When we moved to Abu Dhabi, I carried a lot of stuff with me. Yes, we put just about everything we owned in storage or in the dustbin. The stuff I'm referring to, the stuff I brought here, was emotional rather than tangible.
I carried my mother's death, my father's death, and my uncle's death to Abu Dhabi. Of course those events happen to everyone - I only mean to say that they influenced me to be less carefree. I also brought years of putting myself second to my family. I do not regret that - but I knew it had taken its toll on me.
I look back at who I was when I came to Abu Dhabi: I remember myself as a bundle of resignation, guardedness and fatigue. It was M's idea to come here; I merely cooperated. I read everything I could about living in the UAE and about Arab cultural awareness. I was neutral on the plan: life had taught me to expect disappointment, because being surprised by it was very hard to swallow.
As I look ahead to moving back to New Hampshire (United States) this summer, I know I am more whole now. I am stronger and softer at the same time. Abu Dhabi is an expensive place to live but some things here are quite affordable: having a maid, riding lessons, and sunshine. Friendship, too, has been easy.
To be fair, I had begun to emerge from the tidal wave of early motherhood before our 2006 move to Abu Dhabi. In 2004, I'd started a novel, I'd started to exercise, and I'd started doing things with my children rather than only for them.
But it was here in Abu Dhabi that I could catch my breath, rest a bit, and dive in to interests that were purely mine. Riding clears my head. The English-language conversation class is rewarding. Making friends with Muslims and Arabs confirms my hope that we are all the same, worried about our loved ones and the future. Writing I just have to do.
Living here has helped me get back to me, which in turn helped me get back to my family. (If you're still reading, you deserve a medal. I apologize for the record-breaking self-indulgence of this post.)