December 2011


In two days time I cross the Jordan into occupied Palestine. I will go there to bring in a new year. I find it so strange to say I am celebrating in Beir Zeit. It sounds so wrong, so problematic. I am going to my home, my land, my people and yet I feel such guilt at wanting to spend my new year there. I feel guilty about being in my country. I feel guilty for wanting to be with my family and friends, my people. I feel guilty for wanting to celebrate and laugh and be joyful as there are guns and tanks and a bloody apartheid wall. I feel guilty with so many people held in prisons, so many people separated from their families so many people suffering under occupation. It is just so wrong.

 

 

Yet, another part of me screams something entirely different. It screams of entitlement. I should not have to feel guilt nor should I apologize for being home, for wanting joy in my land nor should I apologize for celebrating where I justly should and could. The occupation may control and restrict my movement. The occupier may tell me I am “illegal” in my own country if I don’t have the right permit. The occupation may build a wall that separates me from my family and friends on its other side behind concrete, electric fences and check points. The occupation may imprison my cousins and uncles, torture and beat them. But the occupation will not quell my spirit. It will not so disenfranchise me that I have no joy or life. I resist by crossing the Jordan to what is rightfully mine. I resist by walking in my family olive grove. I resist by meeting my friends and sharing a moment of joy with them. I resist by living. And for that I will not apologize, and I will cross the river and I will go to occupied Palestine and celebrate there because I can and I will and the occupier (for now) can not stop me.

 

I first started to cross stitch 12 years ago a friend of my mother’s taught me. It was really easy. You get a fabric with enough holes in it and count out the pattern. But it wasn’t about how easy it was or knowing how to count. It was about being completely and utterly consumed. So consumed that there is no room for a single thought other than needle in, needle out , cross over and count. If you are distracted, look away, think away a stitch is dropped, and the pattern skewed. And so it was the perfect all consuming activity to replace the ex. The ex who took up four and half years of my life. And in his departure left a huge void to fill. I didn’t want him replaced by another, nor did I want him back. But I wanted the time and space he occupied in my life reclaimed. So I embroidered. I consumed myself with something other than him.

 

Embroidery became my therapy. And so over the last 12 years I have picked up my needle and thread and thought up patterns in times of distress. I started after him and stopped when I was ready to reengage and face the world without him. Having something to fill the time and space when there wasn’t anything else. I picked up again seven years ago when my world was turned upside down. I made a few pieces and stopped mid piece about two years later, when the world was right side up. It took me five years to finish that particular piece, and only recently. It was started in Amman and finished in Beirut. I have been embroidering like a fiend in Beirut for the last two months. A sign of distress and dissatisfaction. A sign that I needed to stop my mind and still my thoughts and consume my hands, my eyes, my head and my heart.

 

I have started another piece now and want to finish it and be rid of it. You see I rarely keep any of my work. When I was reflecting on that I realized that these works come from a place of sorrow and sadness and sometimes even depression. And when they are finished I give them away, and in that act make them pieces of joy. This last piece I am working on was started as a piece of joy. I wanted to turn the tables around on my act of consumption. I wanted it to be a work of joy and to be given in joy. The irony is that though it may have been a labor of love, it will now be given away in sorrow.