for the plans to only actually be realized once a month. It’s easier to just hide in our lives and continue our routines and pretend we’re going to the gym or we need to do laundry, but we’re really just going to go home and order food and binge-watch something that’s not even that interesting.
So I encourage you to make a plan with your friends to watch one of these last few games! You might not care at all about the teams (all my teams are gone – possibly because they were chosen entirely for their underdog qualities) but watch the first ten minutes of the match and then decide who you like more. Pretend you’re a die-hard fan. Joke with your friends about the players and their foibles. Talk about who’s the cutest. Mock the die-hard fans who’re in the bar with you all. And revel in the fact that all around the world, countless other groups of friends are doing the same thing.
I’ve started planning my trip back to America for the summer. New York City and it’s surrounding areas (two weeks), Chicagoland (less than a week), and New Mexico (solely to see my bfffff) form the current itinerary bones. But I was reticent to finalize all the plans because I’m honestly just wary about it all. I haven’t been home in two years. And America, well…. there are no words for it’s nonsense these days.
And I have to go alone. Bae has wisely decided to spend the time here trying to make money, rather than following along with me and spending a ton of money. And while I get that it’s the only logical choice, it makes me curl my lip like a moody toddler denied her favorite ice cream. I don’t want to be there alone, gawked at by everyone, having to explain the rest of the world to naive Americans, (who would never deign to come visit me, but still resent that I haven’t been back in two years/expect me to move mountains to fit them into my itinerary while they change literally nothing about their routines.) I loved the idea of carting him around and being like, “And for today’s show and tell, a real live Muslim Arab!” And they would all marvel at his beard and his English-speaking and his niceness and his normalness and how nice he smells because of all the perfumes.
Oh well, perhaps next summer he can come with me. And maybe by then I’ll learn some more Arabic and we can gossip about people in front of them. And they will all tilt their heads in wonder at who I have become. And then I will write a book about it. And it will enjoy minimal success because I have zero online following and books are dead, hurrah!
(One of the things I am actually looking forward to about going back to America is the shopping. I’m going to buy a whole new wardrobe and I’m going to bring back enough fake food to last a month and oh the boooooooks! My list of books to buy is going to require me to check a bag on the way back. I never check a bag anymore! But I’ve already started online shopping and shipping things to my mom’s house, haha.)
One of the most common responses that teachers get when we complain about our low wages is “yeah, but you get paid summers off, so….” And if I’m perfectly honest… it is pretty awesome. We still deserve more money. Or easier jobs. But paid vacations are the holy grail we count down to.
At this point in the school year, the kids are off the walls. I had my last class of the year on Wednesday (we are currently enjoying a four day weekend for Eid – the holiday that marks the end of Ramadan) and the last period of the day, we were trying to review and oh. my. god…. there was this one kid who literally could not sit in his seat. (I teach grade 6, so that’s not normal.) Like he couldn’t make it two minutes. Constantly up and messing around and killing me, slowly, slowly, slowly.
But khallas, the teaching is done! We have three more weeks of work (for finals and then planning/administrative whatever) And then freedom! For two whole months! The official countdown is so very much on!