Bangles: My True Story of Escape, Adventure and Forgiveness by Marsha Marie is a personal tale of living outside the “safety” of America and of adopting another country as home. A sort of variation of “An Englishman Abroad” where the heroine of the book takes us though her trails and tribulations via series of books all starting with “Bangles.”
The tale begins with Marsha in an abusive relationship with her first husband. One that ends with her losing custody of her children. She meets a man from Los Angeles who is Pakistani and they fall in love. Marsha then decides to ignore the law, which has not been her friend in relation to her children and flee the country of her birth.
She takes her children to Pakistan to live with her new husband’s family in a tiny village that, in 1992, still uses a version of horse and cart to travel long distances. There are other cultural differences and Marie’s recounting is tinged with humor and that inevitable fish out of water feeling.
Anyone who has lived abroad will recognize the feeling Marsha describes while adjusting to her new home. It is an amazing story of perseverance and starting over, repeatedly, that keeps the reader turning page after page to move on to the next event in her story.
Each vignette explains something about the writer and, initially, the family she lives with. It also paints a broad picture of a country and culture that, in itself, is as different as night and day.
Marsha Marie is now firmly ensconced in the US. She has a website – marshamarie.com and is working on another two volumes in the “Bangles” series. It is the time of year for reading; summer hols and relaxing days in the garden and all that entails.
Take a moment to read this entertaining, sad at times, and remarkable look at one woman’s journey of self discovery in a country half a world away.
Bangles: My True Story of Escape, Adventure and Forgiveness by Marsha “Yasmine” Marie is a brilliant start to a series about learning; about one’s self and about healing. The book is available on Amazon via Kindle and the second in the series is due out January 2017.
Writing the other day of my thoughts on mortality and the avoidance of becoming consumed by the fear of death in the wee hours of the morning, I got a comment from my good friend Tash over at Films and Things. She mentioned that when she was younger she had the irrational fear that she would die old and alone. I could relate.
For years I suffered the same fear. In fact it was this fear that lead me to leap into my second marriage; an act similar to jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Despite the fact that I was drawn to the young lady in question, and she was young at a staggering seven years my junior, I should not have been thinking in matrimonial terms at all. I’d only just met her.
But in those days, it was unusual for me to not be thinking with my smaller more hormonally driven brain and the fact that I wanted to just talk to the girl put her in a special ranking. I thought, in my infinite wisdom, that this meant she was special. Special enough to marry. Which I did.
Now many years later, I am living my younger self’s nightmare. I am old-er and living alone. Well and truly the master of all I survey and answerable to no-one except my creditors and the taxman. Amazingly, I am happier than ever before in my life. The young me’s fear of being all alone and dying alone never rears its ugly head. Except in wee hours as I mentioned in my last post. We all die alone, whether surrounded by loved ones or not. Death is meant to be lonely, it is our own journey that has to be taken in solo status. We can invite no one else to accompany us on this final trip. Hence, we die alone.
But this post is not about dying, sorry to have strayed off the path there. I am back now and moving on to less morbid musings. The post is about living alone after a lifetime of living with others and just how much my life has changed.
The realisation came to me yesterday as I struggled to find enough clothes to make it worth my while to wash one of my summer uniforms (said uniform, donned the second the sun comes out consists of my speedo shorts and what ever shirt I first grab in the morning); after wandering through the house and realising that all I could add was the two kitchen towels, I realised that this was another symptom of living alone.
On the same day (busy day yesterday) I filled the kitchen sink with about nine small bits of dishes and cutlery to do the washing up. Another “symptom” of being a loner at home. Probably a bit wasteful of water, but I really cannot stand seeing washing up staggering about the otherwise clean kitchen. One of the things that my long second marriage instilled in me.
But those two similar acts got me thinking. I am now truly alone. I have no one to work around, move around, stumble around. My daughter moved out earlier in the year to share a flat with her boyfriend, a lovely chap that I keep referring to as my “almost son-in-law,” and I have, since that time grown accustomed to being a solo act.
It has been a learning experience this living alone. I have learned how to “downsize” my weekly shop for groceries. That particular task took ages. The amount of times that I had to throw out food that had gone off makes me cringe. Learning to schedule my house cleaning chores by levels. *Said levels are made up of dust accumulation and floors of the house.* Struggling to make the time to cook my meals so that I do not live on the unhealthy option of constant take-a-way. That one is the most difficult.
I said to my boss just the other day that I wanted to earn enough money at the paper to pay for a cook and housekeeper…oh and to pay all my outstanding bills of course. I could stand someone coming in occasionally to clean the house and to cook me my healthy heart meals. Even, perhaps, to buy me the groceries needed to set up my meals. I add this last part as I consume my late breakfast of strawberries with unrefined sugar that I threw together since the fruit was due to go off today.
I love living alone. The freedom it gives me is heady. If I want to walk through my house all day in my birthday suit I can – sorry if that dredges up unwelcome images, if it makes you feel any better, I have not succumbed to that particular temptation just yet. If I want to hoover (vacuum for those of you in America) my house at nine o’clock at night I can. These two examples of my freedom are not indicative of everything I love about being gloriously selfish for the first time in my life, but they’ll do for right now.
I am not yearning for physical contact with anyone, be they of the opposite or same sex. I don’t miss hugs or caresses or the other messier types of physical demonstrations of affection/love. A fact that I was shocked to discover. I have always been a very tactile person. Sex, to me, was the most fun I’d ever had that did not cost me huge amounts of money. It was also the way I could show, in a physical sense, just how much I cared for the person I was with.
When I was younger, sex was a very important part of my “big game plan” it was something that I knew with utmost certainty that I could not live without.
Turns out that, like so many things I thought I knew when I was younger, I was wrong. I have written about my feelings about “grown up” love and attraction before. I think the reason that I do not miss the physical act is because the age of my potential playmates match my own. My girlfriends, wives, lovers were always much younger than me, not indecently so, but around the three to seven year mark. There were two exceptions to that rule and both were wonderful experiences.
My circumstances may change in that area, but I do not think so. I have no time for the intrusiveness of a proper relationship and all its incumbent baggage. I write full time for the paper and on my blog whenever I can. I do my healthy heart walks daily, if at all possible, and write. It is difficult to find the time to clean the blooming house! I certainly do not have the time required to “cultivate” a relationship and like I’ve said before, I may have wrinkles but I don’t find them attractive in potential “mates,” And yes I am aware of how shallow that makes me sound.
But I can say with certainty that I do love living alone after a lifetime of living with others. I am comfortable with my own company and do not feel the need to find another person to make me complete. I have come to the realisation that, in terms of living space, I am happier flying solo. Besides as my list of friends and colleagues continues to grow, I am never truly lonely.
We all know what doors are. Put in the simplest terms a door is an opening into another area. Going through a door signifies entering or exiting a room or space. It is an act of “going through.” And of course going through a door means you’ve crossed a threshold.Thresholds are very symbolic. Take for example the tradition of “carrying the bride over the threshold,” this last act of the marriage ceremony symbolizes the bride and groom entering their new life together as a couple. The groom, provided he is strong enough, carries the bride through the door. I assume that the groom having to do this symbolizes his having to “carry” (spelt support) the wife throughout their life as a couple. And yes, I agree, that is a very old fashioned chauvinistic way to read it. But considering the amount of time that this custom has been around, I think it is an accurate reading.
In life we are always going over thresholds. Everyday we come to doors and have to make the choice to enter or leave. I am of course talking about metaphysical doors here and not real doors. But I think that these metaphysical doors are more important and life changing than real doors. Don’t get me wrong, going in or out of real doors can be life changing. I am just choosing to talk about the “unreal” doors for the moment.
This talk of entering and exiting doors really equates to the thresholds we encounter everyday in our lives. Crossing these thresholds can result in life changing events. Other times the threshold has no consequence to our lives or our destiny, so we can cross with impunity. Often we cross thresholds, never knowing that we have done so. It is only with the advent of “hind sight” that we can clearly see where we have changed our future.
And sometimes, even with this 20-20 hind sight, we never see the threshold that has altered our perceived future.
Doors come in the guise of many things. New job opportunities, accidents, injuries, marriage, divorce, and of course death. Some of the doors and their thresholds are allegorical and metaphysical, for example the custom referenced above of the bride and groom. Others are very real like your own front door.
My grandfather used to say that you never knew what was going to happen to you when you went out of your own front door. “You can get run down by a damned bus going to collect your mail!” I think he was right. I think that even if we know where and when these doors are meant to be opened, or conversely closed, we don’t know what the end result will be. When we cross these thresholds our life’s path is still uncertain.
I think that is how it should be.
If we all knew where we were going to end up, would we still make the trip? I believe that knowing our end destination would spoil our journey and a lot of folks would not even bother to start it. And like Pepe LePew says, “Getting there is half the fun!”
I’ve been in a hurry my whole life. When I was a youngster (that’s teenager, really) I was convinced that if I didn’t hurry up and “grow-up” I’d somehow miss the boat. I also wanted to do as many different things as possible. I had the usual suspects in my itinerary, travel, fame (or a monetary equivalent), freedom, and of course the all important career.
I changed my career goals as often as most folks change their underwear. My career choices ranged from: Lawyer – school took too long, Doctor – see Lawyer, Police – poor pay, Military – very poor pay (of course I did wind up in the Air Force, but that wasn’t a planned career move), Archaeology – pay non-existent. The list was endless. Then one day I had an epiphany – on the career front anyway – I could be an actor! Rather than try to pursue all those careers, I could act like all those folks.
So, I enrolled in the High School Drama Department. I became a card carrying Thespian and I was proud to be one. Then that “being in a hurry” thing got in the way again. I started working for who ever wanted me. I made the lady who gave me my first chance vie for my time. We had, quite understandably, a huge falling out. I quit the Drama Department in a fit of rage. This had a house of cards effect. I lost the chance at my almost guaranteed scholarship to university, and my impetus. In my hurry to get where I wanted, by rushing ahead impervious to those around me, I screwed up.
I did try (several times) to get back on the “acting train” – moving to LA in the late 70’s, and then nothing for almost 12 years. I did a little stage work when I moved to England, some extra work here and in Holland. I did the odd commercial, a lot of adverts for the Armed Forces Radio & Television Network in Holland. More extra work in the 90’s along with some voice-over work, and then…nothing.
I was still in a hurry with everything else though. While my “career” stalled out, I was rushing to do other things. Getting married – twice, divorced – twice, fatherhood – twice, changing jobs – again more often, than most folks change their underwear, moving – like a grasshopper. My life didn’t slow down until about ten years into my second marriage. Then it ground to a shuddering halt.
Now I’m single again, I’ve found that old habit of being in a hurry has resurfaced, albeit for a different reason now, I’m rushing to try get some old business taken care of. It is not often we get second chances in life. I’ve had more than my fair share of ”second chances,” and this time I’m planning on getting it right.
I think I’ve cracked it finally. I think I’ve figured out how I can fulfil my natural proclivity for rushing while still taking my time. I’ve got a lot of catching up to do and I’ve started already – still in a hurry – but this time, I’m paying attention. I’m going to look at the sign posts as I speed up the last roads of my life. I’ll try to avoid the detours when I can, and enjoy the scenery when I can’t.
I guess that’s the only advantage of rushing, if you get sidetracked, you can still get back on your path. A little older, hopefully wiser and still able to enjoy the trip.