“Each of us is something of a schizophrenic personality, tragically divided against ourselves.” -Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love
Remember when I said in my first post that I’ve always had these two sides to my personality, the “American” and the “Pakistani” and that they are very often at war? Well, it’s a misleading statement, because I no longer feel like I’m at war with myself. I’m not two separate people inhabiting one space. I am, instead, a prism. I look transparent, but I am solid and multi-faceted. I am a sparkling soul, bending and reflecting what seems to be one simple beam into a fascinating spectrum of colored light.
And I do fascinate myself.
I have met many women since that first post. Women who are single by choice or circumstance. Women who take the shnizzle thrown at them and turn it into fertilizer and then the best Goddamn flowers you’ll ever see or smell. Women working, laughing, mothering, writing, pretty-fying, cursing, being honest with themselves and being honest with the world about who they really are and, most of all, boldly unafraid to be happy about it. Women who are winning and showing others it can be done.
I fascinate me because I am one of those women.
It may sound trite, but the last two years helped me meet myself. I didn’t know I had this much strength in me. I didn’t know I had this much love. I didn’t know I could be so positive and so outgoing and so carefree. And I didn’t know I could be an inspiration.
An old friend contacted me recently after she saw some of the media coverage of the past month. She is a kind, intelligent, beautiful woman I used to have sleepovers with until our early teen years. We would whisper about love songs and romance in the confessional air of nightfall and dream of an idyllic marriage and perfect life. It turned out we were looking through glasses so rosy, we got thorns in our eyes that are still being meticulously picked out.
She has been divorced for years now, but I never reached out to her about it because I was so unsure of what to say or how to react. Like I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, divorce in the Muslim community was almost unheard of a generation ago, and my generation is just starting to see a spike in “failed” marriages. People are uncomfortable and embarrassed discussing it. Divorcees, especially the women, tend to go into hiding for a while, not attending community or family functions where the questions and stares and pity would be too much to handle. Some go back to school. Some work. Some go on dating sites or turn to the traditional and ask their parents to look for potential mates. But few, if any, feel like talking about it. Few, if any, are ready to put their past out there and not care what others think.
I am one of those few. I never bent my head with shame or let myself get too discouraged. I hurt, I hate, I regretted and recovered. And I kept going, confident that if I chose what was right for me, that I would be okay. I was depressed that first year, but I had the baby and the job of keeping a smile on my face for her sake. But I never gave up on myself no matter how hard it got. And I never stopped living my life, because unlike others in our society, I don’t think these are “failed” marriages. There is no failure in finding your strength and satisfaction in the single life. There is no failure in getting out of something that threatens to destroy you.
My friend told me about other Muslim women she’s met who have or are getting divorced. She described their guilt and confusion, their feelings of suddenly becoming an outcast. And she told me how strong she thought I have been. She read this blog and was awed, because she knew me back when I was a Disney-Hollywood-Bollywood inspired lovesick in love with the idea of love little girl. Apparently, my transformation from that into a self-assured, single yet un-bitter woman makes me an enigma in this divorced desi world.
It is unimaginable to people that I can be so calm and secure. I question things and I over-analyze at times, I complain and I get overwhelmed. But I am happy. I’m okay. I do not shy away from the topic, and I am honest with myself and I’m boldly unafraid to be happy. This, for some crazy reason, is a new phenomenon in my culture.
Somewhere along the way, the many sides of myself stopped fighting and resolved to become one solid body. I stopped feeling like a bumbling, circus sideshow among the non-desis. I also stopped feeling like I was the only one playing the part of the old-fashioned saintly sufferer among the conniving, controlling geniuses in the soap opera dynamics of my changing community. I learned there are others like me, desi and not, and we can be our own, unique blend of spices, ground into a bold, unforgettable new masala paste.
I have more to learn about myself. I have much more I want to see and do and be. But I am turning shnizzle into fertilizer and the tragic, schizophrenic nature of my personality into a unified, sassy model for those who think it can’t be done. I want to do something to help those other women who are still divided. I’m not unsure of what to say like I was when my friend got divorced, because I’ve been there, I am there, and I am coming out on the other side in control. I want to be a voice for those desi women and I want to tell their stories. I want them to find their voices and their real selves and that feeling that they are winning. I want them to kick off the facade of failure and self-loathing, and join me in what I have become.
I am a prism. And Goddamn it, I love this rainbow.