I recently found some personal journals. They took me back to places I needed to go; to places that weren’t completely comfortable to visit but enlightening nonetheless.
Two years ago, I left my twelve year, international marriage to a United Nations diplomat from Afghanistan. (I say international because we lived in various countries and dealt with the geopolitics of a post 9/11 world. My ex-husband’s extended family lived in Afghanistan and Pakistan.) Not many white Americans have to consider such dynamics in their most sacred interpersonal relationships.
My decision to leave the marriage occurred after doing a lot of crying in my bathroom, which was in a nice house and in the best part of town. I used to take bubble baths every night and just…cry. My tears were filled with such caustic loneliness that the bubbles parted way. I was alone in a 2300 square foot home raising a collection of stepchildren and my son, Ibrahim, while my then-husband remained abroad doing his United Nations gig. I saw him a few times a year and only for a few weeks at a time.
Between the loneliness and single parenting, I became a paranormal investigator. I hung out with some of those people seen on the paranormal reality TV shows, and I wrote some books about why a good Muslim girl who was the wife of a Nobel Peace Prize co-laureate would do something as pedestrian and seemingly lowbrow as ghost hunt. If you want to know that story, read the book (or listen to the audio).
Before I became a ghost hunter, I was a budding writer. I scribbled in journals. While in the Middle East, I wrote for lifestyle magazines. An essay about my courtship and marriage to my ex-husband is in Love, Inshallah: The Secret Love Lives of American Muslim Women.
Most of the writing for all of my books and essays (and various blog posts) occurred at my local downtown coffee house, The Green Bean. The coffee shop is such a significant character that I thanked the establishment in both of my published books.
Moreover, it will show up in my forthcoming memoir (as well as some former baristas) as being an amazing source of support. In fact, I made the decision to leave my marriage while writing a letter over a Red Eye at one of the front tables.
And yes, I have cried in The Green Bean’s purple bathroom on many occasions. I cried during writing many manuscripts; I cried when I decided to untether my marital obligations, and I went into the bathroom today to cry after reading my journals, many entries I wrote while there.
Everyone needs a good coffee shop to call home and to have a good cry while in the bathroom. This has become my Third Space of liberation, creativity and safety. I’m so glad that The Green Bean has been there for me over the past several years.
The ladies bathroom door appropriately states, “Love Wins.” After two years of being unsteady and crying in bathrooms, I am betting on this to be true.
Dear Green Bean, may we continue to write beautiful manuscripts together!