SNIPPETS OF INSPIRATION
Twenty years ago, I got married.
That will be news to many of you.
But it’s not the thing about this story that will most surprise you. That comes later.
Twenty years ago I stood in a town hall in Tunis and married a man I had known for less than a year. He was tall, dark and insanely handsome. And I was completely head over heels.
None of my friends or family were there. The logistics were too complicated and besides this wasn’t, in my mind, our ‘real’ wedding.
Our ‘real’ wedding – with the white dress and all of our loved ones – would come later. This was simply a formality we needed to go through so that we could live together.
You see, surprise number two: my husband was Tunisian.
And although our original plan had been to live together in Tunis – we had a beautiful apartment there not far from his family home – I had decided that I didn’t want to leave the UK.
Don’t misread this. When we got engaged, it was because we wanted to get married. I thought I had met the person I wanted to spend my life with. But I wanted us to live together, to spend more time together before we made that final commitment. Unfortunately, the only way for us to live together and work out if we were well-suited for marriage was, in fact, to get married.
Cart before horse. But so be it.
And this is not the thing about this story that will most surprise you.
Fast forward a few months. My husband and I are living together in a little garden flat in Brixton, London. He’s had some struggles finding work, settling in and he misses his family and his home. But we’re OK. Not brilliant. But OK.
Then 9/11 happened and everything in our world changed. People spat at my husband and I in the street and called me a ‘traitor’ and a ‘whore’ for being married to an “Arab” man. He was chased by a gang of white youths; had a broken bottle thrown at his face; was sacked from his job with no explanation.
And this is not the thing about this story that will most surprise you.
When I met my husband he was a happy, optimistic and positive man. Now he became moody, sullen and withdrawn. He began to drink and to gamble. Both of which were contrary to his religious and cultural beliefs and so his sense of himself was shattered. And my handsome, happy and very proud husband became a man I didn’t recognise.
I am no pushover. I am a strong woman. My husband was a strong man. We might have made it through those tough times but for the thing about this story that will surprise you next.
My husband and I began to argue. Truth be told, we argued all the time. About money. About my work. About his gambling. About my male friends. About everything.
And then one day, in the heat of a spectacular row, he hit me.
I had always said that if a man raised his hand to me, I would walk away without a backward glance.
But I didn’t. Not straight away. Not for more than a year. Not until in the midst of yet another row, he put a pillow over my face to ‘shut me up’ and I nearly died. Not until he threatened me with a knife. Not until I realised that I simply couldn’t fix it.
And still, that’s not the part of the story that will most surprise you.
Ask me if I regret marrying my husband and I will tell you, honestly: No.
In spite of everything that happened.
In spite of the damage done.
In spite of the heartbreak caused.
No. I don’t regret it.
Because of these two words: “What if?”
If I hadn’t married my husband – a man I truly loved; if I hadn’t taken that leap; I would have spent the rest of my life wondering ‘what if?’
What if he was the love of my life?
What if we could have been happy?
What if it had worked?
So no, I don’t regret my marriage. I wish I had left sooner – and my advice to any woman in the same situation would be to leave IMMEDIATELY – but even in the darkest days of our divorce, I never regretted marrying him in the first place.
And THAT is the thing that surprises people most.
But it shouldn’t really. My Dad told me when I was a kid that the saddest words in the English language are ‘What if?’. And so, whenever I am presented with an opportunity or choice, one of the questions I ask myself is this: when I look back on my life, if I don’t do this thing will I always wonder ‘what if?’.
The only things in my life that I truly regret came about because I ignored this rule.
I stayed in a job that made me miserable instead of taking the leap into a new opportunity.
I turned down the chance to live and work in New York because I was scared of leaving my home.
These are the things I will always wonder ‘What if?’ about.
Thankfully there aren’t that many of them. And my marriage isn’t one of them.
How is this relevant to you right now?
Maybe it isn’t.
But I say to my clients all the time: live your life without regrets; make decisions based on hope; the only fear you should have is the fear of ‘what if?’.
And this is the story of why.
Let’s ACTUALLY live without regrets. Let’s be brave. Let’s make a difference and change the world.
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What an incredibly insightful, inspiring, and positive message! Thank you, Sara, for sharing your story!
Thank you for taking a moment to comment Maria. It means a great deal with me. I am so glad you found this inspiring. I, for one, am excited to see what you’re inspired to ‘leap into’ next! X
Absolutely! Brave story, positive message 🙂
Thank you Aime.
What a brave way to tell a tale that must have involved untold sadness for you both. Not sure I could but take the point about regret I have made leaps in the dark x
It was a deeply sad time but I am who I am today in part because of this experience and the leap we both took. I hope you will take more leaps! It’s always worth it even if it doesn’t work out.
Thank you Sara, for letting us have a glimpse of this adventure of love and abuse of a man by our countrymen and your own deep pain and healing
So true Sara, in my professional life I saw many elderly patients, I never met one who regretted what they did but a whole host who regretted what they didn’t. I too try and live the “what if” way and sure have made mistakes, but never regretted trying. Big hugs ❤️
Thank you Gilly. Yes – the perspective from the older and wiser generation is nearly always ‘Do it! You’ll only regret it if you don’t!’ X
Thank you for sharing your story, Sara. I couldn’t agree more about ‘what if’ and took a similar decision when I got married that I’ll tell you about some time. The words ‘what if’ are also featured in the introduction to my book. Thank you again for sharing.
Thank you for your comments Rob. I look forward to hearing your ‘what if’ story too. I can’t wait to read the book – or should I say the rest of it beyond my ‘bits’!
What an extraordinary story Sara. The things we don’t know about the people we care for! And this has brought up some things for me to ponder in my own life, and for that I thank you. Sending you much love and thank you for sharing. Watch this space!
It was an extraordinary experience. I’m glad if it has caused some positive ponderings and am super grateful for all your love and support. I look forward to seeing what comes next for you. X
Thanks for sharing Sara – I couldn’t agree more with this principle. Fear really is our greatest adversary in life.
Thank you for being brave, vulnerable and inspiring. X
Thank you Bryn. Your words mean a great deal to me. X
Honest, heartfelt open vulnerability. When the darkness is named it loses its power, then lightness belongs to the brave. Thank you Sara. For revealing the path of forgiveness to women, and men. xxx
Thank you Elizabeth. I love that concept – when the darkness is named it loses its power. And I am glad to stand in the light besides you my brave friend. X
Very relevant. Thank you
Thank you Judith.
I don’t really know what to say – this has brought up so much for me that’s it’s rendered me a little mute for now – but it’s such an important story to share and there’s so much love coming your brave, inspiring way. With so much respect xx
Thank you Anji. And thank you for your love and support.
Amazing – you have changed my whole day just be reading this. Thank you xxx
I was feeling really uncomfortable about sharing this blog but you’ve made it worthwhile! Thank you. X
What an incredible strong, brave and inspiring woman you are. And I love your message. I will indeed have “what if” in mind many times from now on.
Thank you Birgitte. I am so glad if this blog inspires you to make brave decisions and avoid ‘what ifs’. X
Thank you for sharing in your vulnerability. You are incredibly inspiring always.
And how you turn something heartbreaking and tough into an important message of hope is incredible.
Thank you x
Thank you Sam. If I can inspire one person to choose hope over fear, then it will have been worth it.
Thank you for so much sincerity, authenticity and amazing story telling talent. What if? Always giving it a chance when doubting (looking at the bright side and no regrets). Still too many ‘what ifs’ in my life. With gratitude.
Thank you Sophie.
Thank you Sara for your generosity in sharing this part of your story. My heart feels brighter and lighter because of it. How much better to look back on life and know you have truly lived than to look back and realise you never began.
Thank you Maggie. I am so glad that your heart feels lighter and brighter! X
Wow, Sara, that is amazing. The story, your pain, the thoughts and what it has evoked in me – you really have got me thinking. I have been in a ‘safe’ bubble for a long time, and I wonder ‘what if’. Thank you so much xx
Hi Judy. I’m sure you have been exactly where you needed to be. And now perhaps it is time to take a leap? Thank you for your kind words about my story. X
What a powerful story – bravely told. This comes at just at the right moment as I ponder If I have the energy and capability to take some opportunities that have come my way. Now I can decide which ones I don’t want to be left thinking ‘what if?’… Thank you so much for sharing xxx
Hi Kirsten – I am so glad if you found this blog helpful and an opportune moment. Let me know what you decide to do. X
Such a sad, brave story. And how lovely your experiences didn’t turn you into someone who was sad & bitter. Thank you for sharing.
Hi Mary. I was sad for a long time but I refuse to be bitter. Thank you for all your support. X
Love you and love this. We all have our shadow sides and darker experiences; very few of us are prepared to expose them. In doing so you’ll help so many women, me included. Thank you x
Thank you April. I’m so glad you liked the blog and that it helped you. I hope it will help others too. X
Thank you for sharing your beautifully written personal story. Such an important message of saying Yes to life’s opportunities.
Thank you Katharine. X
Thank you Sara. I see you and love you x
Right back at you Jo! X
Thank you so much for having the courage to be be vulnerable and sharing your story Sara. I found it incredibly moving. Sending love xx
Thank you Nicola. X
This is beautiful Sara and your bravery and vulnerability in sharing something so personal gives others (like me) permission to also show my vulnerability. Perhaps one day I will share my story which involves sexual abuse, drugs and so much more. I’ve not been brave enough yet but you have given me courage and I know your story will support others.
Sometimes those who look the most together can have very surprising back stories!
Much love and thanks to you,
Thank you Tansy. I think that as long as we understand our own stories; have done the work to release the emotions and forgiven ourselves and others for their part – that’s the real work. We each share out stories when we are ready and sometimes not at all. X
You are a remarkable woman!
Thank you for sharing.
Thank you Sally Ann. That’s a lovely thing to say.
That is a surprising story on many levels – and brave (and possibly cathartic??) to retell it. I spent a chunk of my middle years not doing things, allowing the fear to stop me, so I totally get this ʻwhat ifʻ thing. IN the word of the immortelle to die being able to say ʻJe ne regrette rienʻ
Thank you Jane. I’m sure there was some catharsis there too. And yes – that’s my aim too! At the end of my life to have no regrets. X
Wow – two resonances. I left the night he also hurt our daughter.
Now. I have a scary possibility facing me, a new path. Currently too afraid to take the plunge, but I think I’m moving towards manifesting the change required. Thank you.
Hi Alex – I’m glad you left. I’m so glad you’re OK. And I wish you love and laughter, light and courage. X
Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life story. It’s so powerful to hear your take on the what ifs… for me, a core part of healing has been trying not to regret the things or the choices that I’ve made but take the learnings that they have provided, as a gift….. not always easy but definitely more empowering. I’ve got a few ‘what ifs’ to test currently so the timing of this post is just perfect! Big love x x
I’m so glad if this blog has come at the right time for you Helena. Thanks so much for your comments. X
Sara thank you for sharing this sad yet powerful chapter of your life.You light up a stage when you are on it, wishing you well x Breeda
Thank you Breeda – what a lovely thing to say. I look forward to getting back on stage one day soon…X
Thank you so much for having the courage and trust to share this story with us Sara. It is moving and inspirational.
Sara, thank you so much for sharing your story, it is powerful and. can help others. I am really grateful for having “met” you this week. “Live your life without regrets; make decisions based on hope” – it resonates sooooo much. I actually said yes to live in New York! Thank you so much, Sara.
I’m grateful to have met you too. So glad you liked this blog and that it resonated with you. Sx