On relationships, breakthroughs and happy times

Lately I’ve been working on putting smaller pieces of larger stories together. I’ve written about this weird block I’m working through, and that’s a big part of it.

I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding telling stories or processing things or dealing with things, and now that I am, I’m trying to figure out how it all fits together. First in a collection of poems, but on a larger scale, how these events have changed my life and shaped who I am in smaller ways.

The large ones are obvious, it’s the smaller shifts I like to explore.

There’s a saying I hear often (that I’m likely going to butcher) that says something along the lines of “you don’t know the important moments are important until later.” It’s rather obvious, but it’s interesting watching that idea manifest itself in really tangible ways in your own story.

I’ve been writing about Greece a lot. I always knew that going to Greece would change my life, but I never though it would have occurred this way.

That trip was really the moment (collection of moments rather) when I decided that my marriage was over. I didn’t look at it like that then because I was still trying to convince myself there was some semblance of hope that we could fix things, but there wasn’t.

My favorite moments of that trip were the ones where I was alone. Then there’s dirt house story I told here. Then there’s when I was at the most beautiful beach in the world, floating in the clearest, bluest water I’d ever seen, and I still felt empty. I knew at that moment it was as good as it was going to get. Going to Greece was always my life dream, and Chris made it happen, but I still couldn’t be happy.

I’m sure he felt as though he’d given me everything he could give, but it would be unfair to speak for him.

I knew then, though, that if I couldn’t be happy in that space, nothing about that life was for me. I left shortly after that, but the way it all unfolded just kind of came together for me recently.

Since then, though, I’ve been paying extra attention to small moments.

I went out with some friends last week, and we had a really good time. I’m really fortunate to have met some of the best people since I moved to Florida, and we had fun.

We took this picture (below) the other night, and I love it for a few reasons.

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First, that lip color, though. I’m obsessed. Second, do you see how amazing the people I’m with are? They’re freaking great.

Mostly it’s the fact that I look so genuinely happy in this photo. Because I am. It isn’t just the tequila/sangria, I promise.

Let’s rewind.

Earlier this evening, I’d had a really dumb situation happen with a not-so-dumb boy. Sort of a misunderstanding, sort of a moment where I had to check myself to make sure I’m not selling myself short like I frequently do. Boundaries and expectations in relationships are freaking hard to navigate, even if things are super casual.

Anyhow, he hurt my feelings, but instead of going home and crying about it, I went out with my friends and had a seriously good time dancing all of our troubles away.

For once I didn’t make other people more important, I just took care of myself.

Judging from the three texts I received from said boy while I was in the club, he knew he upset me fairly immediately. It didn’t matter.

Funny, though, how people only want to show you that they care when they think you’re halfway out the door. I wish more people would appreciate the people they have in their lives while they’re there.

Anyhow, said boy and I worked it out. I didn’t write this to bash on him, he’s a good guy. Anyone who let’s me ramble/overthink to them in a series of novella-length text messages usually ends up good in my book. But we’ll see how this story unfolds. Who the hell really knows.

I wrote this to point out, once again, how far things have come. Brenna spent a lot of time with me last fall when the actions of one particular jerk (who will remain unnamed because evidently I’m only good enough behind closed doors) would ruin our nights out.

I’d end up a wreck. Crying in a bathroom or on a bar stool because some idiot wouldn’t pay attention to me. Because he decided that he could pop in and out of my life as he so chose, and I let him. Always waiting there at his beck and call whenever he needed an ego boost.

Ew.

I won’t do that again. I won’t be that for someone ever again. Although sometimes it’s hard to tell when you fall into that role.

Hindsight is 20/20. My regular vision…well, I should probably wear my glasses more often.

Anyways, I did not end up in a puddle of tears in some gross bar bathroom. That, my friends, is progress.

That, my friends, is me taking care of me. And that is how you get a genuine smile.

It was a small moment, one night out with those fabulous people in (hopefully) a series of them. But it did not go down as “the night Michelle ended up crying over some dumb dude.” Instead it’s “the night Saqif showed us all up on the dance floor.”

It was a small moment, but those are the ones that make all the difference.

 

History’s Footsteps (Poem)

A few weeks ago, I went to visit Flossenburg concentration camp which is about 45 minutes away from where we live in Germany. We’ve been a lot of places thus far in our time in Europe, but this was by far one of the most profound travel experiences I’ve had.

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The S.S. Guards’ quarters

 

It was one of those experiences that takes your breath away, that makes you drop to your knees in prayer to whatever God will listen. I studied the holocaust quite a bit in school, but I don’t think there is any amount of study that can prepare you for the feeling of actually visiting a place. It was real. It happened. And it was absolutely horrible.

The thing that struck me the most about visiting the camp, other than what I have detailed in the following poem, is the number of houses that now surround the camp. Some even have large picture windows overlooking the camp. I just…I can’t comprehend how you can go about your day to day life living so close to where such tragedy occurred. Cheap land, I guess.

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The “Valley of Death” at the camp.

Anyhow, I wrote the following poem about my experience visiting the camp.

History’s Footsteps 

I shut off the ignition,

Closed the GPS that led me here to this place.

A knot formed in my throat as I realized

I came here intentionally,

But thousands longed to escape.

I am disgusted with myself

For having set this as a destination.

 

I notice they’ve added tour bus parking

So people can come by the masses

To see where other masses lost their lives.

 

We cross through the entrance,

An archway underneath the brick building where the S.S. guards sat,

Orchestrating the horror.

 

We are following their footsteps,

But we can come and go as we please.

 

We pass through the camp,

See the kitchens and the laundry where prisoners lived and worked.

They’re shabby buildings with chipped white paint,

Obviously worn and overused

And you can tell it’s not just from age.

 

There’s another white building,

This one shaped like the Star of David.

The same stars marks the door.

I go inside and am immediately

Consumed by the stale stench of death

Lingering after all these years.

It saturates my clothing,

Fills my lungs until I think they might burst.

 

I cannot go in any further.

I know this is where it happened,

Where 30,000 bodies were burned

Inside the same shape that acted as a symbol of their faith.

 

I’m longing for fresh air

As I’m sure they were.

But I can leave whenever I want

With my body still in tact,

Still housing my soul.

 

I lean over a railing trying to ease the queasiness in my gut

And look down into what was once the quarry

“The Valley of Death”

It was so warmly nick-named.

The lump in my throat grows,

The queasy feeling in my gut becomes turbulent.

 

The quarry is now a memorial,

A giant cemetery of unmarked graves honoring those

Who are long gone.

Flowers are left, the grass is neatly mowed.

The grounds well-maintained.

They’re given a level of respect in death

They weren’t deemed worthy of in life.

 

The rest of us flock to this place

In hopes of understanding how such cruelty is possible.

Instead we leave, hearts aching

Remembering their cruel, avoidable death.

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The entirety of the grounds is now a memorial to the 30,000 people killed here.