New & Exciting

This isn’t going to be a long, chewed-out post. I’m not ready to give up on Prebed, hence I’m still here. I’ve just changed a lot. There has been, some time in the last 12 months, the development of a private self for me. I’m not sure what changed, but I have a few guesses about what they could be, although I can’t tell you what they are because they’re private. (See how that works?)

I’ve been doing some work, a little of it writing and most of it on myself, so things haven’t been as stagnant for me as they have been for this blog. I’m at this impasse, where yes I do have ideas and I do want to give and I want to give so much, but I now have a core, and at that end of that core is an end. I’m not as limitless as I once was, if I ever was limitless. I could have been perhaps hollow and just plainly empty. Maybe they’re all the same thing? They really could be.

I just wanted to stop by, say hello, and move on. It’s how I do.

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New Chapters and Stuff Like That

It’s hard loving Kuwaiti people. I don’t know why, or what it is, but it so much more more of a conscious effort than it has ever been in my life. I’ve met, and sometimes loved, people from all over the world, all kinds of different backgrounds and yet the challenge has never quite presented itself like this. Perhaps even more confusing is that I, a quitter by trade and choice, seem intent on sticking to my guns this time around. The urge to give up and throw in the towel is there (it’s always there) and… yet, I don’t.

Part of me thinks it’s because I’ve internalized the idea that Kuwait is, at the end of the day, a home to me. It might not be the “home” I would have chosen had there been a choice but we can’t edit where our desires wind up. I suppose this is just another chip falling into place of accepting things are they are, which has always been a struggle for me.

That said, there’s a certain degree of optimism in the air this year. As much as I’m always talking about intention and mantras and all that kind of new age stuff, it’s never been that real to me. I see these things, these ideas, as tools I can use to get me far enough in life where I have more choices in regards to the tools (and people) I can choose. Essentially it’s an end justifying these means. What I’m trying to say is a very long-winded disclaimer that I don’t think anything has changed because the day ends with /15 instead of /14. The world would be too simple of a place if things ran like that.

It’s just a different air, probably more to do with the mild winter we’ve had than anything else. There’s also the idea that as my time at KU can be counted on fingers, the end of the tunnel is suddenlya very real threat. I confuse the journey to the top with the journey out, and it really killed my progress as a person until I stopped. Getting out was never something I could transform into getting through, even with all my tricks and ideas.

I still want to leave, and I will still be leaving. Not much has changed, really. It’s still hard loving Kuwaiti people (they never want to be held too close or at all), but I’ll keep trying in the time I have left here.

As for what lays at the end of the tunnel? Honestly, it’s only a vague glimmer to me at this point. I don’t know. I don’t know if I want to know. Sometimes I get angry at myself for making this my ultimate life’s pursuit but it is what it is; it’s something to find my way towards as I continue to feel my way through the dimness.

Happy new year.

So, About This Year

I sat down and started writing this on December 3rd, in my mind where I generally seem to be ahead of my ambition and I always say the right thing.

That happens a lot, where I’ll sit and think all these wonderful phrases and then just let them go nowhere. I probably forget them as fast as I come up with them, which is a shame (and the only time I ever allow myself to feel shame). At the beginning of the month, I was gripped by a very sudden and very momentary inspiration that had me all hopeful and optimistic, and don’t get me wrong, I still but it’s not really quite the same around ten days later.

See, I’ve been working on this book for a while now. I can lie and say I started writing it this past summer, but the truth is that it’s been in my head for a very, very long time now. As of now, I have no idea where to go with it but it keeps coming to me in bits and pieces, and for the first time this story, as I see it in my mind, looks like it could someday be whole.

Today it’s December 14th, and we’re almost done with the month. Yeah, there’s still half of it left, but it’s the half that’s gone that is the issue here. Time has been slipping, sliding, flying, etc, doing everything it can to escape my grasp lately and I decided to loosen my grip and just… let it go. Why not?

It hasn’t been difficult, but there are those nights that come crashing down on me, nights where I’ve realized I have yet to do anything, to achieve anything. Is happiness an achievment? Can it be another accomplished goal I cross of my daily five point To-Do List? Because otherwise, I can’t seem to figure it out and that terrifies me.

In many ways, it’s like the distant cousin of those rare instances I’m left with when pain has left my body for an afternoon (and evening, if I’m lucky). For a while there, the absence was so flooded with silence, I could barely keep it together. The fear of everything came rushing back to me, and hesitation became my go-to, even for the simplest things.

Should I say hello?

Can I wear this?

Will I be able to deal with whatever emails are in my inbox today?

Often, I wonder if I will ever know I life without fear or pain. If I’ll find somewhere I can feel home. This particular thought process always poses itself to me as a series of questions, questions to which I don’t have the answers I want. Yet, despite all this complaining, I can still see the luck and generosity I do have. The love. The kindness. The peace I’ve carved into my self, the quiet I gave a home within me, so on and so forth.

So, what now? I don’t know. I have an idea, several vague ideas actually, but most of them are just idealized fantasies. I may never know what what else there is to lose but I’m sure life will keep teaching me the value of things no longer mine, the way it always does.

In the meantime, I’ll keep working on this book. Maybe someday I’ll publish it and get to talk about it. I hope one day I get to do that, for something I make. It would be nice.

Are Things The Same?

Somewhere in my mind, I kept a promise to myself when I first started writing this thing.

There was never an idea to publish once a month in the years since, it just became a natural progression of my desire to document something, which may be seen, which may have made me real. Understandable intentions for a nineteen year old, the age I was then when this thing first started.

It’s been months since I said anything.

Lately, all I do is talk and talk, trying to convince myself out of everything I thought I had escaped. There was no single thing or trigger that brought me to my knees because, hey, I’m still standing. Things are where they have always been, and I am where I need to be, no matter how begrudingly I hate to admit that.

Sometimes I get really sad for no particular reason at all because that’s a reaction I’m used to. The pain became a ritual to end a day, and then it was shortly joined by all the pain of cancer and the pain having cancer left me with. My body was either asleep or aching, the escapes for my mind becoming so few, I plunged into darkness whenever I could.

When I had my second surgery, on the third day after the fact, the nurse I liked best was checking up on me and asked how much pain I was in, on a scale from 1-to-10. I answered seven, and the look of shock on her face excited a sick part of me. People in a 7/10 degree of pain shouldn’t be holding out, hoping this elicits them some degree of admiration if love and affection were so out of the balance.

That’s more or less the person I was, in my mind anyways. I held onto pain because it occasionally got me noticed and I liked that. It was something, better than destructive sex or the drugs I could never really afford or find. It was also stupid, but it was smart because it was a constructive, if stupid, thing.

In the winters and three other seasons since then, I have changed. I can’t even reimagine any of the thoughts I had at that age, stuck in between those years and desperate desire to get out, escape, withdraw, etc. There is a now fullness, often suffocating, where the emptiness I used to house the pain once was. It’s a mix of things; my pride, my heartaches, my joy, my fear (SO much fear), my ever growing needs, they’re all there.

My mind has caught up, and it proceeds with its usual caution. My body, on the other hand, is an entirely different story.

I still have habits and I have the memories that birthed them. It’s a difficult thing to relearn your body, but it can be done. It happens one night at a time, over a weekend, and it takes several afternoons.

In my sleep, I still grind my teeth so hard I wake up with a stiff, sore jaw more often than not. The tension headaches come crashing likes waves into rock. My joints remain inflamed, my muscles always sore but limp, and the bones in my legs ache so loudly, I can’t even pretend otherwise.

Pain is not a good bedfellow. It’s not someone you’d want to share a bed with, let alone a lifetime and your body. So, to take this metaphor along a little further, lately has felt like a divorce of sorts. I’m really happy about it though and I’m very ready for the coming years.

This is the part of the blog where I chew out the vague metaphors because I can’t name names or get too specific because Kuwait is so small and there are enough people who think I’m weird as is, which I agree with but don’t mind in myself at all.

Twenty minutes ago, I read this quote (“When two people part it is the one who is not in love who makes the tender speeches.” –In Search of Lost Time, Marcel Proust) and I found myself hoping to God it was true, not for now but for the years from now because I don’t want to feel like this forever.

I don’t know if I’ll have more to say here, I really don’t. Everything I used to say here to a few dozen people, I still say but it comes out much more beautiful and it’s the same three or four people. Is this farewell?

I’m not sure, but it is November.

Life Sucks But You Have To Live

In honour of World Mental Health Day, I have written a little something about parts of my life I’ve only ever discussed in passing. This is my sharing my experience in the hopes it gives someone, anyone, that one last push to get themselves some help and work towards finding their peace.

*****

I once thought therapy fixed people in the way we can fix leaky roofs using the right tools. At that point in my life, I was struggling in every way imaginable. I had cut off many people and isolated myself. My relationship with my parents barely existed.
There was an urge to text someone “Hey. I’m in the reception waiting for my third session to start. Wish me luck.” There was no one I could text.

There was no one I wanted to talk to. Since I no longer knew what I was doing, I put aways my phone just kept waiting for my turn.

*****

The occasion was listed as “Therapy – Session 1” in iCalendar because I was trying to recognize this as a step forward even though I did not then know how many more there would be like it. The idea to take things one step at a time was a novel one but I decided to stick with it.

My current therapist (Let’s call him Dave) had been assigned to me on the phone. I imagined whoever had picked up was the receptionist. I saw no reason to argue his decision, so I didn’t argue the choice made for me. In a brief moment of panic after I hung up the phone, I promised myself I would switch therapists if this one wasn’t the right fit. It was a tough promise to make because I’m not always fair to myself with regards to whom I accept in my life.

Luckily, we were a well matched duo.

Friends who struggled to understand why would ask, “Why?” and the truth is there were so many reasons to not bother with therapy, but the one reason that did mush me to go was worth so much more than everything else.
I wanted to someday be a healthy, happy adult.

There’s not much that I remember from the first time I went to therapy. There was Dave’s office, bright and safe so much like hospitals but so unlike any hospital I had been too. I can also remember feeling anxious and a bit ashamed. Despite that, I also felt safe.

Dave gave me the green-light to talk about myself, so I did. I talked about how sad I was, how angry I felt, how lonely and lost I was. I talked about the reasons I hated myself.

I cried that first time, and then not again for almost a dozen sessions even though I know I could have if I needed to, if I wanted to, I could have.

The crying happened only twice: The first time I went, and on my 16th session. Everything in between was a very quiet kind of crying, where you are not even really crying, you are just sitting there quietly mourning someone you have lost.

I needed that silence to accept I had lost, myself and in general.

******

I am a measurably more content person in the time since then. Things happen to us in our fundamental years and it’s a part of life. There are events that will either pave the way for what we become or become road blocks on the journey to ourselves, and sometimes they will be both. For me, cancer was one of those things, and there were other things.

Therapy helped me deal with many of them.

It was a long road to accept that it is unlikely for me to be happy in the way normal people seem to be, whether it’s on television or in pictures or all around me in life. There was a lot of resistance on my end to accept this, because I thought therapy fixed people in the way we can fix leaky roofs using the right tools, but it doesn’t.

There were a lot of afternoons I spent with Dave where I was so sad but I didn’t know why. I was miserable because couldn’t tell if anyone loved me, not that I would have notice being so consumed with hatred for myself.

At home, I would cry a lot because I’d lost so much of my hair and what was left was so dry and brittle. I’d cry because I felt so ugly. I’d cry because I got a shitty type of cancer that entirely ruined my life but would never be bad enough to elicit the sympathy I so desperately wanted and probably needed. I’d cry because I was worried I would be a shitty mom to kids I didn’t even have.

Mine is just a single example.

Was therapy a success for me? It’s still too soon to say, but the life I’ve managed to build myself in the time since then makes a very compelling argument. I no longer disassociate when I cry, I have a people I can love, I have things I look forward to, and sometimes I am happy.

It is hard. Sometimes just the idea of getting up each day while knowing that if I don’t keep the chain going , so much of what I have been building up for almost two years will crash down in a matter of weeks, if not days. I have to hold myself responsible, and because of therapy, I can.

These days, I know what to do.

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Newsletter Alert

As you can guess from the title, I’m starting a newsletter.

Send your email to prebedblog@gmail.com if you want to be on the mailing list.

Not sure when the first post will be sent out, but it’ll be soon. I’m trying new things for these last few months of the year, and this is one of them. I don’t entirely know what the newsletter will comprise, but it’ll be fun figuring it out.

All the best,

S.

I Keep Guessing

“Women are like diamonds; they are precious and valuable. What do should we do with things that are precious and valuable?”

Indifferent silence from the majority. Then there’s me.

“We should protect our diamonds from everything awful about the outside world?”

It’s hard to guess whether he means a world as far as Gulf road or a world as wide as everything I’ve ever known. In both cases, the circumstances are not in favour of some of us, particularly if you’re a woman.

It’s a big, well lit classroom.

We are all tucked away in space on one of the nicer campuses, spread out sparsely like the work of a reluctant gardener. There were attempts at closeness, but any efforts were wasted because the desks were spread wide all over this blank, sterile room that it didn’t matter if you had tried. Some thing are already decided and all you can do it get comfortable for the moment.

“Why buy a Rolex or drive a Porsche, then?” I ask, because I try but I can’t help it.

These are the kind of moments I live through in Kuwait where I feel I am drowning. I react explosively, a little less so with age, and selfishly. There’s no one to liberate or inspire in this brightly lit room, the walls a cool, but altogether blinding, tone of white. These girls, these women, are all much better and much better off, depending on who you ask.

Only some voices matter in Kuwait, maybe more so in Kuwait University. Only some voices matter. 

It’s something I’m starting to understand more with age. As nice as it is getting older, (I’m not of those people who had a childhood worth missing), it’s getting hard to grapple with how little there is.

Tody is the Autumnal Equinox.

“Another Equinox in Kuwait,” was what I first thought. It’s hard to celebrate seasonal changes in a place where there is neither change nor seasons. Still, I try to sear the date into my mind, convincing myself there was a little extra magic in the air today, that somehow a wide sunset offered my day a little bit more than I usually give myself.

Even when the days get shorter, it’s still hard to get through them. I’m hoping it’s a being-in-your-twenties thing, that I’m not the problem, just an innocent bystander to Saturn’s return or anything that could be causing this feeling of emptiness. The adult thing to do would be to just go with it, to not make things harder and stay focused. I try that, and I can keep it up sometimes but it’s volatile practice.

I don’t think keeping up ever become a habit, because if it did then you wouldn’t have to keep up, you know? It’s hard to imagine anything these days, and sleep doesn’t come very easily so dreams aren’t much of an option either.

I guess all we’re left with is hope?

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How To Feel More Than

It’s another end of a season approaching that fills me with sadness.

A lot of what is coming up is so unknown to me, I’ve never really ever lived in a stable state for any measurable stretch of time. All I know is that now, as I sit here writing this from another’s laptop, everything is beautiful. Things are, of course, still ugly and dark. There’s still the nagging thought of feeling less than, first always but nowadays gradually less so.

There is also the departure from speaking in such vague terms.

My choice of expression becomes more difficult as time wears on. There are so many things I want to talk about, topics to discuss that are neither me nor the sometimes clinical matter of feminism but I can’t. I have only begun figuring out how to be, both within myself and among others. Before, that would always present itself as a choice to me: Be yourself with yourself or be someone among a sea of bodies.

Then one day, something changed.

I read a small passage about the ultimate block to change, resistance. It was suggested whatever internal mechanisms we carry within our spirit is our true brick wall. I suppose the first time I flirted with the idea that I didn’t in fact know everything there was to know came during the time when I accepted that I probably needed therapy. Maybe it was pride or something else, but I was previously convinced I was too smart for therapy, too smart for anyone one person in a single room. Sitting here and typing this a little shy of a year later, I can confirm that I was not, I am not, too smart for therapy.

There is a short list of things I am too smart for, among them:

– I am too smart to keep myself shut off because I’m scared of not knowing what to do

– I am too smart to think I can keep living on borrowed time, always breaking my promises to myself

– I am too smart to think I’m above anything but a set of stairs

Oddly enough, for someone to whom so much of my character is steeped in the concept of “I’m too smart for…” I feel stupid a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I feel stupid when I talk about my hopes and dreams. I feel stupid when I talk about Hip-Hop. I feel stupid when talking about any of the few people I almost wanted to love. I feel stupid when making excuses of why I don’t think I’m good enough.

The last time I can remember feeling stupid was when I realized I’m not as bad as I see myself.

This summer was a long one. I set out with a few goals and an ounce of determination. While I can’t say that I got very far, I did get there. I challenged myself to try new things, to talk to new people with young ideas, to scare myself at every chance that was an option. It hasn’t been easy, and many weeks at a time were awful, but this summer was good for me, if not good to me.

***

If we return to the idea of not knowing, I can say that I don’t know what the future holds for this blog. I have spent time dreaming about what it would be like to say one last word here, and yet I could not come up with anything to say so I suppose the road hasn’t run out on me just yet.

True Blood is over, finally. It took what little of the past my summers held onto with it. I am hopeful about the future and for what is yet to show up at my door.

The Last Final

It recently dawned on me that I have about three years, give or take a semester or two, where I know what I have to do and know what needs to be done.

I’ve never really experienced this.

I know there are names for it, stability, security, etc, but it continues to feel so formless to me. All that talk about letting the dust settle, and yet it never really occurred to me I just might not recognize what I see when I finally do see it. That’s not to say that it’s bad or horrifying, just that I don’t know much about it.

As it is, I’ve been learning a lot this summer.

The season’s not even over but I feel like I’ve sat through 80 credits of knowledge about myself. In the same way learning about history can be disheartening, I haven’t particularly enjoyed learning everything I now know.

Acceptance is indeed a process.

Part of me is ready to move on from who I am right now, but a smaller part of me doesn’t want to let go just yet, because if I do then I have to let the only things I understand fade into the past.

Now, if you’re one of those people who believe that time is a circle, then you can take comfort in knowing that what you free will someday come back to you. It can also be a frightening thought because this concept also suggests the horrors we let go of never really leave us.

I’m ready to stop talking about cancer. I’m ready to live in the life that has been life for me after it. I don’t want to live in the shadow of cancer anymore, but I part of me is scared that if I stop saying cancer, if I stop thinking about it, if I stop talking about it, I’m going to grow afraid of it all over again.

Yet, with each passing day, saying it makes me just a little bit more uncomfortable.

From past experience, time has taught me that discomfort is usually a sign that it’s time to move on, but my heart breaks at the idea. That said, I don’t think heartbreak is an entirely terrible thing. It feels awful but heartbreak can sometimes become the catalyst to better things.

It’s been a long time since I’ve departed from this static image I have of myself. I have moved through and beyond it, and it’s simply no longer who I am. I can’t keep living as an idea I once had of myself.

It doesn’t feel right anymore.

Let’s Talk About Talking About Sex

Some things are a big deal to some people, and those very same things are not that big of a deal to other people.

Water is wet, the pope is Catholic, and the world will keep spinning on its axis.

One of these things that is a big deal to others, but not me, is sex. I see it as a part of life that exists in layers, so it’s humor, it’s intellectual, it’s art, its deeply private, etc. Whether it’s all of these things, none of them, or some in different ways depends on the individual in question. I personally don’t mind talking about it, and sometimes I even enjoy discussing it. To not go overboard with puns, but different strokes for different folks and all that.

(Pause for a second.)

One thing I don’t enjoy is the concept of respectability politics being applied to me.

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, respectability politics is the idea that to deserve what I believe is a human right, you have to play by a very specific, and arguable narrow (sexist, classist, homophobic, et al) set of rules. The ideas that support rape culture can be traced back to respectability politics, and you similarly trace back pretty much any -phobia or -ism to this concept.

Now, if you know anything about me or this blog, you will know I don’t cater to bullshit like this. That said, I won’t sit here and pretend that talking about sex in 2014, even while as a woman, is some sort of groundbreaking or revolutionary act. Simply put, it is what it is and there is so much more to life (mine and yours) than this one particular topic

Without being theatrical about it, it’s just that talking about difficult things, like sex or even death, is part of what I feel is my purpose in my life. As someone who has lived around the world, I’ve seen firsthand where and how shame is born. My takeaway from those years of experience has been that I don’t see a reason for the shame surrounding sex, or most things for that matter, and so I do what I can do undo it.

Naturally, this dialogue is not comfortable for everyone. Hell, it’s not even really appropriate in most settings, unless you run in socialist arts circles like myself. I know this, and I am aware of the reality I live in. As much as I aspire to be a progressive woman, I don’t turn my focus away from the world I do live in.

I don’t even know how to phrase this next part, because it sounds like I’m complaining, which is awful, or defending my choices in life, which is even worse, but here we go:

I live my life in the way that I feel honors myself and my spirit.

It’s not for everyone, and after a lot of reflection on this, I’ve come to accept that. I welcome people into my life with acceptance, and I send them off with love and forgiveness if the time comes and we are no longer on a similar path. I do my best to live my truth while still ticking every box I have to as a woman, as an Arab, as someone who still speaks for my Muslim family with my actions. I wish I didn’t, but it’s not a choice up to me. As of this moment, I have yet to embarrass my family, friends, or employers in any capacity or regard. As much as I try to be the protagonist in my life, I respect other people’s narratives and work to complement their truths. I don’t, and never will, expose children to anything inappropriate, and I care about the safety and well being of kids (whether family or other) more than pretty much anyone I know.

So it hurts to sit here and have to write this. I’m trying to lead by example, and all I get in return is people thinking it’s okay to tell me to “go practice sucking dick” as a joke. As much as I talk about sex and sexuality, I have never said anything like that to anyone in my life, because saying things like that isn’t talking about sex. What something like that tells me is that you’re fine with (publicly) degrading a woman who is comfortable talking about sex.

Surprise! There is a wrong way to include sex into the discussion! Who woulda known?

I don’t care what me being comfortable talking about and expressing my sexuality means to anyone beyond myself. I don’t care what anyone says about me either. It’s what people (mostly straight men, and a few straight women) feel “comfortable” saying to me that is not okay.

But then this is where we hit a fork in the road.

I try not to be upset about it, and for the most part I am not. Free speech is a thing, so I encourage people to go for it anytime they have the chance. As I delve deeper into my twenties, everything I thought I understood as my place in this world (as a woman) further crumbles around me. Maybe it’s Kuwait, maybe it’s the people I choose to spend my time with. Maybe it’s every single reason that’s always been there since the beginning of time, or maybe it’s none of them at all.

I don’t know, but I do find myself growing weary.

Respect from others isn’t what I want, because it ultimately does nothing for me. Understanding isn’t really what I’m seeking, because if it has to be explained to you, it’s probably not for you. Sadly, I don’t know what it is that I want.

What I do know that is that it is really a black hole in the middle of my spirit, and the more I try to fill it, the more it demands. It’s trying not to be angry with my younger self who thought transparency was the answer to most things. It’s trying not to snap at people who want to hang their sexual repression on my back. It’s not cutting ties with people, with friends of years, who know me and know the person I am, yet still think the worst of me.

It’s having to explain myself over and over again, until I start to feel like a witness on the stand.

***

I don’t know where things go from here.

Part of me figures these are growing pains, and so I imagine documenting them for anyone familiar with this bump in the road could be worth something. If nothing else, I’ll have something to look back on once I’ve moved past this place in my life.

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