Inhale and Hold On, Exhale and Let Go

A fragment of my kitchen, or my mind

Wow! I just walked out of my kitchen with some very scary realizations about myself. I’ve had this strong desire to hold time standing still for so long I’m starting to see what my life really looks like inside my head. I’m in one of those gloomy, sorry weeks and I haven’t been clearing anything I use in the kitchen. Coffee mug used? Right where I left it. Next day other coffee mug used? Still there. Tray out? Right where I left it with its corner sticking out the edge of the table. Spoon used? Yes, right next to her sisters in the sink. Day after day with mug after mug and spoon after spoon, and before I’m aware of it I have a disgusting kitchen with piles of ridiculously dismissed items that hadn’t really needed more than a quick rinse to begin with. Now if I try to look for a clean spoon I wouldn’t find one. All would be used.

That is precisely what I do with the life I have outside my kitchen. I hold on to everything, good or bad. Each bad experience, no matter how small or big, comes in, carves something in my gut and sits right there, and I do nothing to clear it. I leave those experiences intact instead of picking them up and working out where they need to be stacked so they could be more useful and less painful. Needless to say, I dig into my brain for one creative thought and can’t find any; all are too busy twirling around old experiences, keeping them alive and simmering.

My kitchen is the perfect visual representation of my mind. And I can’t count the number of times I was advised by close people to let go. Somehow I find this to be the single most challenging uphill task I have to take. Everything around me seems to be screaming at me to get over myself. I see it in that bored look my cat gives me whenever I start to space out and stare emptily at the TV, in the janitor’s snicker when I fuss over the lit cigarettes in front of the elevator, and now it’s crept into my dreams.

Yep, my dreams. Now as I write this the dream I had last night is actually falling into place. I dreamed that my sister and I were waiting for our mother to show up in some mall and she didn’t. I got worried about her but my sister didn’t seem to be as concerned as I was. I checked with my aunt and she didn’t seem concerned either. I was so frustrated that no one was worried, but when I checked with a friend of mine and she seemed to conceal something, I kept pressing her until she walked into a room and came out with my mother. I rushed to her and hugged her, but she didn’t hug me back. Her body was cold, but it wasn’t the kind of cold that works its way through the skin from the weather while the core is still warm; it was that inner, lifeless cold that crept its way out through the skin and to the hand that’s touching it.

My mother was forever gone, and no amount of persistence brought her back to me. I was the only one holding on to something that was no longer there, unlike my sister and my aunt, who had accepted the fact that she was gone and simply let go–or so it seemed in my dream. Holding on to the memory of my mother’s presence in my life has been like taking a deep, satisfying breath of fresh, salty sea air. But because it’s just a memory, the air soon becomes a burden and nothing can relieve me except a powerful exhale. That’s what letting go is like; it’s like a much needed relief of a burden ripping at your chest, and I’ve been living my life with just an inhale.

But seriously now, I’m not sure what this is, to be honest. So before I conclude this particularly pointless post I’m going to go ahead and blame it on Cairo, as I always do with everything that annoys me. So maybe it’s a Cairo thing? Because I look around me at Cairo’s streets and whoa! That is one big grimy, slimy old kitchen that hasn’t been cleared up since the Mamluks. Cairo has layer after layer of history, and on a less romantic note, layer after layer of garbage and abandoned junk either crowding backyards of buildings or creeping into their service stairs, making them nice little hubs for rodents and reptiles. Many people have grown so accustomed to the mess around here that they no longer take notice of it. They’re aware of it, but they just accept it as the sorry reality that is their home city. It creeps into their subconscious and puts them in a bad mood each time they hit the streets, which could explain the road rage and the street fights and the honks. So yeah, Cairo has crept into my subconscious and given me this messy kitchen. And yes of course you’re reading this messy post, because how can I be creative with a mind as overloaded and messy as that kitchen, or as Cairo?

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  1. #1 by nadiaelawady on May 12, 2014 - 4:42 pm

    That dream is so … i can’t even find an adjective for it. Wow. It says so much and there is so much to learn from it: the importance of letting go. That’s never easy. You know your post about your grand uncle and the cattle? I’ll bet you every family has stories like that. Ours does. My grandmother held a grudge over something her brother did for most of her life. Every time I’d visit her she would complain to me about something her brother did 50 years ago. I know it’s hard to forget things like that when we get older. But I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to hold a grudge with my sister because she rubbed my brand new camera with my dirty socks I put on the table, which led to our infamous dirty sock fight. I don’t want to hold a grudge against you because we couldn’t agree where to put our duffle bags in that tiny tent we stayed in on the Inca Trail; the infamous duffle bag fight. I’m so glad I don’t hold those grudges. It’s silly. The cattle thing was silly. My grandmother’s grudge with her brother was silly. I think maybe looking at the larger picture helps us have a more clear perspective on these things. Your blog post wasn’t messy at all. It was beautiful. Just like you.

    Like

    • #2 by Arwa Salah Mahmoud on May 12, 2014 - 11:05 pm

      Thanks Nadia :) It didn’t feel so coherent as I was writing it, but I’m glad it turned out alright.

      Like you, I’m so glad I don’t hold any grudges and I hope to die like this, the only thing I’m not sure of is what it would feel like to be at such an old age. How would we think? How would we see the world? How much would life really weigh I. Our heads and our hearts? I know that the 41 year old I am today is different from the one I expected to be when I was in my twenties. However we turn out to be, I just hope we would be at peace.

      Like

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