When I started writing the blog one of the sentences in the short bio I provided for it was something to the effect that I still didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up. Sometime between 2003 and 2011, that sentence disappeared. In reading the blog posts, I tried to figure out when, why, and how I removed it. I honestly have no idea at all. But I now realise that my blog chronicled my transition from one life to a totally new one. At some point I grew up and I became something, and for months I puzzled over just what that was. Prior to 2003 I was a wife and mother, a teacher, a writer, a lot of things. I was the chief logistics officer of the Gabbani family and after my husband died, I was the chief mess cleaner-upper. Realising that the stress of the clean up process was doing nothing to either make my current life more pleasant, nor to extend my life, I decided to go back to my personal roots of small town/village living and I created the farm. Almost immediately, I began seeing the health benefits. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels on tests went back to my normal low levels. I slept better and had no need for coffee to keep myself going. A cup of tea in the morning and I was good. But that didn't answer the question of what had I grown up to be.
Handling a household with four different cultures in its makeup (my husband was Sudanese/Egyptian and I was American/Brit) was sort of normal in Canada, but we never really went back to Canada, and Egyptians, regardless of their wildly heterogenous cultural and genetic heritage, value homogeneity. There was a bit of a balancing act for all of us to manage. I taught English to French-speaking school students, did some writing during my first few years in Egypt, then I did supply teaching at the American school in Maadi for some years while my children were attending there, got into writing and editing for a magazine, but for the most part, logistics still took up the majority of my time. My husband was almost constantly traveling, so it was up to me to be the steady point in my kids' lives, and to make sure that the moving parts didn't slice off anyone's legs as our family members moved in and out of our mutual physical space. I recall a period when I was in my early 40's of wondering what the hell I was doing with my life and why I had needed a graduate degree in social psychology to do it. After beating myself around the head and shoulders with these questions for a few months, I finally decided that however lunatic my planning had been, I did have responsibilities that needed to be handled and that my life overall wasn't a terrible one, so I'd best just get on with it. And I did.
When the crash came, it was a big one. My kids were in their late teens when their father died, one in university in the US and the other about to join him. When they both were away at college, it was just me and the pack of lawyers, bankers, and businessmen who were disemboweling the businesses that had been my husband's life work. I looked on from a spot of relative safety and knew that there was no way in hell that I wanted to drop myself into that insanity, although I had no doubts about my ability to manage much of it. It is a very troubling situation to look at work that you know could could do better than a lot of other people who are doing it, but to want to walk away from it because it isn't your work to do and you feel that it would damage you to do it. It rather reminded me of how I felt at graduating from high school and being told about all the wonderful careers that I could have that I really didn't want. Very disconcerting.
Quite abruptly, I began writing my blog, the first writing I'd done since my husband had died, and I decided to move from Maadi to a rural area near Abu Sir. It was my offsprings' turn to be disconcerted. I rented out the family home and came to an area where I knew a lot of people and had friends living in the area, which somewhat reassured them, but what the hell was I doing building a farm and living in the back of beyond? My kids had only known their somewhat odd but urban mother. We all moved past the shock, my life began taking on a form of its own without my late husband or children defining it in any way, and it was sometime in this period when I decided that I had grown up. But what was I? Again, like about 15 years previously, I spent some months worrying about how to answer this question, and again as during my previous time of fretting, I guess that I sort of decided that this question was too hard to answer. I got on with the building of the farm, exploring avenues for income, becoming proficient in equestrian tourism, and enjoying the fact that my job was what I wanted to do even if I had to pay to do it. Not bad.
So here I am at almost seventy, and what have I grown up to be? I've become me. It truly is only very recently that I have realised that I don't need a label to slap on my forehead to let people know who or what I am. I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up because somehow I always assumed that it would be some kind of classification, something outside of me. But it simply isn't. I am me and I am very happy to exist as that. Perhaps much of the philosophical advice we pick up in books and conversations points to that conclusion. I currently feel that our job in our lives is to perfect being ourselves, and the things that we build, invent, create, and pass on are just byproducts of that process. My husband left a legacy in infrastructure for the grain industry in Egypt, but he most certainly was not that legacy. I hope to have a legacy of sorts when I move on to wherever it is that we move, but I most assuredly will not merely be that legacy. It will be a byproduct of my being me. If all we have to perfect is our me-ness, life is so much simpler.
copyright 2019 Maryanne Stroud Gabbani