Dynamo

My Muslim-Catholic-Orthodox Easter

Faith and religion are thorny issues. Deeply personal ones too, except when they become the cause of so much world conflict and hatred.

Funny joke:

Easter wasn’t celebrated in the USA this year because Jesus, with his Middle Eastern background, got stopped at the border.

Ha. Ha.

Sigh.


I was baptized Russian Orthodox Christian. However, due to my mother’s poor health, she was unable to make the weekly treck downtown to the 2 Russian Orthodox Churches in Montreal. She firmly believed that any religious upbringing was better than none, so she brought me to the Catholic parish close to our home. I attended that church from the age of 8 to 22, and integrated myself into that community, singing in various choirs, meeting my high school best friend, experiencing my first adolescent crush, doing volunteer work – some of my happiest memories from my youth are from that parish. My mother also enrolled me in an all-girls school run by Catholic nuns, because she admired the nuns’ mission to educate strong-minded, independent feminist girls. She was not alone: my fellow students were Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, Catholic, and avowed atheists. We studied all the major religions on the world: the nuns explained that while they were true to their faith, they weren’t in a position to pass judgment on the other religions. Moreover, if we were to be true citizens of the world, capable of empathy, tolerance and good manners, we needed to understand the broad tenets of each faith, as well as the socio-geo-political implications of each religion.

The consequence of this upbringing is that I identified primarily as Catholic, when young. However, my mother made sure I understood the differences between the Catholic and Orthodox faiths, and I’ve continued to attend Orthodox liturgies regularly but infrequently (2-3x a year). It is difficult to dissociate cultural heritage from the religious one. Part of my identity is Russian. The older I get, the more I appreciate my Russian roots and relate to the Orthodox dogma. Yet when I go to the Russian Orthodox churches, I am overwhelmed by my feeling of exclusion from that community. I don’t speak the language, I am SO Western, I don’t belong. The usual struggles of any 2nd generation immigrant.

I feel like a fish out of blessed water. I do not belong anywhere.


I was ex-communicated for having pre-marital sex with my then-boyfriend at the age of 23. It makes me laugh, now, except not really. It remains one of the most upsetting things to have ever happened to me.

I’ve struggled to reconcile the requirements of my faith with my reality as a young adult living in a secular society. Now that I am less young, I struggle even more. As y’all know, reading this blog, I aim to live a life of integrity, vulnerability, joy and self-realization. That’s HARD. I am also aware that while those are good goals, some of the behaviours that allow me to achieve them are not compatible with the requirements of my religion. I have no idea how to reconcile my identity and my faith.

Enter Dynamo. If I as a haphazardly-practicing Christian find navigating a secular world difficult, Muslims have got it a bazillion times worse. Dynamo has successfully built a life for himself that works, that is fully integrated in this secular, frequently intolerant of Muslims, world, yet allows him to practice his faith (e.g. Ramadan, Halal food, no alcohol). I consider him my role model, especially since we inhabit a similar social & professional world; it isn’t easy for him. We have talked of our struggles often over the years, the compromises we are comfortable making, as well as some of the similarities and differences in our religious dogmas. But the differences don’t matter, nor do our failings – we share this struggle, and encourage each other to be our best selves. As Dynamo told me 2 months ago:

Happiness is a choice, and is contingent on the alignment of the values you hold dear and your own behaviour.(…) Have your values changed? Because your quest for happiness has not, so make sure your behaviour is reflective of that. I don’t think it is.

My (Christian) values. Not his Muslim ones, although there is a significant overlap. And unlike that Orthodox priest that ex-communicated me, Dynamo does not judge me. He gently reminds me to reconsider that which matters to me. My Muslim friend wants with all his heart that his Christian friend finds happiness, peace and salvation.


After months away from any church, of any denomination, I spent Easter weekend (this year, Orthodox and Catholic Easter coincided) with my Catholic godmother and her family. We went to church a lot. The responses, the exclamations, the prayers of my youth were instinctive. I found myself weeping a lot – a mixture of grief, repentance, and happiness. I’m no closer to aligning my behaviour with my values, but it’s clear to me that this is a struggle I wish to continue engaging in. I cannot, despite my best efforts, break away from my faith.


How wonderful is it that my Orthodox faith is sustained by the love of my Muslim friend?

#HappyEaster

#IslamophobiaFTW

A valuable lesson

Back in Feb, I was having coffee with Dynamo, and I brought him up to speed concerning my trainwreck dating life.

I’d recently experienced a few moments with Beaut that had led me to believe that perhaps, maybe, with caution, we could sustain a friendship. Dynamo listened to me in silence, and then gravely spoke:

So this is what you are gonna do. You are going to unfriend him from social media, block him, and never talk to him again. He lied to you. He has lied to others. He has repeatedly shown that he will hurt you as a side-effect to him getting something he wants. He can have all the good quantities you describe, all that is true. You have forgiven him, bc you should not hold hatred in your heart. But he is not a good friend. And so he deserves nothing from you. No time, no energy, no space in your life. That isn’t being a drama queen, that is choosing to control the levels of drama and happiness in your life. To chose happiness you MUST not choose drama.

I mourned the end of a chapter in my life that, while tumultuous, had triggered so much personal growth and discovery for me. I was a better person because of Beaut – how sad that I couldn’t benefit from all the advantages he’d generated with him as a part of my life. But Dynamo is wise, and has built a life for himself that I respect and admire. If he tells me something, it’s worth considering.

I followed Dynamo’s orders and blocked Beaut. My stress levels improved almost immediately, and have continued to steadily improve ever since. I’m free.

Dynamo wasn’t done. He had lots to say about my recent string of dates, including Hickster, Eurodude, Older Guy.

I think it is time you question what you want in your life. If you want happiness, why are you accepting guys that won’t bring you happiness in your life? Happiness is a choice, and is contingent on the alignment of the values you hold dear and your own behaviour. The Vanilla I met in 2009 would not have accepted these guys in her life, bc they do not align with her values.

Have your values changed? Because your quest for happiness has not, so make sure your behaviour is reflective of that. I don’t think it is.

Ouch. From my best friend. Hearing that suuuuuuuuuucked. He was right. I’d been settling for dead-end, fun, convenient dating scenarios, with no long-term potential, and usually a whole lot of drama, that inevitably distracted me from my goals of well-being and joy.

A few weeks later, cue my almost burnout and a need for an immediate vacation, and off I went to Paris/Dubai.

I have often stated that the Universe is a bit of a dick, with a fucked-up sense of humour. Well, not this time: the timing of this life lesson was just perfect. If I step back and look at the theme of this trip, it is that of Love and Friendship: both new (FroMan, Energizer and Sunshiney), old (BlondEyes) and dear (BossMan and IronSweetie). There was no drama. There was no insecurity. There was overwhelming happiness and connection and joy. Why? Because of the ppl in my life, willing and capable of sharing themselves beautifully with me, and I with them.

This trip spoiled me. I don’t wanna settle for any less happiness with my friends and dating life than what I experienced in Dubai. Frankly, I don’t think I can settle again: anything less will be too little, when compared to the joy I felt during those 8 days.

Dynamo, as always, was right.


Recap of this trip – Dubai:

My Arab & Muslim family

When I told BossMan and IronSweetie (Dynamo‘s brother & sis-in-law) I was coming to Dubai, they insisted I stay with them.

“Vanilla, of COURSE you will stay with us, you are family. Don’t insult us by staying anywhere else.”

You are family. Strong words. I wondered if perhaps the phrasing was slightly hyperbolic and dramatic, as is sometimes the case when dealing with Arabs, and especially with BossMan (#dramaqueen).


Dynamo’s wedding last year.

IronSweetie took me under her wing: teaching me how to dance & introducing me to her family. Showering me with love, despite us only having met twice, briefly. I was Dynamo’s friend, I had been a friend of BossMan prior to his move to Dubai; that was all she needed to know, to befriend me.

Dynamo insisted I participate in the wedding pictures, adjusting his bowtie. After the first dance, when the dance floor opened up to family and close friends, I hung back, until BossMan yelled at me to join them, because I belonged.


I cannot dissociate my mother’s sudden death with Dynamo’s incredible care of me. Which is perfect, really: my mother was Love. It is fitting that her death triggered one of the most perfect demonstrations of Love I’ve experienced.

Dynamo had to leave for a month-long business trip; he almost missed his flight, taking care of me in the immediate aftermath of my mother’s death. He was distraught that he’d miss her funeral. I tried to explain that he had misunderstood: his presence at her funeral, while lovely, was irrelevant. In the Russian Orthodox faith, a person’s soul stays on Earth for 3 days after their death – on the third day, it departs to (hopefully) heaven. Therefore, my mother had seen his kindness and help towards me and my father. She knew we were loved, and that would free her soul to continue on its journey. He had done more good than he could know – he had helped my mother.

2 days later, at the wake at the funeral parlour, I was surprised to see Dynamo’s sister arrive, alone. I’d met her a handful of times, over the years, but we were not particularly close. She bore a beautiful bouquet of flowers, with a card. She met my family, paid her respects, and stayed 30-45 minutes making perfect small talk and giving her support.

“Our thoughts & prayers are with your family. May God help you within hard and good times. God bless her.”

I assumed Dynamo had sent his sister to represent his family, since he was out-of-town and BossMan had moved to Dubai. I was wrong. She volunteered. Those beautiful – perfect – words were her own. I carry that card with me always, to this day.  (Yes, it is water-stained from my tears.)

Dynamo’s family is devoutly Muslim. My family, especially my parents, is devoutly Russian Orthodox. Dynamo’s sister found the perfect words to bridge the (irrelevant?) gap in our faiths. In the Russian Orthodox faith, we believe that praying for the forgiveness of sins of the departed matters, and contributes to their salvation – our human understanding of time is inevitably too narrow when compared to the Eternal. Similarly, I believe that the prayers of my Muslim darlings for my mother’s soul have contributed to her salvation. That they would care about her salvation, and pray for her, fills me with endless gratitude and love.


BossMan and IronSweetie hosted me in Dubai, treating me always, showering me with generosity and time, despite it being a busy work week for them. We traded stories, shared moments of vulnerability. They showed me their world. I spent time with each one individually and together and met some of their friends. They were the best possible ambassadors for Dubai – answering all my questions and explaining cultural differences.

Their love was so strong. I resisted at first: I felt unworthy of such generosity and kindness. But Love, when untainted by other human failings, is too strong to resist. With every day I spent with them, I grew to understand and accept that I am family. They are family.

This may have always been the case. But this trip finally made me understand.

I love them so.

May God bless the Dynamite family.


Recap of this trip so far:

BossMan

Dynamo. My darling. My bestie.

I got to know Dynamo’s brother BossMan in Montreal in 2011. BossMan was going through a rough patch: he was an extremely high-achiever who was underperforming. Born to be an entrepreneur, he was having trouble developing a business model that was successful. A few too many costly flops, and his self-esteem was rather raw. Yet, always, he had an unwavering confidence that he would succeed one day. He just didn’t have anything to show for it, and society does not look kindly upon those dreamers that preach greatness but don’t have demonstrable results. I was studying for the UFE. I was in the danger zone, pre-depression (I slid into it, badly in 2012). I was a bundle of fear and insecurity and anxiety. BossMan decided we’d be friends – he didn’t give a damn whether or not I wanted to explore vulnerability, he imposed himself in my life. (In choosing a pseudonym for him, I considered Endearingly Explosive Bully, EEB for short, but that sounds like some medical procedure.) He saw the real Vanilla, drowning in my fight against my sick brain, and he always addressed his friendship to that part of me. I’d weep about the UFE, convinced I’d fail; he wouldn’t comfort me, no. He’d yell at me for dreaming too small. He didn’t understand that at that time in my life, I physically couldn’t dream – that is the cost of depression. I didn’t understand how he could still dream after all his failures, but I recognized that this was someone who could teach me about life. I clung to him.

Fall 2011. I was in the car with Dynamo, when BossMan called him about a business idea. Dynamo listened. Dynamo cautioned against the inherent risks in that industry & market. BossMan got irritated at Dynamo’s lack of vision. Later, I asked BossMan for an offhand update about that business idea. That innocent question led to BossMan sharing his business plan with me, consulting with me, trading ideas/approaches with me. He’d call me at work and get annoyed that I was busy and couldn’t walk him through a new tweak in his concept rightthatinstant. He listened – the only time in all these years he has ever listened to me. #EEBalltheway I enjoyed working on this prototype with BossMan. I enjoyed seeing how someone with vision and dreams tackled life.

BossMan left for Dubai in early 2012, with pocket change, the prototype we’d worked on, and his dream of success. I thought he was KA-RAY-ZAY. We kept in touch as he struggled to get his new business off the ground. He confided that his romance with IronSweetie was heating up; he married her a few months later. He launched his business, successfully. Via Fbk, I watched his life take shape, and with every new success, I was proud of him for grabbing life by the horns. But like in my dealings with BlondEyes, I knew: that thirst for life was not for me.

At Dynamo’s wedding last year (2016), BossMan was delighted to see that I was less paralyzed by my fears and insecurities. But to my dismay, he told me I still had a ways to go. I wondered if maybe he was right – the first time I considered that freedom from depression was not the same thing as happiness.

BossMan picked me up at the airport when I arrived in Dubai last week. He asked me what tourist attraction or landmark I wanted to see during my visit. My response: his office, to see the results of that prototype that has grown into a very successful business, and spawned a 2nd business that is shaping up to be as successful, if not more. “Of course! You must!” He introduced me to every single one of his employees. I had trouble not crying: I’m so proud of him. Not for succeeding financially – no. Proud of him for becoming the man he knew he could be back in 2011. Not giving up. Persevering. Overcoming incredible odds. Building a life of happiness for himself.

On the last day of my trip, I was telling BossMan of the various stories from the dance festival, how transformative an experience it has been, all the people I’d met, my various meltdowns. I got the only compliment I’ve ever gotten from BossMan: “Many people would not have done what you did. Good for you. You are living now. Don’t stop.” I know that he is proud of me for becoming the girl he spotted beneath my depressive mess back in 2011. Not giving up. Persevering. Overcoming incredible odds. Building a life of happiness for myself.

We all need those people in our lives that believe in our capacity to be our best selves even when we can’t see our way.

Dynamo & BossMan. What my life would have been without you both.

Thank you.


Recap of this trip so far:

 

Roller-coasters were never my favorite

After 7 years, a bit of closure

Earlier this week I was frazzled & late for a date. As I made my way through the crowded bar, a guy grabbed my arm. Startling. Even more startling was realizing that guy was my ex‘s cousin, TwinkleEyes.

Gosh, I loved that man. His weekly Sunday family dinners were tradition – for 5.5 years, TwinkleEyes and his beautiful wife welcomed me into their family. I attended their wedding. He witnessed me grow up, drop out of university, put myself back through school.  When my ex and I broke up, it was TwinkleEyes who came to pick up the boxes of my ex’s stuff.  He told me he’d enjoyed every minute of getting to know me, and wished that I would eventually find greater happiness than what I had known with my ex – for if it was ending, it was because better things awaited each of us. I didn’t believe him at the time, but his sorrow for my heartbreak was a comforting memory I revisited often in the following months.

In that crowded pub, we tried to cram 7 years of updates into a few minutes of conversation. Hard to talk when your cheeks hurt from smiling. He & his wife, doing well. Me, doing so well- TwinkleEyes had been right, of course: it might have been a much longer and tortuous journey than either of us could have anticipated, but I’ve finally found my path to happiness. Seeing him gave me peace I didn’t realize I still needed. One of the hardest parts of that breakup, like any breakup I suppose, was finding myself cut off overnight from my ex’s family whom I’d grown to love deeply. I’ve often wondered what became of them over the past 7 years. I never expected to have the opportunity to find out.

TwinkleEyes came to say goodbye as he was leaving. More grinning and happiness. Then the mischievous look I’ve so missed crept into his eyes, and he introduced himself to my date, adopting an avuncular attitude. I’m surprised he didn’t ask flat out, “And who is this? Hmmm? What are your intentions towards Vanilla, young man?” Nice try, TwinkleEyes. Meet the Dude. That’s it. The Dude. No label, because he is just the Dude.

7 years later, and all I have to show for it is this blog, and its collection of various dudes. My ex, meanwhile is married with a gaggle of children. He wins. Or does he? My blog is pretty sweet, y’all. #forgethumblebragging #fullblownbraggingismoremystyle

#closurefeelsdamngood

Where in the world is Carmen Santiago?

On Thursday, an email popped in my inbox from Parisian Coworker. He politely invited me to drop off a project in Barcelona in late March because I was behind on deliverables for another of his projects. Cue the tears of embarrassment and shame.

I asked CFO-boss for a closed-door meeting. Seeing my tear-streaked face, he kindly told me that I should always consider his office a safe space to rant/vent/cry. I explained how overwhelmed and close to a burn-out I was; despite working with my #dreamteam, we’ve been unlucky with a series of protracted sicknesses/injuries and never-ending mat leaves, such that we are always playing catch-up, and I can never catch a breather or focus on my special projects. I shared the humiliating email. I blew my nose violently.

20 minutes later, I was still crying. CFO-boss exclaimed, “Vanilla! I’m proposing solutions and all you are doing is crying. Work with me here!!!” Which made me giggle. #genderstereotypesreenacted

Our tentative solution was to reach out to Parisian Coworker and propose swapping the Barcelona trip with an immediate Paris trip where I’d clear all deliverables related to the more important Paris project. CFO-boss also ordered me to take the following week off in vacation, out-of-the country. By Friday morning, this plan was confirmed, and after 1-2 hours of planning, I booked myself a 2 week long international trip, beginning 3 days later: 5 days in Paris, 9 days in Dubai, visiting Dynamo‘s brother & sis-in-law and attending a big dance festival. I leave tomorrow. I’ve never been this excited to purchase sunscreen.

Bet y’all didn’t realize that accountants lived such an unpredictable, highly-strung, jet-set lifestyle. (Funny story: I was mentioned my impending travels to a stranger at a party last night, and he asked me if I modeled, because why else would I be flown to Paris & Dubai? Bro, you slick.)

I’m excited for the change of scene and the chance to recharge. Hopefully this will trigger some new experiences, beautiful pics and blog worthy stories. Any bets on how badly I get sunburned?

#bestbossever

#adultingishard

#mylastrealvacationwasDynamosweddinginmarch2016

I have the best family and friends

Like, really tho.

My paranoid brain might be waging a full blown war against me, and Mimi is taking an extended nap, but I still have a few weapons up my sleeve, in the form of the greatest friends and family ever. Their love is like a magical spell that never fails to put a smile on my face and make me feel centered.

My Quebec cousins. When I visited them at the end of August, I was still recovering from the shock of my discovery – something I had not shared with them, as I was too ashamed to admit what had happened. All they knew was that I had been involved for months with a guy who wouldn’t commit and who, in their words, often made me look “spent and exhausted“. They were, to put it mildly, not the biggest fans of Beaut. At one of the activities that we did that weekend, I wanted to take multiple pictures with my iPhone, but of course, lacked space. #iphoneissues On impulse, I deleted my entire 10-month text history with Beaut to free up memory. Upon hearing me mention that to my cousins, the boyfriend of the youngest cousin exclaimed enthousiastically, “Fuck yeah!” The thing is, I only met this boyfriend once before, and had obviously never gotten to the point of intimacy where I confided any part of my dating life to him. I realized that he was up-to-date on my Beaut saga from briefings from my cousin/his girlfriend. My cousins obviously discussed my dating life between them. As an only child, I was completely unused to having my business so freely shared, not having any secrets. Yet, I was incredibly touched that my story mattered so much to them, that even their boyfriends cared that I find happiness. My almost-sisters. My darlings.

The eldest cousin has an email subscription to my blog, and reads every post the day it comes out. Yesterday morning, she called up her sisters, and read my last post to them. Together, they plotted and planned how to execute an intervention from a distance. And whether it might not be worth it to jump in a car and drive down to Montreal and “screw his head off”. Qc cousin #2 took matters into her own hands and naaaaaaaagged me to unfollow Beaut on fbk: I could continue to occasionally look up his profile, but I needed to stop over-investing myself in his life and concerns ASAP. As she put it, if I wasn’t willing to do it for my own well-being, could I please do it for her and her sisters? They were fed up of seeing his name pollute their news feeds. Oye.

Dynamo. Of all my friends, he was most tolerant towards Beaut throughout. He understood that sometimes, you can’t chose who you care for. During all these months, did he encourage me to ditch Beaut? No. Did he ever rant that Beaut wasn’t treating me well, that I deserved better, etc etc? No. He accepted my assurances that Beaut, in his broken, limited way, truly cared for me. He accepted that Beaut was living through a firestorm. He pointed out to me that if my goal was to be a true friend to Beaut, and accept him as he is, then I needed to accept that his actions, and his words, amounted to him saying “I can’t make space for you in my life” – not that he didn’t want to, but that he was incapable of it at the present moment. Dynamo suggested that a true friend should accept others’ limits, and not impose oneself – that would result in me being another source of stress and inadequacy in Beaut’s life, which is not the contribution I wanted to make. Dynamo gave me a framework to work through my confused, hurt emotions that didn’t involve my usual narrative of being inadequate, or unlovable.

When he found out last night that I had unfollowed Beaut on Facebook, he uttered a guttural war-cry, danced a little jig and double high-fived me. In a crowded movie theatre.

DD. Similarly to Dynamo, she never judged my willingness to invest myself in a guy who wouldn’t commit, nor did she ever judge Beaut for his incapability to commit. She trusted me to evaluate whether this friendship was producing a net positive in my life. She was the first and only person I confided my shocking discovery to, because I knew she would handle my shame with care. Which she did. She advised me to impose serious boundaries in my friendship with Beaut, if I was determine to continue it. It took me 4 weeks to listen. I expected her to say “I told you so”. Instead, she said “Halleluja. I knew you’d get it sooner or later. I’m glad you’re investing in your well-being.” That might be the least sarcastic comment I have ever heard her utter.

Allie. One of my dearest friends, other than Dynamo. She’s just moved back to Montreal, with her fiancé, after living in New Zealand for 3 years. I’ve missed her awful – she has asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding next year, first time I’ve ever had that honour. I’ve been spending a fair bit of face-to-face time with her, and getting to know her fiancé, because any man that is deserving of Allie’s heart is a man worth knowing. The morning after spending a quiet evening with them at their place, Allie wrote to me to let me know that her fiancé wanted me to know that I was to consider their condo as my second home – that I was welcome anytime, always. We were soon to be family, anyhow. He’d noticed that same exhaustion my cousins hated – despite me not talking about any part of it.

And so many others. It’s hard to feel unlovable when the second I stumble I’m surrounded by ppl offering me a hand to get up and brush myself off.

 

The Dynamo trip: bow ties and feelings

By Tuesday (Day 4) night, my insecurities had taken over. The culture shock (see Day 1 & Day 3 below) felt huge. Dynamo was very busy with wedding preparations. Out of the 300 wedding guests, I was slightly acquainted with 15 people, including Dynamo’s siblings; to my knowledge, I was the only non-Arab guest. It seemed everyone had their established tight-knit groups, and I was always tagging along, one step behind on all the inside jokes, and frequently entirely excluded from conversations, as the guests lapsed into Arabic. Good manners forced me to hide my boredom and loneliness, but boy, did I feel isolated. I considered throwing myself into sight-seeing day trips, but that involved too much rigid planning, and distancing myself from Dynamo which made me even more anxious.

On Wednesday (Day 5), I skipped out on a major sight-seeing day trip to go shopping with Dynamo for the accessories for his tux (bow-tie, shirt, cuff links and suspenders bc #baller). I’d gone suit shopping with him in Montreal, so it was only right that I accompany him on this second expedition. (Aside: shopping for men’s suits is one of my favorite things to do. I love analyzing the workmanship and skill behind the tailoring of an outfit. One seam is all it takes to make or break a suit.) Seeing Dynamo all decked out in his wedding outfit made me cry. He looked so handsome. The salesman showed me how to properly adjust Dynamo’s tie so that “on his wedding day, you will know, and you will make him look good.” The salesman’s assumption I would be awarded such a critical role (normally attributed to the mother/father/best man of the groom) made me cry. While Dynamo was distracted by his wifey, I bought the classiest pair of cuff links, pissing him off, because Dynamo loves spoiling others but hates being spoiled. I tried to explain to him how honoured I was to witness the beginning of this new chapter of his life, and how much it would mean to me if he would wear these little bits of metal as a token of my love and best wishes for him and his wife on their big day. I only managed to say 5 words before crying. Again. #turningintomymother

I was ashamed to realize that part of my tears were driven by a feeling of mourning: he was embarking on an adventure that necessarily would exclude me. I felt left behind. The creeping fears and insecurities that always hit me hard during weddings were overwhelming. Then I felt guilt, because those are pretty selfish feelings to have with regards to my best friend’s wedding. #sosososorryformyself

The supper (Day 5) that turned my trip around

That night (Day 5) there was yet another big supper, to greet a new wave of Dynamo’s guests. I felt emotionally raw, and reconciled myself to another evening of hidden boredom tempered by ridiculously yummy food. Instead, I hit it off with 6 of the guests from Dubai and Jeddah (all part of Dynamo’s elder brother’s crew). Thursday (Day 6) I hung out with these new-found friends and Dynamo’s siblings, a day of idle munching, strolling around town, and sunny terrasses. Frequently the conversation lapsed into Arabic, and just as frequently they’d catch themselves and translate immediately, bringing me into the lively dialogue. The topics were wide ranging and interesting, and we discovered shared values and common humour yet totally different life experiences (conclusion: life in Jeddah would not suit me. Did you know movie theaters are outlawed there?). Thursday afternoon, Dynamo casually mentioned that he expected me to tie his bow-tie on his wedding day- of course I would be part of the wedding pictures: I was his best friend. Thursday night the Montreal crew and the Dubai crew went out clubbing, and I had a blast. Dynamo’s sister-in-law gave me a crash course in typical Arab dance moves, practicing them with me till I could execute them smoothly. Friday (Day 7 – day of the wedding), I got ready with Dynamo’s sister and sisters-in-law. So much excited girly conversations – fake eyelashes: too much? is there such a thing as too many hair extensions? What color nail polish would best accent my eyes? Friday afternoon, I joined Dynamo and all of the men of his wedding party, for the wedding pics of the groom getting ready. I tied his bowtie, and adjusted his suspenders and did not cry – his older brother did that instead.

As I walked into the wedding reception, I felt nothing but joy. I tried locating the fears that had threatened to ruin my trip but found they were gone, replaced instead with a certainty that the friendship and love I share with Dynamo will never disappear, no matter how many different chapters or life events we experience. It will grow and change to include the new people in our lives (Hi Mrs. Dynamite!!), and that is a good thing.

I was seated at the Dubai/Jeddah crew’s table. Lots of laughter. The dance floor opened after the first dance for close family and friends to join the happy couple. I hung back, until Dynamo’s older brother impatiently waved at me to join him on the dance floor, because I belonged there. As the Arab music blasted, and everyone danced away, I remembered Dynamo’s sister-in-law’s instructions, and found myself swept away by the music and a never ending number of dance partners.

And so, I learned that being different does not imply isolation. That cultural differences are not insurmountable. That my fears and insecurities don’t stand a chance against love and happiness. What started out as a trip of self-imposed loneliness turned into a trip of new friends and shared experiences.

That Dynamo. He always brings good things into peoples lives.


Recap of all previous posts related to the Trip To See Dynamo Lawfully Wedded: Who’d Have Ever Guessed He’d Find A Woman Crazy Enough To Marry Him.