It’s been a while. Since the end of last year, I’ve been asked quite a few times where I was, what I was doing and why I hadn’t been posting any updates. I’m sorry for disconnecting so much, but sometimes you just need to switch the “off” button, you know what I mean?
… as long as you switch it back on, eventually.
I want to be honest with you. I know my last posts talk about a fresh start and embracing things to come with hope and resilience, but I haven’t really been incarnating that lately. The impostor syndrome, you know the feeling? I was preaching things that I was really, really struggling to live up to. Maybe that can start to explain why I disappeared for a while there.
This year has been a hell of a ride for me and I don’t really know where to start to catch up the months I’ve been absent. I don’t want to pretend, I promised myself to show my readers the real me, and that includes my weaknesses and dark moments too. I’m not planning to get too much into the details, because they’re not great memories to dive back into. I do need to face myself, however, and I guess that’s somehow what I’ve been avoiding by not writing and not posting anything on here for all this time.
Now that I’m starting to feel better, I realize how damn low I have been. It feels like I went to hell and back, my own little personalized hell. I wouldn’t wish my worst enemies to go where my mind has brought me, where the pain has led me to. Sometimes, life slaps you right in your unprepared face, and I guess I needed to be reminded of that.
It all started a year ago, if I must retrace the path of my long descent into my own personalized hell. It started with those undealt-with feelings about Palestine and all the fucked up injustices going on there, and the huge gap between that world and mine that I just couldn’t make sense of. I don’t think any of us left that place the same. There, I had the most intense human experiences, felt the most mind-blowing love and connection with people and learned so many things; but parallel to those feelings were a growing sadness and hopelessness about humanity’s condition that were slowly eating my soul away. I left that place earlier than I could have, physically, mentally and spiritually drained, sad to say goodbye but hanging onto the little faith in humanity I had in me, that I couldn’t afford to lose.
The return to Switzerland after an experience like that was tough. My love for the ones I left behind didn’t make it any easier, especially for the man who changed my life forever and whom I was still very much in love with. I was struggling to move on, and I had decided to walk the famous “Camino de Santiago” in Spain for about a month, to have a destination, to find myself again, to find strength. Little did I know that life wasn’t ready to let me go so easily. That bitch hit me in my weakest point by hurting the person that I loved. Those of you who follow me know he got sick; and since that moment, the little joy I was hanging onto got sucked out of my soul. He was only 20 years old, and he got cancer.
So, without thinking, I flew back to the region of the world I really needed to leave only a few months before that, the same region that in all my contradictions I missed so much then and still do now. We met in Jordan. That last trip together was hard but wonderful, and I cherish those memories. I’m happy Numan got to travel , to have a taste of my incredibly lucky life for ten days. I’m happy I got to say goodbye, even if I didn’t know it would be an actual goodbye. A “I will never get to see you or talk to you ever again” goodbye. I can still see him walking outside our room in Amman, up to the car that would take him back to his family, back to the hospitals, I can still see myself waving at him from the window, and I still remember so clearly how it felt to be on my own in that room all of a sudden.
I look at myself since that moment, and I don’t really recognize me. I think that from that point, I slowly dissociated from myself, not able to handle the intensity of those emotions. Now that I’m facing them, I still feel like I can’t. My heart is broken, and it’s so incredibly hard to write about it. Putting it down, it’s like admitting that it happened. That he’s gone. That I couldn’t save him.
But life still had to go on. While he was fighting the demons in his body, I was fighting the ones in my head. I went to Beirut and I slowly let those demons take over. I lost interest. I didn’t want to go out anymore. I cried, a lot, until I got numb. I ate less and less and could never find rest; I was tired all the time. Then his brother wrote to me. He told me the doctors gave him a month to live. One month. How was I supposed to react to that? How could I have possibly prepared myself? No one gave me any instructions manual. So I did the only thing that seemed bearable at the moment: I poured some vodka in my morning coffee. I started talking about God to the people around me, in a weirdly detached way. I was so angry they could believe an almighty God could do something like that to such a beautiful person, that they would still worship him and believe he’s on our side.
Nah. I then believed only in the mighty power of physical, mental and emotional relief, by any means possible. And that was, for a very long time, running away. Never to allow myself to sit and really contemplate the situation. How could I, how could I possibly accept such a situation? I thought: “What’s the point of doing all of this, if we can all die just like that”. I mean, life does become pretty absurd in such a moment. I don’t see what else I could have done beside pouring myself some vodka.
Numan, I am sorry I decided not to go back for you. I promised you I would, but I wasn’t prepared to have to go back to see you for the last time ever. I wasn’t prepared to see you in the state you were in. Your father agreed, he thought that you wouldn’t want me to see you like this, that it would break your heart to see my pain. I hid behind that excuse but the truth is, I knew I wasn’t strong enough. I couldn’t be strong enough for you, unlike the people who stood by you the whole time. Seeing you like that would have broken me, and I was already pretty cracked. I couldn’t let you see me like this; you needed strength around you. Trust me, it wasn’t an easy decision. It was actually an impossible decision, and I couldn’t face the tragedy of it. How to deal with all of it ? I just couldn’t. I didn’t.
I went far, very far into the running away thing. I ended up in South East Asia, in the wrong environment, with the wrong people, doing the wrong things. I got addicted to and loved a person that I thought could save. But I couldn’t save you, and I couldn’t save him. I needed to save myself first, but I didn’t know how to anymore. I made mistake after mistake. I quit my studies and was going nowhere, nowhere else than towards an endless race against fear and against sadness. By March, I was in Cambodia, letting myself slowly die when you did. You died. I mean, he died. I use “you” as if I were talking to him, but I know I’m only fooling myself, because he’s gone. He was gone, and I was just a ghost of myself. Since then, I lost many things; I lost money, my camera, I lost my sanity, I lost over ten kilos and the little energy I had left. I lost myself.
I didn’t really hit me right away, when he died. I didn’t get to go to the funeral, or see his grave, or talk to people who knew and loved him. I just sat there with my pain and my guilt. I felt so much guilt, if you only knew. They say we each deal with grief in our own ways. Well, my ways were definitely not the healthiest and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. It took me months of denial, but I emerged from that nightmare, eventually. I scared myself when I realized what my life had become. I literally stayed in my room for days and days in a row, barely eating, barely doing anything, next to someone who was just as lost as I was. I woke up one day and decided to break the cycle. I acknowledged that I just couldn’t do this by myself any longer, that I needed the comfort and support from my home. I needed help.
I flew back a couple of months ago, a couple of months after Numan’s death. Since then, I’ve been slowly rebuilding myself, finally going through the stages of grief that come after the denial one. Slowly accepting that I can’t go back in time, that we can only go forward, all the time, whatever happened behind. Since I’ve reached out, I’ve been amazed by how understanding and loving people have been to me. It was hard at first, because I thought I didn’t deserve it anymore, that isolating myself for so long didn’t make me entitled to expect others to be here for me anymore. But they have been, and the people I’ve surrounded myself with since my return are saving my life. I am so grateful for their presence. I am so grateful that life showed me that the sun is always there, even behind the darkest of clouds.
I’m not going to lie, it’s still really hard. Writing this is painful. For a long time, I lied to myself by thinking I could move on by just hiding all the pain away and pretend like I was strong enough to handle it. I wasn’t. Now, I’m a lot better, but I still cry a lot and I still feel weak. I’m still not over whatever the hell happened during these past few months. A year ago, I thought I had it all figured out, and now I’m more lost than I ever have been before. I think I’m slowly moving on, and yet, while writing this article, I found myself begging an imaginary force to just make him come back, to erase that stupid cancer. I wish he could have lived longer. I feel more vulnerable writing this than anything else I’ve ever written (and I’ve written some pretty intimate stuff), maybe because I’m not proud of who I have been during the time I was gone, maybe because I feel a bit pathetic to still be so sad about my dead ex. I guess that there are some wounds that only time can heal.
So yeah, this is where I’m at, this is where I’ve been. Well, you know, in broad outline. I can’t say everything. I’m in Switzerland now and I still don’t know what’s coming next for me, but I’m okay with that. For now, I just want to say sorry to all of you for not responding to your messages and for closing off totally for such a long time, and most of all, thank you, thank you, thank you for being here for me. If there’s anything this whole story has taught me, it’s that we are not alone in this world. We just need a reminder of that sometimes.
Numan, I don’t know why life put you on my path. I don’t know which act of fate made us meet just a year before your were to die and sometimes all of this just sounds like a bad joke or the scenario of a very, very sad movie. But I will never regret for one second to have shared those few months with you and I will always keep you with me, wherever I go. I feel like nothing I could say will ever honour you the way it should, that no picture will ever show how truly beautiful you were, that no video will transmit the greatness you had in you when you danced. You inspired people the way I wish I could and the world needs more people like you.
Hey everybody, get out there and try, fall in love and make mistakes, fall down and get back up and do it all over again because even if it hurts like mad, we are incredibly lucky to be alive and it may not last as long as we thought. Don’t spend too much time thinking about tomorrow because it might just make you miss what you have today.
That’s why, even though some days it feels like my heart has been torn to pieces and I’m barely holding it together, I’ll keep smiling and I’ll keep pretending I’m okay because life goes on and life is for the living and it gets freaking tragic at times but we don’t have any other choice than to keep going… keep pushing until the pain eventually becomes a bit less painful.
Soko – We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow
I will let go, eventually, even if it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But don’t worry Numan, a part of you will always be alive inside of me.
Goodbye, habibi. <3