finding Happiness

“It’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years” (Abraham Lincoln) 

Two countries, one man, and memories that were as much about how they were as where they were.

In late 2013, they flew to Turkey. Theirs hadn’t been the endless summer she’d longed for, as they battled with the emotional see-saw of each other’s insecurities, but as they boarded the plane, it finally felt it was their time.  

Turunc turned out to be the closest she had ever been to paradise.  A tantalising glimpse of its bay teased them as their taxi wound its way through ancient pine forests. Sparkling blue waters beckoning them down, and took their breath away.  “Is it OK to be deliriously happy?” she’d asked.

imageSuch precious times …. when contentment was the Aegean sun on her skin, her man by her side, and tucking life-affirming moments into their memory bank.  Never a strong swimmer, riding pillion on his jet ski was both exhilarating and utterly terrifying – eyes squeezed against the sting of salt water, arms gripped around his waist like her life depended on it, yet total trust that he would keep her safe. Getting plastered, literally, in the mud baths, and afterwards winding a path through the Dalyan reed beds, past Lycian tombs cut high into the cliff and out to Iztuzu beach for turtle-spotting … so wonderfully exotic, another world.  Then … there was the mountain trek … in a jeep. No doubt a tried and tested formula, equipping twenty adults with super-soakers guarantees to break down barriers and find their inner child … an action-packed, dust-ridden, water-drenched, laughter-filled, conquer-the-world kind of day. They would later reminisce, it was their best of times.

The following months were happy enough, though while her feelings grew, it never really felt like he was hers. That dull uneasiness when something doesn’t feel right.  And so the day they would leave for Egypt loomed in her diary like their endgame … at least she would have him, until then.

Sharm El Sheikh was like nowhere she’d ever been – a surreal strip of tourism painted on desert flats between the Sinai mountains and the Red Sea, where fifty years ago, there was little more than a Bedouin fishing village. It stays firmly locked inside hotel security gates, cocooning visitors from the real world, and, for them, from their real feelings for each other.  

Ignorance, they say, is bliss. Lazy sun-kissed days soothed her troubled heart, and they embraced the opportunity of visiting this extraordinary land. Sharm’s appeal, and where the magic happens, lies of course in it’s breath-taking coral reef. With his encouragement, she’d ventured for the first time into a silent underwater world, and marvelled at darting tropical fish weaving between the corals, sunlight showing off a jewellery box of colours, the likes of which she had never seen.  

Not content with staying put, he was determined, despite the dangers of leaving the Sinai peninsula, to visit Cairo. Imagine seeing the Giza Pyramid for the first time as their plane swooped in low to land. The Museum of Antiquities stunned  them with room after room of faded hieroglyphics that spoke in hushed whispers of ancient times … Tutankhamen in his gilded glory and royal mummies lying in silent repose. A trip down the Nile and their first sight of the Sphinx, proud gatekeeper to the pyramids beyond. She’d never imagined in her wildest dreams finding herself there, with him … it would stay with her forever. 

Shortly after their return, he told her it was over, and broke her heart. Time heals, of course, and now it is not the pain, but those extraordinary times she remembers when she thinks of him. Right from the start, she’d asked him to help her spread her wings … and that is what he did.

 

 

finding Love wasn’t Enough

 

Why did I never write about it when we were happy?

Because it felt so fragile, I knew, of course, even then
that if I looked at it, just for a moment, it would break,
and so would I

My desire so deftly silenced the screaming of my inner voice,
that it became a knot inside me,
even through our happiest times … so many of those …
always that knot of knowing he would go.

There was nothing I could do, no matter how I tried,
And, in the end,  it would be the trying that overwhelmed him
And he would leave.

But the knot would stay
a vice of raw and overwhelming sadness
of loneliness, of grief for happiness lost, of longing
for what could have been.

I would have to find my way

For only then, the knot would be gone
and so would I …

finding She Had Fallen in Love

 

image

The moment
when life changes
for ever

A thunderbolt
so violent
nothing would be the same
again

It happened …
to me

Heartbeat, missed
breath, short
room, still
Just him
and me

He was the end
and the beginning
of my journey

What I did not see
until I had fallen
until it was too late
was that

it had not happened …

to him

finding Marrakech

“Life is either a daring adventure …… or nothing” (Helen Keller)

Their paths crossed, and she knew her world would never be the same again. Right from the start, he’d told her they would have no future together – her means would never stretch to the far-flung corners of the world where his imagination took him … and yet, nearly a year on, his hand wrapped protectively around hers, they weaved their way together through the bustling alleyways of the Marrakech souks.

Just ahead of them, two elders walked in earnest conversation. Dressed in hooded robes, with something of a Jedi knight about them, they might well have talked of the sports results of the night before, but their rapid Berber dialect hinted of mysterious and foreign lands. They strolled the dusty, winding paths of the souks with a familiarity that paid scant regard to the haphazard passing traffic his protective hand sought to shield her from. A sun-wizened market trader sitting lazily side saddle on his trusty donkey. Some two dozen trays of freshly laid eggs balanced precariously on the rack of a rusting push bike, destined for the food stalls in the Kasbah. A spluttering moped, it’s trailer laden with vegetation wilting in the midday sun. A family of four astride another, the youngest, no more than a toddler, secured only by his father’s arms on the handlebars .

The souks opened before them like an Aladdin’s cave. Away from the perpetually busy, tourist saturated Jemaa El Fna. From the hypnotic rhythm of the snake charmers, cajoling the cobra to perform their dance, soporific in the intensity of the heat. Away from the menagerie of tricksters, pick-pockets, herbalists and story-tellers. Away from the water sellers, and the lines of caleches, their horses waiting patiently for their next fare.

Away to the dappled shade, where the true Marrakech artisans plied their wares in cool, darkened inlets built into the ancient ochre walls of the Medina. A soft hammering filled the air as intricate patterns emerged on the delicate lanterns. The heady aroma of pyramids of exotic spices, bubbling tagines, and rows of figs and dates attracting more flies than passing trade. Rows of soft leather babouches, lined up like an untarnished paint pallet with their pointy toes and colourful hues. And rugs hanging from every beam, their weaves steeped in tribal history and tradition.  The souks – all that is Marrakech in their every breath – lulled into an afternoon calm as the call for prayer echoed from the Koutoubia mosque.

The elders paused, looked back. A momentary meeting of eyes, of East meets West. Then they took another path, and were gone.

His protective hand shielded her still, as they emerged into the light of the bustling metropolis. And she wondered if he, like the elders, would one day take another path and leave her to find her own, or if they would follow a path together.

Inshallah …….

 

 

finding Herself

 

“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.”  (Ernest Hemingway)

She knew she was built to give love, to feel passion. Someone once called her, her “emotional friend”. She envied their coolness, their apparent ability to control their feelings, to deny emotional trauma its suffocating hold. How was it her lot, then, to feel …. everything.? What was the trick to not feeling? Or was that, in fact, a trick in itself, and not feeling was perhaps just denial.  How does anyone truly feel life’s absolute high of punch-the-sky, on-top-of-the world happiness, without taking a risk on the low?  

Her journey forward was always about finding out who she was, because she knew there was more to the wife and mother she had been for the last thirty years.  She knew there was something inside her that had not found its wings, and she needed to let them unfurl and fly.  That is why she’d left.

How terrifying, then, to discover she did not know who she was at all.  Alone and at her most vulnerable, she could not then imagine a life without someone to share it with. She would fall in love blindly, desperately and completely, to the point that she lost sight of who she was.

It took months, if not years, to realise that she did not need a someone in order to live the life she dreamed. Nonetheless, whatever our path, we are all the sum of our journey, of the people we meet, of who we love, of decisions made, of paths taken. Ultimately, if we are brave enough to look and to feel life’s pulse with the very fibre of our being, we have the chance to learn about who we really are.   

She knew one thing for sure. She hadn’t come this far, only to come this far. And actually, yes, she was beginning to rather like this take a leap-of-faith, never-look-back, go-for-it kind of woman she had become.  This Maj … was quite something!