Wednesday, August 8, 2012

On (Not) Making Friends

The most important thing I forgot to mention is that I've been feeling the baby kick!

It's super early, especially compared to last time. At first I thought it was maybe gas? I wasn't too sure. But there is no doubt these flutters are of my teeny tiny puppy. It gets super active right after I eat, which is hilarious and heart-warming. If there is one thing I missed about being pregnant it is definitely feeling that little person move inside of me.

So like I mentioned in my previous entry, I'm gonna talk about some things on here that don't directly relate to the pregnancy in an attempt to get back to my no-censorship writing. But don't worry I'll try my very best not to hurt or disrespect anyone in the process.

I've been sort of living in Bahrain since 2009. If you know me at all, you know I can't be in one country too long, I need frequent breaks in order not to get frustrated. Some people might think this is strange, but I grew up moving from country to country, and honestly have not spent more than 4 or 5 months in a place without getting some kind of extended break in between. It's kind of hard to expect a 30 year old to change her ways. Of course I understand the obligations that come with being a parent, but everyone I know gets to go on vacation every now and then.

I've been lucky enough to have a very easy going daughter that enjoys plane rides and is an easy traveler, not that I've taken her anywhere drastic. Our trips mostly consist of short trips to visit my parents in Doha. Unfortunately Sofia has only met my family in Egypt once, when she was 6 months old, which a true shame. We also took our first family trip to England this past June, and she was a breeze. One of the things I always imagined doing was taking her to a place very close to my heart: Austin, obviously. When I was pregnant I spent a lot of time imagining taking her for walks along Lady Bird Lake, taking her to the Saturday Farmer's Market downtown, and taking her to the playground at Barton Creek Springs. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to do any of those things yet, and now we'll just have to do it with a sibling. Hey, the more the merrier (and the more help I'll need).

Many of my friends and family ask me what it's like to live in Bahrain. Back in 2009 I was extremely excited to be moving there. I remember telling people that if I could live in any GCC country by choice, then Bahrain was my number one. I always had a great time when I visited. The people are normal, the restaurants are excellent, and the whole vibe reminded me of an eclectic place I once visited and felt right at home. So you can definitely say that I moved there with an open heart, and a very open mind.

Luck would have it that I moved there when I was 5 months pregnant. The actual day I moved there I went into pre-term labor and had to be hospitalized for a week.

I think that's when the shock really started for me. Going through that was traumatizing, although I did my best to be positive during that time. My mother-in-law and husband were with me all the time, and my parents and brother came from Doha to be with me as well. But during those nights at the hospital I realized how lonely this was about to be. No one but the people I mentioned above visited me. Of course there were tons of emails, phone calls, and messages from my friends all over the world, but it was during that time at the hospital that I realized how difficult this was going to be without friends.

During the time I was on bed rest, I was lucky to have many friends come visit me in Bahrain (this was before any protests and visa issues). Not only friends, but my friend's parents even came to visit me. My friend Nitya's parents flew to Bahrain for a few hours to come see me. A few hours. How incredible is that? And not once, twice! If people are flying in from another country to show me love and support, surely there must be something wrong with the fact that people in Bahrain aren't even calling me to ask how I am, right? Needless to say I became bitter. And I formed much stronger bonds with the people who cared.

Like I said before, I didn't grow up in one country. We moved around a lot. So the concept of having life-long friends to grow up with is completely foreign to me. I'm blessed to have so many friends all over the world, but none of us grew up together. None of us continue to live in the same country or share the same experiences. The importance of these friendships really struck me when I was in college.
My friends were my family. The incredible amount of love and support (and FUN) we had will stay with me forever. And that is the one thing I miss the most - my friends.

So this brings me to the question people like to ask me about living in Bahrain: have you made any friends?

What a simple question. And a complicated one to answer.

The short answer to that is: yes, I have made two friends in Bahrain since 2009. We don't see each other on a regular basis. One of them I see every now and then for dinner, and the other one is my neighbor and we text each other every day. We try and do something with our kids at least once a week. Let me make it clear how lucky I am to have found those two - they make everything better.

The long answer to that question? Let me just say that a few months ago I was feeling a bit down and went for a drive. I had been really missing Austin and was asking myself what it is that I miss so much? That's when I realized how amazing it would be to go out for coffee with a friend and just kick back and talk about things - which is something I did every single day when I was in Austin. Surely if it felt that great back then, it is exactly what I need right now.

When I looked through my phone contacts I realized there wasn't a single person I could call. Not a single one. Sure, there are plenty of acquaintances on there. People that aren't close friends have plans. They have families, they have lives. You need to plan stuff in advance. But who really wants to have an awkward coffee session with someone they can't relate to? And when I say someone they can't relate to I'm referring to myself.

I'm completely aware of the way I come across to the majority of women I've met in Bahrain. In simple terms, they think I'm weird. They can't quite figure out what it is, but it's something. Someone once called me a "free spirit" and made it very clear that it wasn't a compliment. We have completely different interests. Let me make it clear that I've tried through and through to blend in and then realized why am I doing this to myself? If you know me in real life, you know how social and happy of a person I usually am. So it comes as a real surprise to everyone that this is the way things are right now. I clearly remember some instances when I've opened certain topics, and people were just uncomfortable or not interested. I also remember instances were people discussed certain topics that almost bored me to death. I'm only referring to a cross-section of people over here - not everyone is judgmental, and not everyone is boring. But after 3 years I just decided it isn't worth the effort anymore, and I started distancing myself. I started feeling socially stunted.

There are many days where I don't talk to people. The only interaction I have outside of my house is with a cashier at the grocery store. I got blamed a lot for not having friends. I got blamed for not blending in with the people I was supposed to blend in with. The biggest refute to that is the fact that when I finally met someone I clicked with, my neighbor, we became instant friends. She is the only one I speak to on a regular basis everyday, even when I am not in Bahrain. She texts me and asks about me, and I love her. Our friendship isn't on-the-surface. We confide in each other without judgement. We talk about things that matter, things that would make other people uncomfortable. Maybe it's because we trust each other?

The bottom line is this: it's hard moving to a place where everyone you meet has been friends with each other forever. They go on vacations together. They have weekly plans with each other. Their kids do things with each other. Everything is already planned - everything has always been expected to be the way it is. I would always be an outsider. I guess the best option for me is to be friends with expats? I tried that too. I'm not exactly an expat.

Throughout my time I realized how easy it was for people to judge me and my situation without knowing all the intricacies. It's so simple to say I'm not making an effort without knowing the reasons why. I got sick of feeling judged. I was never one to give a shit what people thought, why did it matter now?

But let me tell you a story about an unusual friendship I made with a stranger. When my daughter started going to school, I used to drive to the nearby Starbucks after dropping her off in the mornings. I would sit outside, drink coffee, write, and smoke cigarettes. A few weeks into it, I saw a woman sitting alone outside doing the same  - let's call her Z. She smiled at me and said good morning. The next thing I knew 3 hours had passed and we became friends. Z and I met twice a week. We talked about everything openly as if we'd known each other for years. She talked about her family, her job, her life, her fears. She allowed herself to cry in front of me when she was upset about something. I did the same. I expressed everything inside of me to her. You know how they say it's easier to talk to a complete stranger? Our friendship was like that. We both knew we would never hang out outside of Starbucks. But I always ended up having a great day after a morning spent talking to her. Sadly summer break rolled around and we haven't seen each other since May.

When I turned 30 in June, I had a real eye-opener. My husband arranged an incredible day for me. Two of my best friends flew to Bahrain and surprised me. My brother came as well. We spent an amazing day. It was exactly what I needed and I felt refreshed, like I could breath again. So many people all over the world sent me well-wishes, called me, and wished we were together. I am so lucky. The same thing applies to other things in my life. When I finished my first short film, or when I announced my second pregnancy. Almost everyone who sent me lovely wishes and was genuinely happy for me was somewhere else. I realized how important that kind of love and support is for me, and how much I need to hang on to that. I can't expect my husband to be my everything. He has been incredibly loving and supportive, but everyone knows you cannot have your life revolve around just one person. It's just too much.

If you haven't already concluded this: I strive on social interaction. It's just who I am.

Anyway. That's the long answer to why I haven't really made friends over there.

Oh it feels good to write! Ok, more soon.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

14 Weeks

I've got a lot to write about. I've been taking notes and trying to compile everything in a nice, long entry that will explain a lot of recent happenings. A great way to document everything, which is the point of this blog, and also to catch you up (my friends who still read this ;)

This week has been emotionally rough. I've had to resort to taking xanax, which is much safer for the baby than the stress. I didn't make that last statement up. Two of my doctors are the ones who told me to do this (for all the lovely critics out there, even though I'm sure there'll be someone out there that calls me a bad mom). The last time I was under this much stress I went into pre-term labor. So I'm taking it easy and trying to relax.

Oooh the other thing about this pregnancy that's different (other than being nausea free) than the first is the fact that I cannot stand meat. When I was pregnant with Sofia I couldn't think of anything but meat (I had been meat free for years before I got pregnant). Other differences this time around include tension headaches, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations which all come when I'm stressed. So in order for me not to have a repeat of the first pregnancy drama, I'm just gonna relax.

Anyway enough about that.

I'll update about 15 weeks with a picture, and will write other non-pregnancy related posts soon!

I'm so happy to read the comments from my friends. I missed writing and I most definitely miss you.