Saturday, September 27, 2008
I grew up in the mid-west and anyone that knows winters in the mid-west know that blizzards are one of the hazzards...as well as one of the benefits...to living there. I shall talk about the benefits to a good blizzard...from a purely personal point of view mind you.
When I was young fear was my constant companion...fear along with depression, anger, suspicion, anxiety, and just about every other negative feeling the human body can experience. While my friends were happy (Im guessing they were happy since their attitudes and facial expressions indicated thus) I was constantly considering the fact that I might not survive my childhood...and then later my teen years. I was constantly on a state of alert...in other words...most people might truly experience the "fight or flight" feeling once or twice in their lives...I lived with that feeling every day of my life....let me tell you...it was exhausting. Never being able to relax...never being able to let your guard down...I imagine if I ever went to war and was facing the battle field...I would already know and be familiar with that feeling that most soldiers experience just before the first shot is fired....the only difference being...I was a child.
When we talk about seasons and weather most people will describe Spring as being a time for re-newal and Winter as a time of death and decay. Alot of people with emtional and mental problems will fall into deep depressions during Winter...most of them shake it off somewhat when the first hints of Spring start showing up...but some of them just cant manage the cold, dark days of Winter and never make it to Spring...call me strange but I've always had a somewhat backward appreciation of Spring and Winter. For me Spring was a time when school was out...which meant I was home...home was a place of constant fear and anxiety...Winter, on the other hand, meant school was on and snow was just around the corner...and with snow came blizzards...my little bit of heaven on earth....let me explain.
When I was a child I use to lay in my bed at night and pretend to be dead...ok ok sounds morbid but there was a reason for it even if it doesnt make sense to all of you...it made sense to my childhood brain. If I were dead I would be in a position to meet God (I had learned in Bible school that all children got into heaven free from sin and guilt...so I was going on this assumption)..and when I met up with God I could ask Him why why why...the why's can be left for another time...sufficient to say I was anxious to get some answers and would spend a little bit of time each night (the nights that my bedroom door didnt open at some point) and lay there...holding my breath...clearing my mind....trying to "be"dead. Never worked of course because my mind could never be cleared (always always listening for that stealthy footstep in the hall) and eventually I had to breath...kind of ruined the whole experience....but I never gave up trying...where theres hope and all that....sigh!
Anyhow, along came Winter and I was one step closer to that much desired "death". Anyone that has ever experienced the morning after a good snowstorm knows that its a surreal feeling. Everything is white...all thats ugly is made beautiful...sharp corners are gone and all thats left is smooth powdery edges and intricate snow designs on every surface. I loved the mornings after a good blizzard. While the mid-west was lamenting blocked roads and kids were cheering schools closing and the electric companies were busy scrambling to bring us back to the 21st centurn....I was outside...acheiving my desire to be as close to dead as one can be while still breathing....picture this.
Snow is like a natural muffler....it muffles sound. The more snow there is the less we are able to correctly hear and gauge sound...where its coming from and how far away it is. Now...take a backwater country road...one intense blizzard the night before...and a young girl walking along in all this whiteness finally able to feel....nothing! When you walk through snow thats piled up higher than your head...you literally cannot hear anything except maybe the crunch of your feet as you walk. You get this specific sound in your head that I call White Noise...because it sounds like sound...but really...its the absence of sound...and its loud....but very soothing...very calming. If they could record that sound and put it on my MP3 player today...its all I would listen to...it would be all the therapy I ever needed. I forget how many times I would be ordered to go dig up some snowdrifts so my "father" could get out the door to work...and instead I would be lying in a snow tunnel listening to nothing and finally being able to pretend to be dead...and not have to hold my breath...because I imagined being dead meant not thinking...not hearing...not worrying...not dreading, fearing, hurting, crying, shaking, or any other "ing" you can think of...and when I laid in the snow tunnel...all feeling was shut off....just like that. I didnt even have to try...it just happened....all negative feelings just oozed off into the snow to be made clean and sparkly again...to be made beautiful...even if underneath it was still ugly. I sometimes wondered if anyone came out to find me if they would think I was actually dead...but with a smile on my face...cause I was so peaceful...Winter was my Spring....anyhow.
One thing about living in the Middle East is that its been rather a long time since a good blizzard swept through...and its just about the one thing I have missed the most...the re-juvinating spiritually cleansing abilites of a good snow storm on the soul...that absence of sound...that complete white out of the senses....when all feeling is gone...for just a little while...and one can relax...calm down...and just breath.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Since you were small, baby boy, Ive struggled coming to terms with your fierce independence and your need to assert yourself. You were constantly letting go of my hand...wanting to take on something new...hardly ever showing fear...hardly ever looking back to see if I was safely near by. My heart ached that you could so easily just....let go.
As you have matured I couldnt help but notice that your numbered age in no way indicated your maturity level. You have always been an "old soul"...a mature and self reliant "man" in a little boys body. I sometimes have to remind myself that you are still just a boy. When you speak your words are strong and thoughtful. When you argue your self assured and determined....but when your angry your somewhat erratic and often out of control....and I fear this one area in your life in which you seem to have no control over....your anger.
I have watched this fire burning within you son...watched it grow and consume everything around you...everything within you. The emotional trauma that has this family upside down has never been your burden to bear...and yet you bear is as if its your responsibility. It was never your responsibility. Your father let us down...he let himself down...he started that fire in you...as easily as an arsonist lights a house fire and walks away...only to come back later and gloat over the destruction he caused. I thought when I kicked him out I was getting rid of the problem...but I have come to realize that maybe his physical presence is gone...but he is "still here"...and he is still tearing this family apart.
We have all suffered and been affected in our own ways by the evil that touched us, son. We each have our burdens to bear and must work our ways through them as best we can. Your sisters will need help for the rest of their lives...Im sure you dont understand that because you have never been a female in this male dominated society...you've never been a rape victim....you've never been a victim of incest by your father. I know you want to help your sisters in whatever way possible...but in order to help them you need to try and understand them. Their bodies have healed...but their minds will forever suffer what he did to them...believe me...I know. We cant just demand that they get better and they do...we cant just say that "Im here for you" and that be enough...we cant just act like the past is the past...and leave it at that. I sent them away from here because I know first hand what this society does to girls in their situation...and you know it too...but your being stubborn and letting your anger control you. Yes...I could bring them back...if I wanted to...but I dont want to. Even though I miss them so much...even though I want to hear them laughing...and arguing...and see them dancing to music or coming from the shower...or getting home from school or work and telling me about their day. I miss them son....the same as my mother has missed me all these long years that I have been separated from her...but I made the choice to send them away...because I believe that the suffering we will do while we are apart...is small compared to the benefit they will get from leaving this place that has caused them so much grief and given them burdens they should never have been given...or you and your brothers....or me.
We each deal with pain and loss in our own ways....we can only react to a situation from our own points of view...you see from your eyes...and I see from mine....and as much as I know that you are mature and honest and far seeing on many things in life...in this one you are being extremely short sighted and immature. You want things back the way they use to be and that is impossible. Time doesnt stand still and it certainly doesnt rewind itself...if that were the case I would have been busy rewinding time long ago...in hopes of undoing the damage that has been done. We can only live in the here and now. We can say "what if" or "if only" or even "lets wait and see"...but in the end...whether you make a decision to act...or stand still and do nothing...time takes the decision and moves on...and you move on with it.
I apologize son for every instance in which I have failed you and your brothers and sisters. I apologize for the pain I wasnt able to deflect from you...from the fear or anger I wasnt able to deminish with the correct words of wisdom...I apologize for being indecisive when a firm hand was needed in many instances...and I apologize for being completely at a loss at times and not knowing which way to turn to find the answer. I apologize for many things son and I hope you will forgive me...but I will not apologize for making the decision to send your sisters to a better life...I put aside my selfish desires to keep them here with me just to make myself happy and satisfied...in order to bring some relief to them and get them the help they need so desparately. It huts now to be separated from them...but the benefits will far outshine this hurt...when they are on the road to healing themselves spiritually and mentally from the damage they have suffered. I wish you could see this son...I wish you could understand that I sent them away to make them whole again...even if the price that is paid is to make all of us miserable and lost. Even if the sacrifice made is isnt quite clear just yet...I know it will be worth it. All I can ask of you is patience...sometimes the things we want dont come to us right away...sometimes they dont come to us at all...and sometimes they come to us in ways we least expect...but we should never just wait for it to happen...but take steps to help it along.
I read in a medical book once that doctors will sometimes cut away perfectly healthy skin and muscle in order to prevent cancer from spreading...they have to be somewhat ruthless in order to be sure the cancer doesnt leave even one small cell behind for the growth to come back. In the short term the wound they make seems horrific...they have made it even bigger than it was...in the long term...they saved a patients life. Sometimes we have to be ruthless and make the decision to make the wound bigger...in order for it heal properly...and not come back to cause problems again in the future...I hope you understand that...if not now...then someday...and if you dont....all I can say is...Im sorry.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
Another pain that is easy to forget once the moment has passed is the pain of childbirth. Ive had 5 children...during one of those births I nearly died...as well as my son....but I went on to have 3 more children after him...why...because as soon as you hold your child in your arms...its the best form of pain relief there is. Nothing compares....and the pain fades into the back ground.
However...the real pain of childbirth comes after...when you take that baby home and start the lifelong process of raising, nurturing, worrying, hoping, praying, failing, and feeling guilty for just about every mistake made (real or imagined) all the while riding just about every other emotional rollercoaster that can be endured. One of the scariest rides your ever likely to live through...and most of the time you feel like your riding it alone.
I realize that fathers love their children (pardon me if I say "some" fathers...personal experience talking)...but the mothers love is something else all together. If your a mother you know what I mean. That child is a part of your body...he shared your blood...slept to the tune of your heartbeat....had a vote on whether that last meal was acceptable to all concerned. In order to enter this world he had to tear and forever destroy whatever youthful figure you once had...but you dont complain...you grit your teeth and push out your greatest joy...and your most painful heartache....a heartache that last from the moment you realize your pregnant...until you draw your last breath...a pain that no amount of pain reliever can touch.
After watching them grow and develop...from rolling to crawling to walking then running...every moment that passes in your childs life is a moment that brings you closer to when they will eventually use that momentum to leave you (or you them depending on the situation)....but eventually...the heart breaks...never to be mended completely because your child comes to the erroneous conclusion that he doesnt need you anymore....that he "is a man" and can probably do just as well without you.
Once you hear those words...or maybe not exactly those words but the meaning comes through loud and clear...you are left with one thought echoing over and over again in your mind...how can you possibly mend this broken heart? Temporary lovers come and go...husbands hopefully drop dead (either before or after the divorce...Im not choosy here)...but children are supposed to be forever. That mother child bond is eternal...yes? So why is it so damn easy for a child to grab those independent scissors and cut those maternal strings without so much as a look back to see what damage was caused? Dont they realize the squeezing of the heart only gets tighter and tighter and will never ever loosen up....dont they know that sleepless nights worrying about your future and the million and one things can go wrong with it are your nightly companions...have they ever considered that your pain is my pain...your fears are my fears....your hopes and dreams are my hopes and dreams...but with an added twist...I will gladly sacrifice my hopes...my dreams...to protect you from your pain and fears....I know you dont understand this...I know you can never understand this....
until you have a child of your own...then you will understand...then maybe you can advise me on how to mend this broken heart...cause I havent got a clue.
Friday, September 12, 2008
When we lose something that really has no value to us...such as a hat...or maybe a pair of sunglasses...we may spend a moment in private self recriminations on how can we be so scattered or empty headed when it comes to keeping our things where we can find them...but then we move on with our lives. A lost glove or pair of glasses does not end the world....but what happens when we've lost something that needs to be found? What happens when finding that missing thing is detrimental to our future...to our psyche...to our inner equalibrium and belief in who we are...what happens when lost things stay lost?
Of course we know that somethings just cant be found...cant be gotten back once lost...the most obvious thing being "time". A minute lost is lost forever...our youth once gone is gone. Many people have gone searching for youth...they imagine they've found it with the purchase of a new red sport car or a new young girlfriend or wife (holds true for women I suppose as well...all though I dare say women generally dont look for youth in a motor vehicle or young lover...but I could be wrong). However, what do we do when we lose something that could possibly be found again...we just dont know where to look? We cant really remember where the last place we saw it was...or even when? How do you find something that your not sure where you were when you lost it...and dont know where to look in order to find it again?
See...heres the thing....Ive lost God...Ive spent considerable time searching for God...looked in all the usual places I often found God before...like in prayer...or in the Quran. I searched diligently in those areas but came up with nothing...God wasnt there. I searched in the mosque but that seems to be the last place I would find God since women arent generally accepted in the mosque here (other then Ramadan or Eid...go figure) so how can I adequately search for God in a place Im not even welcome for the most part? I tried looking for God among my fellow Muslims...but all I found was large doses of hypocrisy and self righteousness...of women haters and kafir bashers...I found jihadists and extremists and Muslims in name only...but I didnt find God...I heard God might have been there just before I arrived...but was long gone by the time I made the scene...I still looked around...hoping to catch a glimpse...no luck.
Last but hopefully not least...I searched for God within me. I lay in bed at night and just search my mind..my heart...my soul...looking for even the faintist piece of evidence that God is there...or was there...or might be there again. Ive left no "stone" unturned...Ive called out to God...cried for God...even cursed and blamed God for being lost in the first place...God must be pretty far away cause apparently God didnt hear me...at least I didnt get the sense God heard me while I laid there...holding my breath...straining my ears...trying to hear even the merest of whispers that God was somewhere near by....nothing....Im guessing I must be pretty empty inside these days cause mostly I just get echoes back when I call out to God...sigh!
Ive lost God dear readers...has anyone seen God...maybe let me no where I might have left Him? Its very important that I find God as I have somethings to tell Him...somethings to confess to Him...and I admit...Im in need for some answers from God as well. Or must I believe that this is just one of those things that can never be found again...once God is lost...He's lost forever?...anyone?
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
For anyone that has ever visited or lived in a foreign country...the language barrier can be the one thing that keeps you from really enjoying yourself and living the experience to the fullest. Sitting in a room full of women that are happily chattering away while your counting tiles on the wall or wishing you were home reading a book or something never ceases to bring home the fact that "your not in Kansas anymore!" But not knowing the language can also build a barrier between you and your own children...children born of mixed races and cultures...children growing up in a bi-language household...but in a one language school....is a whole new agony that never quite goes away.
My first child was as excited about starting school as any child could possibly be. She was nervous and agitated and anxious to get moving and get out the door...thankfully that desire to learn has never left her...and since the very first day that she arrived in her classroom...she was glued to her school books. I, on the other hand, had a totally different reaction when she came home with her backpack loaded with books...smiling from ear to ear and eager to show me her new aquisitions. As she quickly dug a book from her bag and proudly showed it of to me...all I could think of was the fact that it was written in Arabic...and I cant read Arabic....thus the 15 year heartache began.
I am a lover of books..I devour them...hoard them...covet them....I spend my last dinar on them...and dream of writing my own someday. I love nothing more then to browse in bookstores and flip pages here and there...never tiring of what I find between the pages...words...words... and more words. Its nearly impossible for me to have an unread book in my house...my love affair with books has always brought great rewards and knowledge...until my daughter started school...and her school books became my nemisis.
It was always my dream to sit at the table and help my children wth homework...to open their eyes to the joys of school and learning that I have always found exciting. I always pictured myself as the stay at home mom that dedicated her life to education of her children...and to come to the realization that that bubble was being burst before it had even grown in size was a cruel twist of fate. Each night when she pulled out her books I could only sit by and watch her concentrate and figure out things on her own. If she had any questions...she took them to her father...the Arabic reader in the house. As she grew older she tried to translate her questions adequately for me so that I could help her with the answers...but thats not an easy task for a child to do...and ended up making her more frustrated in the end....and me too.
I tried to help myself by learning the Arabic language...by learning letters and numbers etc...but Ive never been able to master it to such an extent that I could be of real service and help to her...or her siblings that followed in her footsteps. It was a hard fact to swallow...that I...the honor role student...the lover of all things written...the pusuer of knowledge...could not help my own children with first and second grade homework...it squeezed my heart...and has kept on squeezing it for all these long years. In time...my children were reading and translating Arabic for me...translating their school reports...telling me what the teachers had written on the bottom...I had to take their word for it...I wanted to be proud over those comments...but they just frustrated me with their ineligibility...their secret code of scriptive letters that continues to taunt me today...I can almost catch their meaning...but not quite.
Recently Ive been going through paperwork in preparations for moving from one country to another. Ive sat there with piles of report cards that I cant read...of birth certificates and legal documents that are essential to the identity of my children...and I cant read them. Of 21 years of family life that I need translated to me to be sure Ive got the right one...Ive missed so much of their lives by not being able to read and understand their language. The fault is mine...my inability to grasp what seemingly came easy to them...Alif Ba Ta...so frustrating...so intriguing...so heartbreaking to this mother...
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
So I had my son download the Quran into my MP3 player so that I could take it with me everywhere...and one of those places I took it was to work. This player requires headphones to hear it properly...but if you remove the headphones you can still hear it...but very tinny and far away. You have to be right next to it to get a clear hearing...from farther away its hard to make out what it is much less hear it even.
I had it on my desk...and was enjoying hearing it while I sat at the desk...and believe me...even that close it wasnt really that loud...or clear...but I was happy with it. So imagine my surprise...not to mention my anger...when my english boss popped his head around the corner and told me to turn off that music. I told him it wasnt music...it was the Quran...he replied...I dont care what it is...I dont want to hear it...turn it off.
I was left speechless...and my cheeks were burning....and I felt like I should say something about how rude that sounded to me...but I hesitated for two reasons. One...maybe I was being too sensitive...and two...its Ramadan and we are supposed to practice self restraint and patience...so I didnt do anything...but I seethed for the rest of the day....which probably disturbed my fasting...but Im only human.
My question to you, dear readers...is this. Would you have reacted in anyway if your boss said such a thing to you...or would you consider it his right to say it...as the boss and all? After all...he is the guest so to speak...this is a Muslim country...its the Holy Month of Ramadan...and the company that pays his salaray is owned by a Muslim...so its not beyond the pale to assume the Quran would be played at some point at work during Ramadan...as is the case in many businesses around the Islamic world...so why did he get so upset...and was frankly quite rude about it. A simple..."please dont play that during office hours" ...would have sufficed. I would still have been rather upset...but I wouldnt have felt as if he smacked me in the face...which is what I did feel...which is why Im so darn mad now.
Now I know many will quickly jump up and say..."you Muslims are so damn sensitive when it comes to your religion..."...well...Im not focusing so much on the religious aspect of it...more on his poor choice of words...he was just plain rude in my opinion. So...Im still fuming all these hours later...and wondering if I should press the point tomorrow at work...which is really what Im asking...if you were in my shoes...would you talk to him and point out his rudeness to him...or not? Id really like some opinions here...thanks in advance.