As we often find ourselves doing on many an expat weekend night in Doha, Smilin' Vic and I sat f2f across the kitchen island, sipping on wine, gabbing, and "YouTubing" for a laugh, an inspiration, and a touch of home.
We caught up on some funny parodies of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know", a few flash mobs (including one in City Center Mall, Doha) because they're always fun, and some awesome old and new Bruce Springsteen tunes (check out "Death to My Hometown" about the 2008 financial crisis if you haven't already ... awesome celtic stomp tune).
By chance, Smilin' Vic clicked on a video by Rod Stewart, for old times' sakes. We didn't even know he'd released anything recently. Giggles stopped, conversation ceased, we couldn't do anything but watch and listen.
"It's Over" ... Rod Stewart ... 2013 ...
How the f*@& does a 68-year-old maintain an almost 50-year career music high? Competing with 18-year-old hot bods with techno voices and choreographed routines. Seriously. How does he do it?
I'm a child of the 70's. Smilin' Vic was born in '61. We both grew up listening to 'Maggie May', 'Sailing', 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' and so many other Rod Stewart tunes that we sing to this day a cappella in the car, the shower, when dusting and whenever we think no one's listening. We keep on thinking his last hit is the last.
Yet somehow he always bests himself and stumps us.
He always seems to manage to capture something that really speaks to the soul. From a good place. There's no anger, no regret, no bitterness. He sings about moments in life, captured in their beauty and their unsightliness, simple fragments in a journey. And he puts music and magic to it, in a way that simple words cannot.
I ache to capture that symphony of words that conveys the voice of the heart. What a gift he has. His gift is his talent - what he gives to us. His gift is his prize - what he's been blessed with. The ability to speak to nations of souls who simply want to be reassured that their pain and their joy is not their's alone.
As we watched and listened to this latest video, both Smilin' Vic and I once again found something in his voice, his lyrics, his music, his imagery that touched our souls.
It's Over ...
Listening to the song, memories come flooding back.
Our union is not the first for either of us. Thankfully both of us have turned the page, finished that chapter, closed the book.
All of us come with a past, with regrets, with doubts. But we both look back and wish our former spouses nothing but the best. Looking back on the past is almost like watching a movie, where you can love the cast of characters (of which you are a part) while calling them stupid, where you can curse the plot (reality) while relating with the storyline (emotional journey), where you can actually cry for the villain and curse the protagonist.
I use this forum to talk mostly about moments. Which is why politics, religion and sex rarely rear their head in my discourse.
But sometimes reality is more than a moment. It is an accumulation of moments.
You come to realize that society is judging you on a moment, when in fact what you should be judged on is what came before, during and after that moment. All of it. The sum of all the parts.
Sometimes I want to scream out to this society that I am not 'loose'. I am not a 'ho'. I am not without values. I am not without faith. I am not without regrets. And I am not without feeling.
I did not take my vows lightly. Not the first time. Not the second time.
I am a Western woman who cried and struggled and screamed and lost her mind as she saw her first marriage and her world collapsing around her.
I am a Western woman who tried and cried and prayed to find the strength to make things right.
I am a Western woman who rebuilt her faith, her beliefs, her self-worth, her self-confidence, her love for life by renouncing the one person she'd built her life around.
But she didn't stop loving him. She didn't stop wishing him the best.
She stopped living with him. She stopped enabling him.
She stopped letting him define her worth.
She walked away in the hopes that both he and she would find peace, fulfillment and redemption. Because what they'd become together was toxic and painful.
I am an Expat woman. One who struggles with the adulation and judgement that comes when this society discovers that I am a Divorced woman. One who struggles with the pain and self-reproach that comes from failing at what I'd committed a lifetime to.
I am a Human woman. With feelings, and regrets, and memories, and hopes and dreams.
I am a Human woman who is proud to call herself an optimist, a survivor. I am a Human woman who is strong in her faith, in her values, in her beliefs.
I am a divorcee. I am a wife and a mother. I am a believer. I am a sinner and I am repentant.
I am a woman filled with dreams and hopes and desire.
I was married for the first time in the Catholic church. Which meant I entered into a covenant wherein I would honor my husband 'til death to us part. Breaking that covenant broke me for a while. Made me question my ability to honor my faith. Made me question my strength in the face of adversity.
Until I realized that my faith and my strength could not be broken unless I chose to let them. Until I realized that sometimes loving someone does not mean living with them. Until I realized that sometimes alcoholism, mental illness, anger and despair can poison even the strongest person. Until I realized that a covenant is not one-sided.
And I walked away.
"I don't stand here trying to focus the blame ...
What's the sense in pointing fingers?
Who's the Saint and the Sinner?
There ain't gonna be a winner.
It's over ... "*
I don't believe I negated God. I believe I honored him. I believe I redeem myself every night as I kiss Kiddo good night, as I hold Smilin' Vic tight, as I thank God for all he's given me, as I pray for those in my past whom I may have hurt or who may be hurting.
I am a Believer. I believe that I am worth believing in. I believe that my beliefs hold true. Here in the ME, there in the West, anywhere. I stand firm.
I am not just a divorcee. I am not just a mom. I am not just a wife, a sister, a friend, a co-worker, a neighbor.
I am a Believer. I believe.
Thanks, Rod Stewart. Sixty some years old and you actually made me reflect on 25 years of internal struggle.
P.S. How the hell can Rod still be so sexy?
*Lyrics from "It's Over", by Rod Stewart.