After a year and a half in Dubai, we’ve decided the time is right for me to move home with the kids. Dubai has so much going for it but for me it was always just a stepping stone. It gave me the break I needed from Belfast, or from “life” in general. I needed to get away and distance myself from everything that had happened and it worked.
There are so many sides to Dubai. It is absolutely not what you see in the news and I cannot emphasise enough; the level of sensationalism that the media use against the Middle East. I have already been asked if, “I was allowed to drive out there” and if “I was terrified of being arrested for not covering my shoulders.” ?
It is also not always like what you see on Instagram and Snapchat.
It is the most diverse place I’ve ever experienced in my life and it has opened my eyes to just how privileged I am to live the life that I was born into. Not everyone is that lucky. So many of the people I met out there have humbled me, and I chose to spend my time in Dubai with the people that would help heal my heart, and not to live the life of glitz and glam.
With every big life change, there are struggles. Whilst the twins and I are moving so much closer to family and friends, it makes sense for Alex to stay in Dubai for now. People keep asking me how I’ll cope being on my own with the kids. I’m not going to lie, my anxiety has been through the roof for the last few weeks. Its definitely not going to be easy, but it’s the sensible decision, and I’ve survived a lot worse.
I always find that question about “coping” so strange. Do we choose to cope? I don’t think so? When you don’t have a choice, coping is your only option. For a long time I didn’t think I was coping. I didn’t think that I was a strong person because I was struggling to deal with my grief. I thought my experiences had made me weak. I felt that my heart was too broken to recover and that I would never be able to be “normal” again.
But the thing is, the further into this journey I go, the more I have come to realise that nearly all of us have a story. Somewhere along the line, we all experience something life changing or heart breaking and so in some ways, we are all “coping.”
I heard a quote recently that said “only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”
I have realised now that being broken does not make you weak. It’s the broken who have been through hell and survived, who recognise the fragility of life, who love with all their heart because they recognise its importance and who harness their despair and turn it into purpose. When we have been truly broken down, what’s left is the most authentic version of ourselves. It gives us an opportunity to rebuild ourselves in whichever way we choose and this is something that I have been working on a lot recently… then last week something pretty exciting happened.
It was one of those days where you just realise that everything eventually falls into place if you just give it time. As most of you know, Mum died of Oesophageal Cancer. After she died, I discovered a charity in Northern Ireland called OPANI (Oesophageal Patients Association – Northern Ireland) who focus on providing support for oesophageal cancer patients and I did some volunteering work with them. Together we raised awareness of the symptoms of oesophageal cancer, which is a big thing for me, as Mum was misdiagnosed for so long. Working with them sparked a fire in me that I hadn’t felt for a while. They were such a small charity, but I knew that they were making a difference and I had the opportunity to continue helping others even after Mum was gone. I was so sad to have to leave it behind to go to Dubai, but I really did need a break from all things cancer related, which had consumed my life for the last couple of years. Whilst I was away the charity received some media publicity and organised some big fundraisers. It was SO good to finally see oesophageal cancer getting airtime.
OPANI work closely with the research teams at Queens University and last week, whilst I was still deliberating as to whether I return to Dubai or not, Helen, the chairwoman, reached out to me and asked if I’d like to go catch up in their new office in the Centre for Cancer Research & Cell Biology.. obviously I did, and long story short, I’m now back on the team and I’m so excited for what the future holds.
I’m sure I’ll be inundating you all with the work we do over the next few months, but for now I’d be so grateful if you’d follow our facebook and website updates! There are some big things coming up that I am so excited to be a part of.
And so that’s pretty much where I’m at. I’m back in Belfast and can not wait to catch up with everyone. I’m still settling in and am probably a fairly rubbish friend, wife, sister and daughter in law at the moment, but I’m getting there and I know that once we’ve come to grips with this new chapter in our lives, it’s going to be a really really good one.