reflection


I want to say more, reflect more and share more about this wonderfully restorative trip I’ve had here in Oakland. But with so much to do I think it will have to be this short message (which was of course a FB status lol):

How has this happend? 6 weeks have flown by. I am sad to be going, excited about what is coming, and I am so happy I had this time to start coming back into myself! Thank you to all those that I have met, crossed paths with, had long conversations with, played and partied with, and broke bread with. You made my stay ♥

more later- today is about being here and tomorrow is about getting there – Amman here I come.

 

😀

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Happy Birthday Baba

Last year I wrote about my father, it was big deal for me to break a wall of silence about my missing parent. I find myself thinking about him in a very different light after that post. I think about resurrecting him and bringing him back to life. To trying to tell stories about him and bringing him closer to us as a family. It was interesting to see the reactions from my siblings and my mother. Some of us have made more peace with our histories and for others the scars are still raw.

Well once again it is his birthday today, and my gift to him and to myself on this day is to remember the man that was my father. And to do so publicly and out load because he was buried in silence for far too long.

I will tell a story from my foggy memory to keep your memory alive and to pass it on to my little brother who never really knew you, and to my neices and nephews. One of things I remember quite vividly was you never could eat alone. I remember you coming home tired and sweaty from a hot day’s work in the sun. Coming back to our home in Salwa, Kuwait. I remember a spread of food being laid out for you in the living room on the coffee table in front of the TV. We had all eaten hours earlier, but you would insist that we join you. I realize today that I carry that tradition with me, I will always eat, even if it is just a nibble, with others. A part of me can not let a friend or loved one eat alone. I now know this comes from you :), so thank you for a lovely habit.

Happy Birthday, I am glad your memories keep coming back.

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.

 

A lot of people know I am fatherless, few know he is a missing person. I rarely speak about it. He’s been a missing person for 20 years now.  He was abducted by Kuwaiti militia after the “liberation” of Kuwait in February 1991. I know this because it was the last piece of reliable credible news we were able to get about him after he disappeared in the past 20 years.  I don’t know why I feel the need to say this now, or even put it up for public consumption. It is and has been a long battle of denial and affirmation, struggle and joy, of unknowing, and of silence.

As the years moved on, he crossed my mind less and less. The most reoccurring thought is “what if he is behind that knock on the door?” As the years moved on, that thought too diminished slowly. As the years moved on, we fought less and less to find news about him. To find him.  A part of us just got too tired.

So much has happened because he is missing. So much of it has shaped the dysfunctionality and the functionality of my existence. Sometimes I wonder what would have been had I remained that precious daddy’s girl. Would I be the woman I am today? Would I be where I am today? Other times I just don’t wonder.

Twenty years after the fact I ask myself what do I want? Do I want justice? Do I want retaliation? Do I want compensation? Nothing really helps with the black hole of not knowing.  Nothing really makes up for an absent parent. Twenty years later all I want is one thing. Closure.

Dad as young man

Dad as young man

It is now officially a year. A year since I arrived in a car with two people, two cats, useful and useless stuff and a lot of hopes and anxieties. One year later I am not sure what to say about this move and this life I have made for myself. I initially moved for four months to “test the waters”. Four months in I knew this is not the place for me, I just don’t fit in. This is not to say Beirut is bad, it just doesn’t work for me. I am not suited to live in the Paris of the Middle East. Yet I stayed. I was doing something I really enjoyed and believed in and that is why I stayed. I persevered and struggled along day in day out. Some days were better than others and I must say I have accomplished a lot in this year. However, is a good “fulfilling” job worth staying in a place where I have progressively and accumulatively gotten angrier and angrier and sadder and sadder?

 

 

And so one year on I know that I am planning my exit strategy. To go where and do what I do not know, it is challenging, it is scary but I know that I can’t stay in a place of anger, in a place that takes away hope and laughter from me.

I’ve finally moved to Beirut. It took me nine months but it finally happened in August. What took so long, I mean I’ve been living in Beirut since December, right?  I have been thinking about that for the last two months and knowing how my mind works and knowing that I always try to understand the logic or emotion behind something I have come to many realizations. I will share a few here and others in conversations with friends later. But I will say it is finally the end of the beginning and it is time to move forward.

Like I said “what took so long?” is a question that I ask myself and I think I have some answers: Travel, Home, Amman, Relationships, Community, activities are among some the things that come to my mind. Let me start with the first. Travel, since I moved I have been constantly on the go with a maximum of 3 to 5 weeks at any one time in any one place. Though Beirut was my base, it was not home since I really didn’t have the time to settle in, paint walls, fully unpack, and get into my routines. I was shopping for my trips rather than for my home and doing laundry with the intent of packing a suitcase rather than putting away in closet. It is very difficult to be on the go if you are unsettled and it is very unsettling to be that unstable therefore it is nearly impossible to start moving in someplace when there is constant motion.

Another reason is Home. Home is such a strange concept I have learned. I am not sure where or how to start articulating what I want to say or how it impacted me. But it took me 9 months to close up my home and sell my belongings I slowly untangled myself from what I called home in Amman. It entailed giving away things, selling things, donating things and just compressing my life to one room.  It was so hard and so easy at the same time. It was a hard decision to come to and it was hard deciding what is to stay and what is to go but when decided it was done. It became easy to look at those books I had been accumulating for over 15 years and say well they are just books, my photography on my walls was just pictures in frames and other such detachments. Things that took on such huge significance at various times in my life are but mere memories in my mind and it took a bloody long time to get there.

When I think back over those nine months I think of all the trips I made to Amman and the trips Amman made over to me.  The idea that Amman is so close and easy to jump to and from meant that I was never fully in Beirut. I would default to Amman in many ways including my shopping, I even postponed buying pots and pans until I went to Amman and to this day I buy my bread in Amman.  I’m still on Ammani mailing lists that are constant reminders of things I am missing out on and with an inbox full of Amman and no time to get on the Beiruti lists it was difficult to get plugged in and despite a lot of efforts I still am not, but breakthroughs are being made and I am getting there-slowly but surely.

My relationships and my communities both in Beirut and in Amman are very different as is their various roles and mine within these relationships and communities. This was a major adjustment as in Amman I was not only fiercely independent I was usually in the middle of all the happenings and connected to so many things in so many ways. My relationships in Amman were also very diverse and spanned many many years. I’d gone through so many things with so many people and I did not have to explain myself, who I was or where I was coming from. I was surrounded by people I loved and people who love me. In Beirut I had to start from scratch, my oldest relationship goes back two years and is turbulent to say the least. I felt very vulnerable, dependent and always on the fringe, never really able to fine the entry point. I had such a hard time as a lot of what I would say or do would be interpreted as me being difficult, rude or unfriendly or vice versa. I mean to this day I can count on one hand the number of homes I have been invited into in Beirut, something so strange and weird coming from my particular Jordanian context where I was always turn down invitations and apologizing from social engagements and many homes were always open. The socialscape in Beirut is very different and building those relationships   My friends were always saying things take time and I know they do, but for someone who is used to being in the middle of a lot of social and cultural activities and life full of people the emptiness and isolation of moving to a new place is very intimidating and depressing. But I must give a shout out to the few lovely people who were really welcoming and inviting throughout and in no particular order I want to say thank you to: GA, SC, RB, MM, HA and whomever else went out of their way to be inclusive and welcoming.

On my last trip to Amman in July/ August there were many things that made it a final decision. I truly felt it was the end of era. I dismantled so much of my physical and material world. I sold my books, gave away my DVDs, and pretty much said good bye in a way that I knew I won’t be coming back for a long time. I have left what is there there and am now firmly in Beirut. Amman is home but in that way that it isn’t  your everyday home.  This is a turning point in my relationship to a city I grew up in, I loved and lost in, I fought and won in, a city I gained my independence in, a city that I grew a family in, a city I am happy and proud to have been a part of the fabric that made it special to me and all those around me.  That trip was the last line in the chapter I call Amman as I knew it.  I was in Amman this weekend, my first trip back to say good bye to a friend leaving on a long trip (I will write later about the first trip after the move). We are both on adventures in worlds far from those we know, and I said to her as I say to myself  “Just remember, when you put your foot down its always taking a step forward.”

My heart is heavy, my mind is clouded. I don’t know where I am going only where I’ve been. I am in a dark strange place with few candles lighting the way. Unsure when I used to be so confident. I know not what I want. I think of the past that cannot be regained, the present that is so prickly and a future that is so uncertain. There are things I know in my heart that I won’t let my mind know and things in my mind that my heart won’t hear.  Yet there is a voice deep down in my soul that is always carrying me through my darkness and in my darkest of hours it always tries to calm me. It shouts “it will be OK”. It is faint and sometimes the wind carries it strong and loud to drown out the noise in my head and heart and other times it just fades. But that voice is always there. It never stops and for that I am grateful. Even when I can’t hear it inside me this message manifests itself when it is least expected in a gesture, a laugh, a hug, a memory, a hope, a smile and I know It will be OK. To those manifestations (and there were many this weekend) I say thank you!

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