Today is my wedding anniversary and the best day for me to re-launch my passion: this blog. I’ve been away for several months, living in misery and confusion. But now, I have come out of hiding, with a story of hope.
I made a choice.
Actually, I made a lot of choices.
I chose to get married, change my entire life and move abroad. I chose to love and to share a life with another human being. I chose to trust him and the strength, the power of our connection. I made these choices but greatest of all, I chose bravery.
That love and that beautiful story of two people from different worlds overcoming the obstacles of differences in race, culture and geographic location came to a powerful and destructive end, culminating in my husband kicking me out of our shared home in November and demanding a divorce. Funny enough, it was the week that Trump was elected; perhaps I should have seen that as a sign of the sickening and horrific days to come. Everything in my life had fallen apart and there was nothing I could do about it. It was like watching a house burn to the ground; I was there, helpless and hopeless with no course of action to take.
I sat alone in Parc des Bastions after spending an entire night awake watching the madness of the U.S. presidential election unfold, wondering what happened to my life, a question I would continue to ask myself no less than a million times over the course of the next 3 months. How the fuck did I end up here (figuratively and literally)? How the fuck did I end up alone on a park bench in Geneva, freezing at sunrise, asking myself serious and philosophical questions, with nowhere to go? What does it mean to live? What does it mean to love? When is enough, enough? Do I just give up? WHO AM I?
I still have no definitive answers to any of those questions, but there was one thing that was clear: I was homeless in a foreign country where I couldn’t speak the language and had very few rights– except the right to leave for the U.S., while he was in the apartment we lived in together, meanwhile, his mother was living 30 minutes away and all of Genève belonging to him because all of his friends live in the city. With all of his advantages, he made the more vulnerable person in our couple homeless after asking me to change my entire life to live with him.
After a difficult year-and-a-half with my husband in Genève where mistakes were made on both our parts, my brother-in-law died by suicide in October. It was the beginning of the absolute end. By this point, I had already performed so much mental and emotional gymnastics in the time since I arrived in Genève that I literally couldn’t take anything anymore. It is hard to self-soothe and exercise self-care when you don’t know who you are or what makes you feel good anymore and I was in exactly that situation because I had done so much to change who I was to fit into his life; not a life we created together, like in Harlem. It all became too much for both of us and finally, he put me out and demanded a divorce. No separation, no counseling, just divorce.
For fucks sake, the situation is enough to drive even the strongest person completely mad.
I was consumed by fear and sadness. I was in Genève, an incredibly expensive city to live in, with no family to rely on, no job, no more money since I’d used my savings to begin this new life, no language skills and no resources. My friends only met me 6 months to a year prior and here I was, forced to ask for drastic help; I mean, this wasn’t asking to borrow a shirt or 10 francs, I was asking to live with them. Such an embarrassment and inconvenience to people who I would have preferred not be involved in such a mess but at that point, my husband was short on decency. Then again, he began humiliating me from the moment he made me leave the apartment, so in hindsight, I’m not at all surprised by his actions or behaviors. I was desperate and destitute.
For 2 months, I stayed with my incredibly kind and loving friends who live just around the corner from him. I could see my old apartment from their window, which was like the worst form of torture. And it did torture me mentally and emotionally. The entire experience of living that life in Genève tortured my soul. I arrived to Genève a healthy and happy 160 lbs (72.57 kg); by the time it was all said and done, I returned to my parents a sad and sickly 100 lbs (45.36 kg). I never dieted or exercised; I was only severely depressed and none of the people who I thought would care about me actually did, which is why as my mind and body disintegrated before their eyes, no one ever bothered to ask how I was actually doing or feeling without judgement, not even my therapist.
Instead, I was told that everything was my fault, a notion that I internalized. But no one wants to be depressed; it’s crazy and extremely harmful to blame depressed people for sadness that they can’t help. There was certainly no safe space for me with my new “family”, which is what I so desperately needed. I also went 2 months without a word– not a phone call, text message, email– nothing at all from my in-laws despite the fact that they knew exactly what was happening and that I was homeless and alone.
Courage Under Fire
But I am the rose who grew from concrete; the phoenix who rises from the ashes. My husband dumped me in a foreign country, separated from my home by an ocean, but rather than sitting around feeling sorry for myself and succumbing to my feelings of despair, abandonment, rejection and fear, I went to work on myself. I was able to find not one, but 2 jobs– after looking all year, the language schools I’d applied to finally called me in for an interview; and despite the difficulty of my circumstances, I pulled myself together enough to land the jobs.
I began reading and researching self-improvement and started meditating. I was determined to progress despite being at such a huge disadvantage. This determination is in my DNA; black women in America have always needed to possess great strength to overcome unthinkable or extremely difficult circumstances. Navigating a life in a country you likely wouldn’t have chosen for yourself to live in is only made more difficult when you are forced to get a divorce you don’t want from the one person you changed your entire life for. I was left with nothing and my survival was no longer his care or concern.
However, despite my best efforts to be brave and amicable in respecting his decision, he and the situation finally broke me down. He tried to rush me into getting a divorce on only his terms before I could even process what was happening to me. He decided somehow that me trying to be nice to him was me trying to manipulate him, rather than seeing that I just wanted to make this transition as easy as possible. I didn’t think either of us could bear a nasty dissolution.
Civil is hardly the way I would describe his actions. Kind is not even a word that comes to mind. He’s clever, so he was able to hide his cruel actions behind seemingly gentle words and fragility; after all, his brother had just died and that is far more tangible to the outside world than what I was going through. He made everyone, including me, believe that he was the sole victim, rather than a person inflicting harm. It was hurtful and insidious.
Finally, I broke down under the weight of so much pressure. In fear that I might harm myself, my family brought me home to the States.
Thanks to my amazing and dedicated family and the love and support of all my friends in the U.S., Genève and London, I was able to rebuild myself with their love after completely being broken down. Now, all cried out, I am re-made of love and black girl magic; there are no tears left for him or the failure of my marriage. Thank God for that love because everyday it helps me to find strength and forgiveness of him and most importantly, myself. Maybe I’ll never see or speak to him again, but if I do, at least I can engage with him with a pure heart, free of animosity and disdain.
He will not determine how my story ends. He is not the master of my fate. I will not lay down and die just because all of my dreams died with my marriage. I am finding myself again and have new dreams that will never be put on hold for another person. I will live the life I CHOOSE. And I will not be broken again. This experience has made me stronger than ever and the prospect of a new life excites me in spite of the fear that being alone for the rest of my life is a real possibility. At least I know for certain that I am brave enough to love again; I will not allow my heart to be hardened by him.
So my life and Natural Girl, Unnatural World continues. But now, it continues entirely on my terms. It’s my life, my way; and I’m satisfied with that, even if it means being alone.