Four years ago when my brother told me that I needed to go into a Women’s refuge, I felt like my whole world had ended. I could not understand how after 12 years in the UK, owning a house and living a stable family life (well at that time I thought it was stable, but now I know it so wasn’t), I was now destitute and my own immediate family in the UK could not take me in during my time of need. The family that I had brought in the UK, was now telling me that I needed to go into the refuge with my three children as they could not accommodate me in their own home.
‘Don’t be embarrassed that you are now going into a refuge, it’s going to be tough, but you have to be strong. Yes, you had a lot going for you, a house, a husband, you had it all, and now it’s gone, but don’t be embarrassed.’
Well, embarrassment was the last thing on my mind. I was more scared and hurt than embarrassed. I was in shock and I needed a strong pillar of family around me, but the refuge is the only pillar that stood before me.
So I walked in the refuge, holding back tears. I told my children that were going to be okay. I had to be strong for them. I sat on the bed, looking around me trying to process how my life had ended up like this, and something on the wall caught my attention.
Happiness is a journey, not a destination…
I read it over and over, I could not even understand the word happiness. I could not make sense of anything. The word happy seemed so foreign to me. I felt completely alone and abandoned. I think that was the time I stopped believing in the saying ‘blood is thicker than water’. I had no family. I felt like my life was over.
But I was wrong. My family put me in the refugee yes, it was very hurtful, but that was the best thing that ever happened to me. Without me being aware of it at the time, it was in the refuge that my journey to happiness began. It was in the refuge where I found the meaning of life and my purpose on this earth. Without knowing it, my life had just begun.
I met women who had been through worse than me. I met women who made me feel like my life had been a walk in the park. I found myself comforting other women. There was a lot of tears in that refuge but I found myself somehow being a pillar of strength for other women.
But the highlight for me in the refuge was a Nigerian woman who made my time there so beautiful and worthwhile. Today she is one woman I consider a friend for life. We would sit in the back yard at night watching the stars and talking our sorrows away till like 2 in the morning. We would laugh till our ribs hurt. We would talk about our ambitions and dreams. The refugee experience would never have been the same without her. I think I went into the refuge just to meet her.
Then there was one of the ladies in the refuge who had a cute baby girl. I had always wanted more children, so each time I looked at this gorgeous baby I felt broody, but it made me so sad as I thought I could never have any more children. I could not see myself ever being a mother again, considering the mess I was in at that time.
But the turning point for me in the refuge was when I decided I had to do something about the pain I was feeling. I started writing my online diary. I felt like I had already lost a lot, so I had nothing more to lose, I decided to write all about it.
But I never knew that I was writing my own destiny.
I never knew that there was this talented handsome dark skinned Opera singer somewhere, who would read my online diary one day, and say ‘I want to be the man to make this woman smile again’. A man who fell in love with my ability to write my heart out. A man who would sing to me till I got goose bumps. My knight in shining armour, my Boaz.
Now I have two more beautiful baby girls. God did not bless me with one more child, but two.
Today Nino tells me that my life actually began in the refuge. That was the turning point for me. I had to go through the valley, to find such happiness I have today.
So when Nino first told me that he liked me. He always has a way with words. So he first got my attention when he said something to me that reminded me of that picture on the wall at the refuge, ‘Happiness is a journey, not a destination’.
So though I was hurt that my own flesh and blood put me up in the refuge, and made me a destitute when I needed them the most, it was through the refuge, that I found my real family.
It’s true what they say, difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations.