Moving Back In is Easier When Only the Heart Has Moved Out

My morning meetings with Big Mama was the only place where I could hang out with Truth. I traveled to her world from the window seat of my journal:

Forgiveness is not pretty all the time. There are scars on it. And sometimes, walking away in not an option.

I reached for her eternal wisdom when I began to struggle in my own marriage. After over 20 years together, I had grown weary of trying to teach Serigne how to speak my love language. It seemed to be so much easier to teach this art to the couples who came to me for therapy— after all, they paid me for my commands. I always assured them that my plan for reunification with their beloved would work. For many of them, it did. One of my favorite couples called me the, “Miracle Worker”, after I helped them find their way back to each other’s arms, after multiple nights in those of others.

While I was making miracles happen in other’s homes, mine was crying out for my attention, scratching its nails on every hard surface, singing an out-of tune song of loneliness and loss. While I physically resided in our house, I left the warmth and safety of our home, moving my heart’s belongings to what presented to me as a better street — Resentment Way.

I did not go all at once. Instead, I opted for a slow, steady packing of my bags. I opened the suitcase of, “We Don’t Have Enough Money”, pouring in pictures of the fancy car and mansion that I had never wanted, yet, somehow, had become so important to me. I added the shackles of my student loan bill, for the doctorate that no one forced me to seek. When that bag began to overflow, I noticed it’s expandability. I quickly added lack of planning, credit card bills that violated the laws of our faith, overpriced health insurance that we had to purchase to stay alive, and private school tuition for our children, which I pushed for them to attend. Since there seemed to be room for one more man in the bag, I added the resentments against my father for judging my financial state, and shaming me for having less material wealth than he did. Some days, I threw misogyny and racism rags into the bag, blaming the whole planet for the state of my affairs. When that didn’t work, I went back to blaming my partner.

While still rummaging through the money bag, I stumbled upon “10 Reasons Why You are a Poor Parent”. This nifty carrier was chock full of the mildewed cloth of all that was missing from our children. I seemed to never grow weary of searching for more outdated garments to toss in there. Its fibers were made of lost chances, forgotten spaces, and nameless places. He was reliably, annoyingly, always in the house, seated in the line of fire of every item that I pulled out to threw at him — his three languages that our children could not speak, the fork in our religious paths that our daughters chose to follow, and the sheer audacity of them to have grown up and discovered the land of Independent Thought.

He alternated between arguing with the hormonal aliens who lived with us, and wearing anger as shield from the all-woman band who attacked him with their silence. Just as I was about to stuff my tongue-sword-yielding 6-foot-tall daughter into the bag with her father, I looked over at a smaller, cosmetic case, with a hard outer shell, and a mirror on the inside flap — the resentments against myself.

As the bags piled up at the front door, my life on Resentment Way slowly became a biohazard, manifesting in my physical health. A large mass formed on my right breast. Digestion issues that had been resolved years ago, were beginning to re-surface — gas, acid reflux, diarrhea, and painful cramps. My right shoulder ached. Living in this self-created ghetto was worse than anything that I had seen in the 1970’s South Bronx. The stench of piss on concrete overpowered the fragrance of the man who I had fallen in love with on 125th Street. We were destined to die on this burned-out block. I had to move.

I stormed out, during my usual 3am departure time, to find Big Mama:

I hate him.


He’s a pain in the ass.

OK. So was I.

No you weren’t.

Yes, I was a pain in the ass. And yet you wiped mine. With love.

Oh dang. You win.

Big Mama’s command to change my living quarters was a slower process than I could have imagined. Two years later, I was still walking a rut into the carpet of our bedroom floor, looking for reasons to place items back in my bags, followed by checking in with her, and putting them on their proper shelf. I opened it once a month, to pay the tuition, then closed it to go to the movies or to take a well-deserved vacation. There were a few moments in which I could hear her voice, and choose to really see him — lonely, scared, and yearning for re-connection with his family. Too often, I plopped under a cardboard box of rumination, scrawling unspoken profanities.

A year later, “Money Bag” sat by our door, full of items, gathering dust. I cleaned it out, dusted it off, and stored it in the attic, when Serigne gave me his blessing to travel with my trauma healing program, and to study with my sheikh. Each morning, Big Mama reminded me that it was too tattered for further travel. Right next to the box of my children’s baby teeth, it needed to be thrown in the trash.

I finally dragged it to Pennsylvania for a Sufi healing course, where my teacher forced me to open its contents for good. He pushed me into the mystery of Allah’s quality, Al Ghafur, or the one who Forgives us of our greatest sins. I was given an assignment to recite that name every morning at 3 am. Reciting that quality paved the way for me to finally discard the bag that had chained our marriage for years. And to offer an apology.

Go ahead…write him. Then read it aloud to me.

“I miss you. I know you miss me….there is nothing left to do, except say that I am sorry…For all of the times that I broke your heart. …and beg you to meet me where Rumi asked us to, 800 years ago — at the meadow between right-doing and wrong-doing.”

After reading it to her, I sprinted the miles from the basement to our bedroom, breathlessly slamming the brakes on my departure. His open heart had no bags. I looked in his eyes and traveled to his stories. There, I saw a sweet boy, running barefoot in red sands, a king sailing across the Atlantic to find his queen, and a father, who lifting her up while their children landed in his arms at birth. I was finally home.

There were no more words for the last leg of this journey— just the sweet return to the arms of a lover who once made soup for my grandma and loved me without condition.

Sabrina N’Diaye, PhD, is the Founder of the Heart Nest Center for Peace and Healing, in Baltimore, Maryland. She is currently writing her first book, The Laugh of Love, based on the miraculous life and death of her maternal grandmother, Marion Brisco. Join her on her Facebook group, Live Forgiveness Daily.

Originally published at


  • Sabrina N'Diaye, PhD


    The Heart Nest

    Dr. Sabrina N’Diaye is an integrative psychotherapist and founder of the Heart Nest Center for Peace and Healing in Baltimore, Maryland. There, she lovingly serves women, couples, other healers, and small groups. Her approach to healing is a blend of wisdom, science, and ancient spiritual practices. She is also a proud faculty member of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, where she teaches the art of self-care to healthcare professionals around the globe. She is currently serving the Center as a teacher and guide for Jordanian healthcare professionals who are in service to Syrian refugees. Dr. Sabrina is a highly-sought public speaker, member of the treatment community, and frequently lectures on spirituality, self-care, and the “magic” of connection. Her many audiences include police departments, flight attendants, healing artists, peacebuilders, and aspiring writers. She is currently writing her first book, The Laugh of Love, based on her maternal grandmother’s ability to transcend multiple traumas and chronic illness. Dr. Sabrina is a devoted wife, mother, daughter, and life-long learner, who remains humbled by the healing power of compassion, love and forgiveness. Dr. Sabrina can be reached at [email protected]