I work at an outpatient mental health facility. A nurse pulls me aside and says,” Someone told me that you are a writer! And that you’ve published books.”
Very few know this about me. Stunned, I smile, and explain, “Yes, I am a writer. I do have two books on bookshelves across America – more or less. But they are about slightly odd topics.”
I always hesitate to talk about the paranormal where I work. I mean, individuals seek treatment there for hearing and seeing things that aren’t real. In my case, I investigate claims when people see and hear unexplainable things in their homes. Sometimes, I see and hear the same things they do. I tread carefully with this topic around clinical staff. However, I’ve found a surprising number of them are fascinated by this, perhaps because they have an invested interest in the complexities, intricacies, and oddities of the human mind.
I discuss my contribution to Love, Inshallah, and briefly explain how I ended my marriage to my ex-husband, a Nobel Peace Prize winning, United Nations diplomat. I quickly mention my life abroad as an ambassador’s wife.
“Then why are you here?” she asks.
I understand her question. A woman with international experience, someone who knows people on TV, who has lived a live broader than most can even imagine – why am I working at a not-for-profit mental health facility when I’ve dined with First Ladies of certain Arab states?
“Because I’m building a new life, ” I say. Literally. I am starting over with nothing. Zero. Zilch. I am writing a new story on a completely blank page.
After a year of uncertainty, a summer of profound change, I am now at a still moment. It is slightly uncomfortable. I am unsure what to do with myself. I do not know how to be still.
I started unpacking my old life a year ago. This was before the job, right before the second book, at the beginning of what I call my little life jump. Survival modes became my modus operandi. My motto was easy, yet sometimes profoundly challenging: just get through today.
Now, I am a feeling a little tired. I’ve heard the right to be emotionally exhausted. These past few months, in particular, were exhilarating…and frightening.
As life has finally slowed down and I am no longer in survival mode, the real business begins of processing things. Emotionally, I can feel myself becoming numb. Pathologically, my brain is chemically imbibed with grief and loss. It is fair to say that I am slightly depressed. I know what Sylvia Plath meant when referencing The Bell Jar. This part of the journey is necessary. Life is sometimes sad.
I’ve earned this depression, and it will pass. It always does.
But there is this stillness. This loud, incessant stillness that reminds me that I was brave enough to leave a marriage, lucky enough to find work, strong enough to move on.
Ah, but now what? the stillness demands. Now watcha gonna do?
April – November
Let me recap: This summer, I moved out of a 2400 square foot home in a prestigious part of town an into a very small duplex with lime green walls. I left a home, stepchildren I’d raised for a decade, financial security, and the benefits of an internationally complex married life. A personal connection at a temp agency landed me a job at a mental health facility, where suicidal, and sometimes, psychotic individuals, defined my day.
The Universe has a brilliant sense of humor. Here I was, at my most fearful, my most vulnerable moment, to be thrust into the lives of a destitute population: the uninsured, depressed, schizophrenic, intellectually challenged, and, in some cases, homeless.
Two thoughts came into my mind: One — this could be your future, Deonna, if things go bad. Or, Two – Be grateful, girlfriend, for no matter how scared you are about your life, you are blessed.
I opted to ride my wave on the second thought.
Finally, after layoffs and budget cuts and profound uncertainty, I landed a full-time job – my first in 15 years – at this same mental health facility. I am grateful and happy with my co-workers and for the experience. May Allah (swt) bless those who helped me along the way.
Employment aside, this summer was one of unexpected emotional textures. I did something I thought impossible merely six months ago — I moved into my own apartment and got a job! I met someone, and for a very brief time, I thought this would blossom into something meaningful. Things did not work out that way. My short-lived bliss took a mighty punch.
And then, another man, an individual I’d grown to see as a mirror self and someone I can say I genuinely love, rightfully felt he could no longer sustain my drama. I must admit that his departure was, regrettably, at my own insistence. The self-inflicted loss of this friendship resonates louder than the loss of my marriage.
I sympathize with all parties involved. I look back over the past few months and feel a little silly about my behavior when it came to such matters. Yet, I am allowed messy moments. I am permitted to wear my insecure attire, on occasion. I try my best to overcome these moments – I really, do – but like most people, I sometimes fail.
I am not always my best self. I’m rebuilding a life. We all need to learn self-compassion. We won’t survive this world, otherwise. I forgive myself, even if I do madly miss those I pushed away. No matter how badly I wish them back.
One interesting experience over this past year is how many people I’ve encountered who are also in transition. The most significant friendships I’ve formed have been with those also ending relationships, rebuilding after profound personal loss, or in the process of internal re-scripting. The law of attraction is pretty obvious in my life.
With this in mind, I decided to stop thinking about regret, disappointment, or unfulfilled hopes. I started reminding myself how grateful I am for this journey, and for the sheer bravery and determination it took to make this life jump. I value my deep capacity to love those who do not love me back. I am learning to let go of expectations.
This is what I want to put out into the world, because this type of mercifulness is what I desire to attract back into my life.
I am, however, ready for the stillness to end. I am ready for a blank page, a new story. The possibilities are endless.