Monday, July 16, 2012

My perfect Picture

Being brought up by a single parent, I was so content that I swore I would never get married. I had so much freedom of speech while growing up with my mum. With my dad, we had to pretend to be doing something important when he was around. We would be chatting the evening away with mum, but as soon as we heard the gate open, we ran in all directions, because it would not only cause us trouble, but my mum too. They had such a huge communication break down, that they only spoke through my brother and I. My dad always read the newspaper in the living room, while keeping an eye on us. Those were really awkward moments, because most of the time my brother would be dozing off or just staring at his books. How I knew that... was from his grades. When he had had his dinner else where, he would come home pretending to be tired, and would complain about the food, just because he couldn't bring himself to tell my mum the truth. He had an awesome relationship with us though, and he had cute nick names for all the kids. My only problem was, my mum was there before the kids and the most important relationship for us, was theirs.

Living with my mother, was a breath of fresh air. We didn't need to try hard, or to pretend. The picture I had of dads was the controlling kind, where kids had to behave at all times, and by behave I mean quiet or living in fear. Though his hostility was directed mostly or all the time toward my mum, it affected us a great deal. I would say especially me, because my dear brother didn't seem to have a clue about anything. As the first born it was natural that I became more aware of my surroundings. We moved away and I personally burned all the bridges behind me. With my new found freedom, I knew I would never return to such slavery. Through out my teens I made decisions and swore I would never get married or I would never divorce. My mind was made up and I didn't take any nonsense from guys.

I grew up however, and soften a little bit. I wanted love, but I didn't care very much about where it was gonna take me. I enjoyed it while it lasted. I had a happily ever after dream somewhere in the back of my head. My favorite story like many girls was cinderella. I was waiting for my prince charming, to come one day and rescue me. It happened, not once or twice, but many times in my life. There were many heartbreaks and many wonderful memories. I would fall and fail but I rose up and tried again. I would never give up on love. 

Time went by, I moved to a new country, met new people. They believed in love, they seemed to know exactly how to do stuff. This was a new world for me.  I was still searching, waiting for my prince charming. I had not found him and I envied those who were so contented in their relationships. I could not find that. I was not proud of anything in my life. Were my expectations too high? Was I unrealistic? The challenge was, I had no role model, I didn't know how it was supposed to be. The only ones I had, were in the novels, the movies, and my imagination of what perfect would be. I knew very well what I didn't want and I can say that helped a bit. Before this phase in my life, I had been surrounded by people like me, who grew up with single parents. When you grow up a certain way you tend to surround yourself with people who are like you. So Mr. right was never discussed.

I met so many wonderful people at my new church, and I noticed most of them were married even at a very young age. I was not used to this. I had seen what we call in my country 'come we stay'. This now became my perfect picture. I would hear men talk about their wives, and  they did it with so much pride. This was all new for me. I felt cheated by life, that this was happening in this world but my perspective of marriage had been totally distorted by my reality. I wanted the same thing. I wanted a husband who would be proud of me, one who would praise me like that. In my world, I had not seen this, not even in the movies. This was special, It was the kind of love that you trust. My new found friends seemed so sure. They were happy and looked like they knew exactly what they were doing. I made a list, and a deal with God to give me a husband. I knew if I find him in this place, he would know exactly what to do just like this men. I saw it everywhere I went, and this made me want it even more. Was it something they saw others do? Was it a trend? I had no idea... all I knew is that I wanted the same.

Continued in 2

my perfect picture 2


There were many challenges in this journey, and one is that there are few and handsome men in the church. I don't mean this the wrong way. It could have been the one I was attending. I mean they get married so young, that if you're above a certain age and hasn't found, it might take you sometime or years to ever find. When there is a single good looking man, all eyes are on him or he might just not be your type. I found love outside the church but I didn't want to be unequally yoked.... Then I would start the project of bringing this guy to church, he would feel pressured because of how uptight and principled I would be, that the whole thing would just crumble. I was not going to compromise...I was going to either make the man or find the man. I was not so hopeful of finding one ready. I took on a few projects, then I realized, the only way is to truly find exactly what I wanted instead of teaching an old dog new tricks.

I became a slave of only what I saw on sundays. The perfect picture of families. I never thought about what could be happening beyond the church. The sunday impression was all I had. It was all I knew, and according to me this people had it all. They spoke so well about each other, they praised each other, and the men mentioned their wives in every sentence. This is what I wanted... I would visualize myself with such a family. It became almost my obsession. There were prayer groups for wives, husbands and praying for the kids. As a single person, I felt left out, I wanted to belong to this group. They seemed so contented and one seemed to get instant respect if they were married.  Finally, God answered my prayer I found a man who was the perfect picture of a church guy. All this happened so fast and at a time when I guess I was vulnerable. All I knew about him was that he was a church guy. His character, goals, ambitions, likes and dislikes I did not think about or ask. We had spoken on our long phone calls about topics totally different from we liking each other, and because of that I thought I knew him. I felt safe with him. I knew he would be like all this men I had seen in the church. He like them, knows exactly what to do. When he told me he loved me, I never questioned why or how. I should have because he had never indicated he liked me in that way. All this time I thought we were friends since we didn't hit it off when we first met.

We got married,  the women would welcome me like 'welcome to the club my sister, it's not easy' I was shocked!  It's not easy? I could not believe it... were they living a lie? Was everybody pretending to be happy? I was determined to make mine work. I was not going to survive..I was going to thrive! My dream came to a grinding halt only weeks after. I realized then that I was doomed. My life was over. I had gotten what I wanted, but not what I needed. I continued to battle with thoughts of shame at the realization of the mistake I had made. I tried to make it work just so I can look good, but I had to to tell myself the truth. How long was I going to pretend to be happy. We did the church thing... showing up places and smiling even though I was dying inside. This is not who I was. He had obviously played this game for so long that it had become part and parcel of him. Long story... I could not make it work on my own. 

My decision to leave was criticized by many. One particular to my face said that marriage was for strong people. Even though I had poured my heart to her right from the beginning. I was seen as weak and stupid. Some called me impatient and that I could not keep a man. I was wearing the shoes, and they hurt so bad. I knew the truth, that this was not what I signed up for, and it was not how it looked like.  Yes, I didn't have a role model, but that doesn't mean I didn't have common sense. I knew how to be treated right and I knew what I didn't want. I could not live a lie, or live my lie for other people. My life is mine, and I'm not here to please anyone. It requires enormous self-control not to succumb, because our natural tendency is to want to please. Many asked me to be patient, that's because we all think marriage problems are Identical and there is only one way to save a marriage. To be patient.  I realized then that very few people have the gift of listening. Those who listened understood, those who didn't asked me to be patient. 

When a marriage ends, in most cases the woman is to blame with this verse from proverbs 14:1  "A wise woman builds her house; a foolish woman tears hers down with her own hands." If I behave in the way people expect me to behave I'll become their slave. My perfect picture is so different today. It's authentic, from a deeper place. I now set my own standards, I'm not so easily deceived by what I see. I live my own life. I have my dreams and Ideas about life. I'll stick to that no matter how off they may seem to others, or how naive they may be. All things are possible and I can create my own reality the way I want. God wants the best for us and most of the time we might get our way in order to learn a lesson. When we do take the lesson, we become better, wiser and stronger.  

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The power of Influence

Where I come from, the method of teaching your kids about life was through warnings and comparisons. You'd be warned by an example of some rebellious kids, or you were compared to kids who seemed well behaved. My mother warned me several times about some of my classmates, neighbors and friends. Nowadays I see kids standing up to their mothers and speaking their minds, you just couldn't do that with my mum. She didn't know how to talk to me about the power of influence, so all she would say was, "I don't want to see you with those kids". Even though you were just a kid, your parents assumed you should know exactly what that meant without question. Nothing was explained to me properly. You were only warned about certain things without an explanation. The simplest thing to do, would have been to be told straight forward about how powerfully the people you hang around with can influence you, be it negatively or positively.

I came to learn about the power of influence the hard way. It took me a bit too long to understand what my mum was trying to say the whole time. It's not like I had bad friends or anything. Our parents in those days became very insecure once we hit our teens. I said parents, because I've heard some of my friends talk about their teenage struggles the same exact way. I understand today that my mum was afraid I was going to do the unthinkable, and instead of expressing that, she would just say some really awkward things that I didn't understand. My mum like every mum did the best she could with what she had, and I guess no one spoke with her about stuff when she was growing up, so she didn't know how to talk to me. I had a curfew for 5pm everyday though, cause they assumed evil happens after about 6pm. Somehow we got the point. My mum and I today are best friends. 

It's easy to make good decisions under the guardianship of your parents, it's easy to choose who influences you when they can help you see. It's easy to stay on the path when your parents can point out for you that you're going off course. The challenge comes when you're away from home and your comfort zone. It's not only in our teens that we need good influence, we need it probably even more when choosing our own path. Being away from home for me has been very challenging in many ways. I have made bad choices in almost every area of my life. I've had to learn the hard way. Learning from life is not an automated process. As I evolve I've understood it's a choice that you make, you may take the lesson or choose to ignore it.

One of the lessons I've taken with me, is that you should hang around people who are doing what you'd love to do or love to do. Hanging around people who don't know what you are about, makes you feel awkward and lost and can lead to loosing yourself and your dreams, and even alter your life completely. When you loose track of your dreams, retrieving your steps can become a challenging process. Another thing I learned, was to choose carefully who you share your dream and vision with. The way a person responds to you can make or break you. We share in order to get support from friends and family, and so it's important to know who is in support before you share. My dreams have died and risen so many times, just because I shared with the wrong people and this in turn made me feel naive and stupid.

For a smoother transition in life, we need positive influence. Sometimes this comes from other successful people who are willing to support you with encouraging words, and some offer practical help if it's in their power to do so. They might be doing something totally different but since they've been in your shoes, they understand what it means to dream and to need support. I have a few people I look up to and I'm happy to say that today I feel like I'm on the right path. I'm not where I should be, but I'm on my way.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Doing it ashamed

When I was growing up, because of some of the challenges that I went through, I made some decisions. Challenges are so important because it's in those moments that our character is built. Most of my decisions started with ... I will never. The thing about I will never though, is that I became so uptight but also principled and there is a very thin line between the two. I was for many years till recently too busy trying to live or be right that I forgot to be happy. Some of you are probably like me.

I don't know exactly how this started... but I suspect it's from my childhood, or the expectations of the society. Where I come from, people have a tendency of minding other peoples business and sometimes or most, that affects the way you live your life. There was a time I didn't care about anyone else's happiness but mine. In the process of growing up, I became logical, reasonable, adaptable and I conformed to the standards of I don't know what. I tried to be like everyone else and everyone else was trying to be like everyone else. Then a tragic thing happened! I lost myself.

Time went by, and deep down I kept feeling like I was wearing a big shell. I had no way to break free from it... Then I met a lady who reminded me to go back to what my mum had taught me. To pray and give everything to God. This is something I did every morning and night but I had not seen much results. I went back to her and she told me the secret was to believe that you receive. I never did that before, I was just praying without being specific and probably without believing, but so I can live right. I always said God help me! That was my prayer. Help my mum, brother and sister and my dad. I would mention all the names of the people I wanted God to help but I was not specific about what. I figured he would know what I mean. I tried to be specific once, and my sister laughed out loud in the middle of the prayer, I thought it would be a sin.

I grew up with a God of punishment. Who would do something really terrible if I made a mistake. I lived in fear and believed everything everybody said. I was evaluating my life the other day, and realized that I still had that fear and it had held me back so many times in so many ways. We all know that God is love but that side of him was never mentioned to us. We were taught to live in the fear of God instead of reverence. Now... one of my I will never was... divorce... then I found a verse in the bible that said that he hated divorce. I had nothing to worry about since I would obviously make the right decision.

I made my list of what I wanted in a husband way back and forgot about it. My life changed every year, I kept growing up and being reasonable. I put aside all the desires of my heart to what I considered selfless. The standards of what I wanted in a husband were narrowed down to God fearing. I completely ignored me and my needs and what makes me happy. I was afraid to ask God because I thought he was boring and was to be feared alone, and he couldn't possibly give me anything interesting. Then something happened... one day God answered my prayer.

I met someone through a friend. I had known him and thought he was so not my type but I went anyway. One year passed by, I was not attracted to him but he would call here and there. After one and a half years of meeting about three or four times, he smsd and said he loved me. That came as a huge surprise! Then I remembered, he was the perfect image to me of God fearing. I said yes. We dated in what he termed as unconventional. That meant we only saw on weekends when he had time. This disturbed me a great deal but I kept encouraging myself with, 'he was God fearing'. Life changed for the better we got married.

Two weeks before, I had called my mentor and told her I was going to cancel.... Then I thought about the money we had spent on the planning, the invitations, the people involved and so on. I called him again and the best answer he gave me was; if you do, you have to know there is no turning back. In short there is no other chance. That should have been a huge red flag... but again he was God fearing and he might change or he knew what he was doing. After we were married, I realized the only thing he was, was God fearing and I had made the biggest mistake in front of the God that i feared and two hundred people. I had two choices, to commit suicide or divorce. It was that serious. I could not imagine myself divorced and I couldn't imagine myself unhappy. I had to make a choice.

I thank God for my mum, she's a strong woman. She supported me every step of the way but I could not get past the God of punishment. I decided my choice would be maybe to die. Then I remembered what I always told myself... "It is more important for me to be happy than to be married". Easier said than done. I battled with the thought of pleasing God by remaining married. Then my mum with her humor would remind me that I'm not the first and the last, and she's still alive. I was filled with shame... what would people say, they will think it's me and so on. All my life I had wanted to do things right, and here I was... with a failure that was witnessed by hundreds of people. I was ashamed, alone and afraid. I had good friends though. They stood with me and by me. Thank you dear friends... I love you all.

I made a decision after much Prayer, effort, counsel and hope of making it work. There was no way... This was the biggest and hardest decision I ever made. I filed for divorce! One good man helped me realize the God of love. That I can be happy, it's was not the end of the world. That he wanted the best for me and he wanted to fulfill the desires of my heart. It didn't come easy, slowly I embraced love. I was filled with shame and fear for a long time after that, but I made steps to forget and live my life to the fullest. I decided to follow my bliss... I went to my list and found I had gone off course. This man was not for me... he was what I Imagined him to be. I had put my desires in a God fearing box. It was not everything, it was not enough and the title doesn't make a man. We have become a society of titles like; engineer, pilot, doctor, lawyer and so on. There is nothing wrong with that... I say this cause I remember my mentor asking me if he makes me laugh, and my answer was; he is God fearing. Maybe you like me has sacrificed the things that matter most to you, it's never too late. I found my list and the man that fits there. Today I'm happy.

I was ashamed, afraid, but did what I had to do. The wrong person affects your perspective of life and love. The excuse of nobody is perfect I find unnecessary because to me, perfection doesn't exist. I found myself again after this challenges and today I put myself first because when I'm happy and healthy, I can operate in my full potential and also be there for others.