Posts Tagged reflections
Posted by Arwa Salah Mahmoud in Thoughts & Vents on October 26, 2010
A little stream of consciousness moment…
Sleep always evades me when I need it the most. It’s like when something that belongs to you keeps popping up everywhere in the house and you don’t give it a second thought, then suddenly you need it, start looking for it and it vanishes. People and things have a habit of doing that, especially when you take them for granted. You don’t realize the value of something, or someone, until you lose them. It’s a harsh way of learning a lesson, but most times it is the only way.
It really frustrates me when I look at this reality. Since I was very young I’ve been bombarded by instructions and advice from those older than me. Arab culture always glorifies those that are older.
Older people forever give advice on things that don’t seem to make sense to the young, things that I always thought did nothing but paralyze me. My only way out was to continue to do them without their knowledge. I felt that I needed to build my own experience and to be able to decide for myself on what is good and what is bad, but I never really managed to shake off the guilt feeling that was always associated with defying my parents’ rules.
I may be wrong, but I think that no matter how much a parent tries to protect their young they will never be able to with instructions or even advice. It’s a choice that they need to make, do they want their children to be under the safety of their wings but to not know much beyond the boundaries of those wings, or do they want them to protect themselves by making their own mistakes? Love makes it so hard to go for the second option. Most of the time they feel so helpless watching their loved ones make the same mistakes over and over again, as if nothing they say to them seems to make any difference.
So we all end up drawn toward the light like insects, one by one until we’re electrocuted. There’s no logic passed down. We all hit the wall first and then learn.
Loss terrifies us. It’s hard to imagine it no matter how much we try. It makes us feel vulnerable the minute we start thinking about it. We tend to think with the givens of the present, and loss just doesn’t seem to fit anywhere. It is as if it would bring an end to everything, like an edge to the familiar beyond which lies only darkness and nothingness.
But when loss actually hits you suddenly feel blank. Sometimes at a moment like this you lose your ability to act. It’s like falling down an abyss at uncontrollable speed. You see nothing around you and you have no idea where you are headed. You just know you’re falling, and your entire world appears to be shutting down. Everything crashes into nothingness.
The worst question I think any person can ask themselves in a moment like this is what now? What next? You don’t even have the tools that can help you think properly of any future. The concept of a future becomes so alien and scary.
But when the days go by the dark slowly begins to lift and you see some faint light that helps you understand your surroundings. You start coping with the new reality of this empty hole you feel in your chest. Everything that reminds you of what you lost makes the hole even bigger, and there’s no healing here. You just learn to live with it.
I now understand why in Muslim belief a widow is urged to stay connected to the home she shared with her deceased husband for a certain period of time. It is morbid, but somehow it helps her face her new reality. Maybe if she were to leave the place or travel to another country before she has fully accepted the loss she may never be able to go back to her own place; it would be a forever open wound best left untouched. Staying makes her face it. Deal with it. Until she’s created new memories, new realities, new surroundings. Until it no longer hurts as much.
It’s like climbing the rock instead of trying to figure out a way around it.
It’s amazing how we’re all equipped with a natural ability to survive. When I climb a mountain my body adjusts itself to the loss of oxygen and figures out new strategies to cope. That doesn’t change the loss, but it gives you an ability to cope with it.
All the little things I live with, those belongings, pictures, cushions, and handwritten notes that remind me of my loss will be staying with me for a while. I’m just going to take them with me and keep walking toward the light. I wouldn’t know how to cope otherwise.
The Sound of War
Posted by Arwa Salah Mahmoud in Thoughts & Vents on February 20, 2010
Each time I visit Lebanon I keep thinking to myself, “Will the war erupt and will they close down the airport while I’m there?” A friend of mine and I have had this secret wish for so long it’s become a common joke between us. Yes, wish. Not for a war, but for us to physically be there if a war does actually begin.
I’ve never been to a war zone. I have no idea what the sound of an F16 right above my head would be like, the closest I ever got to a fighter jet was when I was 9 with my class when we went to visit an army museum to see the jets that fought against Israel in 1973, but that was back when pride in “our soldiers” was something still being taught in Egyptian schools. Another time I was sitting in the living room when a very strong sound of a plane started approaching. At first I thought it was just a civilian plane, but the closer and louder the sound became the stronger the engine sounded. Interestingly, it would just not go away, it kept getting louder and louder until I officially panicked and froze. All I could think about was that Cairo was under an air strike. War broke out and I can’t move my feet to the TV to check the news since the building is about to crumble anyway. I later remembered that it was October 6, and the army was performing in commemoration of the 1973 crossing. When I finally did get the strength to look at the window I saw a part of the performance. The aircraft was in no way as near as it sounded. I had honestly thought I was taking my last breaths.
But listening to that sound and knowing for sure it’s an air strike is definitely worse, because there’s no room for doubt this time that it would surely take lives. I did listen to a detailed description from a Gazan friend a few years ago of what an F16 sounded like and it surely unsettled me. I saw the psychological effect of the sound and the accompanied fear on the reaction of another Palestinian friend to fireworks in Cairo right across the street. As I jumped in excitement and watched the “show” she closed her eyes and tried to block her ears. She simply could not take what was to her the sound of war.
I’ve never been a high intensity seeking kind of person. I’m usually very careful with myself and I weigh consequences. So much so that I once declined a horse riding trip after I had gotten on the horse simply because I discovered that I was wearing the wrong pants. I couldn’t stabilize myself properly, so I chickened out.
But when I’m actually in the situation, the “woman in charge” takes over. I recall traveling from one town to another during pilgrimage on foot, simply because I knew my feet would get me there faster than all the buses that seemed to be parked for hours along the highway. And I’m a person who doesn’t have a very good sense of direction.
If war erupts in Lebanon I don’t think I can sit by in the comfort of my living room in Cairo and watch it all like a spectacle on television, let alone listen to useless critical commentary from those who’ve never been smiled at by an orphaned child from the south, or who’ve never breathed the air at the southern tip of a mountain that overlooks historical Palestine. I’m known amongst my friends to be a freak when it comes to the whole Lebanon subject, but even the food in the south tastes like freedom. No one is subordinate there. Everyone controls their own will. Everyone is a master of their own land. That sense of ownership Robert Fisk once wrote was so missing from most Arab countries is so vivid in south Lebanon.
But as much as I claim to know how different the place is, I think I’m yet to acquire the ways of the people there in order to fully understand how they’ve learned to face death so fearlessly. I shudder at the very thought of losing the warm friends there who always make me laugh. Each time one of them talks to me I cherish every word and look them straight in the eye to take the moment all in. I always fear I may never be able to see them again. How blatantly “un-Shiite” of me to be such a coward about loss! And I’m a person who wouldn’t miss an opportunity to lecture about Karbala.
But I don’t think it’s that. I’m just a person who’s never been in a war, who’s never lost anyone for war, and that is my weakness, because as scary as the sound of war may be, it perfects a person’s ability to endure. It simply makes them stronger.