With change…comes change

I haven’t written here in a while. Not for lack of words or things to say, mostly in an attempt to bridge the life I had when I created this blog and the one I’m leading now, an ocean away.

I moved to a new country a while ago, to a place I had never been or ever imagined I’d end up. I needed change since the moment I took my very first breath, sudden urges to move around taking over my mind every few months, with an inability to remain still in a region that is anything but. I’m Lebanese, I am proud to be Lebanese, but I just don’t fit in Lebanon, and Lebanon doesn’t fit the many versions of who I am. So I packed my bags leaving out what didn’t fit in the two pieces of luggage I had resolved to take, things, people… 27 years’ worth, and boarded a plane. Two, actually. Needless to say it but here it goes: I am very far from home… and from Lebanon. That distinction is essential.

I’ve lived with my parents my whole life, befriending them early on, and while I did everything to leave Lebanon behind, I never wanted to leave them. It’s hard. Much harder than I had thought possible. You’d think I’d have gone bored from seeing their faces everyday and yet here I am readjusting every inch of my mind to fit this new reality, one without them, one where I have to start all over, meet new people, decipher a new accent, memorize new streets and decide what I should keep from my past. Will streets I’ve walked in my whole life look the same when I visit? Will I start listening to Sabah and eat labneh every morning in an attempt to lose less of myself to this new environment? Or will I rejoice at glimpses of my former life with every little cucumber I bite into and every familiar face I run into on my way to fulfil whatever new habit I’ve acquired in this foreign land?

I’ve changed already, and it’s only been a short while since I left. I’ve changed and it feels like it’s only the beginning, the start of missing everything, the end of missing out, the biggest change of all: what if now, all I want is for things to stop changing? Is it finally time for this restless spirit to find constance? For a while, at least?

For a friend

I know not how to make my voice say

That my heart cries for you today,

And I know not how to comfort thee

With much more than an earnest plea;

Today I ask all angels in the sky

To turn each gasp and every cry

Into beds of roses for her to sleep,

And may your soul learn not to weep

For we’re all but visitors doing time

Till those promised bells begin to chime.

We are so near the sweet departed

Who want us not so broken-hearted;

Despite the void and all the pain,

Remember not these days of rain

But count the days of sunny splendor

Given to us by ones so tender.

It is not far, this new hello

Though hours seem to pass so slow,

We’ll see their bright faces again

So keep in mind that until then

If your strength begins to sway

I am only a few steps away.

The colours of love

I have asked myself several times over the years if I believed in love. I can’t say I don’t, it is an ability I proudly feel master of, an emotion I feel in my waking hours and understand in my dreams. However, what kind of love do I truly believe in?

Friends often point out my extreme attachment to my parents, how I seem to include them in my every thought or action, and it certainly has bewildered many a person in my life just how far that attachment goes. Well of course I love them, they gave me all my favourite memories, a lot of my character was forged with their help and my sense of freedom and revolution was mainly born from their constant encouragement to always push through society’s boundaries. You can’t not love those who build you, that is something I learnt early on and have noticed every day since. Similarly, friendships based on giving are worthy of so much love for nobody forced anybody to care for you or your future or the simple appearance of your smile; unlike family, some choose to love you, or at least their souls do, and it is quite useless to fight against the current. Sadly enough, I have also often heard that animals don’t have souls or emotions but having witnessed what I have, there is no doubt in my mind. From dogs crying the absence of their carers to a little calf getting hit with depression at the sight of his mother being taken away for reasons it doesn’t understand or can’t even fathom, animals are as feeling as human beings, and it is definitely reciprocal.

Ultimately, genuine love comes in so many different colours and shapes, so many shades and definitions, but one thing I am sure of is where it comes from; the birthplace of love isn’t that organ that pumps blood or that other that calculates every step feeding on sugar and sprinkling it on whatever its whims dictate, love is rooted in the bottom of our souls, before anything else came to exist, blossoming into a thousand thornless roses each with a different but just as powerful smell, enticing, addicting, life-giving. We were born evergreen, gardens to our perennially blooming emotions.

Random rant

When I started this blog, the idea was to write down on my phone whatever came to mind, be it a fait divers, a rant or a haiku. So, staying true to that, here are the perplexing thoughts running through my mind at the moment and snippets of the events triggering their oh-so-annoying appearance.

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father’s older cousin passed away on the day after Christmas, alone in his house, his body found by the police and left there to decay while they searched for living relatives of the deceased. Well, they found us, and we had to run all over the place on new year’s eve to ensure he was properly buried and his papers were in order. The first part done, we were asked to go back into his house perfumed with five days’ worth of rotting flesh, rummage through his private belongings as I repressed heavy tears from flowing all over the place at the thought of how terribly lonely it must have been to die alone. He wasn’t only family, he was human, a feeling being who left unopened boxes filled with Christmas decorations in his living room, papers strewn on all chairs and tables as he endeavoured to finish his affairs while death crept closer and closer. I repressed my tears long enough to get back home where, nothing restraining the flow anymore, I wept. These events coupled with my uncertain state of mind every time my future is mentioned inevitably caused my body to react and… hello heartburn. After years of struggling with it, how it appears out of the blue or during stressful moments, I still don’t know how to deal with the monster. On a strict diet of rice, boiled carrots and camomile tea, needless to say the kitchen seems to be laughing at my dismay, the internet taunting me with “don’t eat this” and “don’t do that” instead of offering me the one thing I desperately seek: “eat this”, a “this” that doesn’t taste bland or makes me want to sing about dishes of yore, dreaming of my hot cup of nothing.

There is no point to this post other than to relieve some of the tension acquired from opening the fridge and closing it in vain, this time knowing it isn’t devoid of tasty snacks and dishes as it can so often seem, but stacked with forbidden treats by my too sensitive stomach and upset nerves. 2017, it’s been only a week, take it easy on me, will you?

A morbid year

2016. Mentioning it is already a horror story, but the way it is ending for me is truly worth making a film out of.

This year started with Bowie’s death, then Alan Rickman’s, followed by Harper Lee, Umberto Ecco, young Anton Yelchin, Mohammad Ali, Prince, Pete Burns, Paul Kantner, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Gloria de Haven, Gene Wilder, Leonard Cohen, George Michael, Carrie Fisher then her talented mother Debbie Reynolds a day later! These deaths and so many more make for the saddest obituary, but hey, 2016 wasn’t satisfied with taking people away, it also added to the madness by making Donald Trump president, and in parallel giving Lebanon its own orange head of state. Wait, we’re not done yet! Exploding phones, Brexit… this year is watching us, amused by the mayhem, eating popcorn while we look right, left, up and within for answers nobody can give.

Well, if only that was it for me. I had one of the most stressful years leading to meds being prescribed so I can digest all the chaos, my father was hit by a water cistern as he was crossing the road, I snapped my back and had to walk like the hunchback of Notre Dame for over a week swallowing pill after pill searching to relieve more than my swollen muscles. However, nothing compares to the joke of an ending this year had in reserve for us. Hearing the news of my mother’s cousin passing a few days ago, then my former school principal’s whom I loved – her being a long time family friend – I verbally challenged this last week to test my nerves and surprise me further, and to be honest I wasn’t disappointed. Yesterday morning, we were informed that my dad’s cousin on his mother’s side had died. Preparing ourselves psychologically for yet another funeral, the phone rings. On the other end is my brother explaining he had just been informed that my father’s cousin from the paternal side has been dead for 4 days in his house, and since he had no immediate family, the authorities were waiting to find relatives to take care of the usual procedures. Naturally, us being the closest in Lebanon, we were asked to go into the house where – insert nervous laugh here – the corpse still lies, sign papers, make an official inventory of his belongings with the probably overpowering stench of our cousin’s decaying body, then arrange for his funeral.

So 2016, for your last day of existence I withdraw my challenge, you’ve won, now will you please go on vacation and never return? I’m no longer a fan of surprises.

Starved ears

There are sounds you can’t forget. The putter patter of rain drops on the roof, the high-pitched whistle of the tea kettle, the sleepy voice of your mother when she says “good morning” to you… we memorize sounds, define our lives around them, and when one stops being part of our routine, it’s like a breach in our cocoon, a part of this intricate safety net we spent our existence building.

Around a month ago, my father was hit by a truck as he was crossing a street on foot. Thankfully, it was mostly his leg that was injured. I say thankfully bitterly, for if there’s one thing he likes, it’s walking. Since then, he’s been much less mobile, having to minimize activity so his wounds heal without complications. Although this little anecdote has nothing to do with sound, it also has everything to do with the matter in my case. Ever since I was a little girl, I’d know my dad had arrived home from the confident and somewhat loud tapping of his shoes in the building’s corridor; my room being situated conveniently, I was sure to hear the main entrance door’s loud bang and the decided stride of my father as he hastily approached our apartment. Since his unfortunate accident, no such sound has graced my ears, no comfort has come from the familiar sound I had built my evening routine around; instead, the light tap of a crutch sometimes resonates in that same corridor, a sound I have come to abhor.

We don’t realize the importance of a sound till it is gone, the comfort of an assured familiarity in noises we’ve grown up with, learnt to accept or even love. I long to hear my father’s fast-paced footsteps on gravel, on wooden floors, on coloured fallen leaves again, and I wholeheartedly wish to forget the ugly slowness of that horrid crutch’s tap.

My fleeting soulmate

Soulmates. They say every person walking this Earth has one. They say we should seek them, find them, grab them, keep them. They are the light outside the tunnel, the purpose of the journey, the end prize of this life. They forget to tell us a soulmate isn’t always a lover, and that a soulmate once found won’t necessarily stay. If you find them, that is.
I went through life with a leg over my head and the other haphazardly stuck in a pail, stumbling, bumping into trees and falling off chairs, not knowing which road I was taking or how to sit still. I’ve met so many people, been to so many places, but my heart wandered on its own as I wandered in other directions, blindly. It got attached to memories like this one I have of you. I met you when I was still figuring out the world, when I was still figuring out myself, my demons and all my switches. We instantly clicked, like those tupperwares they keep trying to sell us on TV, the ones that don’t let the air in…or out. We became friends, talked and sat in silence, shared what we feared to share with others, spent mornings and nights doing nothing and everything, walking the streets like we owned them. It felt like looking in the mirror, but the image could hug me when a tear left my eye, the image spoke back to me, soothing me when I was down. And most importantly, we laughed; we’d just stare at each other and know what the other was thinking, instantly, magically. We were friends, best friends, and everyone tried to taint us. They said we had to be more, thought we kept our truths hidden, convinced us we were lying to ourselves and each other. And it worked. One day, a lifetime ago, you told me we were soulmates, and I believed you, young and naive, in search of more than I was persuaded to accept; we were family, makeshift and magnetic, but we didn’t last. We believed them and fell apart, like soulmates sometimes do; my soul felt safe with you till I found out that soulmates don’t exist, or maybe the one you seemed to be never really lived.
It’s been a year now, a year since I set myself free from the lie, that soulmates are forever, and that such friendships don’t die. Today I believe my soulmate was just another dream too good to be true, a figment of my imagination, and I feel sorry, but mostly for the person I convinced myself you were. You knew I was there, always, like a trusty old shoe, the one you discard in the corner of the room once it has served its purpose, still good enough to wear, but mostly to the supermarket. I really thought you made me less blue – boy, I really had no clue.

The waves of friendship

Screenshot_2016-02-23-10-50-50-1I am one of those who didn’t have much luck in friendship growing up, always falling upon the wrong people and searching in all the wrong places for a warm place to belong. I naturally ended up spending a lot of time alone, running away from the masses that just didn’t look like me or feel as I did. I regret nothing, this should be said.

Society does everything to make you feel like the problem lies within you, that you just aren’t worthy of the right people or even worse, that they don’t exist and you are forever doomed to walk this world alone, only finding company in cold conciliatory mirrors. Thing is, it’s all a question of random luck, not good or bad like everyone wants to paint it, just misplaced luck that one day makes a loud comeback and puts things perfectly in order.

We are the products of timing, the sufferers of providence, some given the chance to start pleasantly, surrounded by those they deem similar to them, and others enduring a longer journey that ultimately builds and prepares them for beautiful surprises, as they’re finally allowed to fit their supposedly unfit personas in the adequate pond. Because we’re all worthy, we all deserve people we can call home, people we can turn into family, we simply don’t all get to have it at the same time, and that’s OK. It’s not about popularity or likeability, don’t believe the rumors and what appears to be; you may have hundreds of fans and still feel alone, hear a thousand I love you’s yet feel empty and unfulfilled. It’s a question of clicking with other human beings, finding a twin spark in the eyes of another, that rare understanding which makes true friendship the holy grail of beautiful relationships. Good news is, there’s at least one for each of us, sometimes more, hiding unwillingly from our sight, awaiting pure hazard to do its thing and pull us together.

So hang on tirelessly, hope incessantly, believe firmly in the inevitability of happiness and constantly endeavour to make yourself a better person even if you have to take all the hard steps alone; you’ll only end up stronger and more worthy of those fireworks. In the end, the most important thing to remember is that it’s not your fault, it’s not you, it’s the places and the time that are to blame, do not doubt your self-worth and don’t diminish your self-esteem; we each have a different adventure to embark on and a different landing space. All we have to do is buckle up and tighten our grip, for that exhilarating wave is coming and we’re ALL allowed to ride it.

Narrate this

We have gotten used to the idea that our society condemns anything that’s different, strange, unusual, that it condones any behaviour ruled by something other than the social impositions of our century. But when did we start accepting the unthinkable, nodding at the discrimination and alienation of people based only on what makes them different?

When we watch a movie and the hero is an autistic man who overcomes his sickness by getting a job, a bullied child with tourette’s who starts a dance squad, a boy with a girly voice who gets to sing at the Superbowl, we feel emotional and happy that good things can happen even to the underdog. Then once everyone’s out of the theater, a guy picks on a woman because of her chin hair, a group of girls start laughing at a lady because all she can afford are hand-me-downs or clothes from Walmart, a man with a stutter isn’t hired because he annoys the staff or someone with osteoporosis gets the nickname Sir limps-a-lot because it’s funny. That “hairy woman” has hormonal problems and would rather feed her children than get expensive laser treatment, that lady is paying for her parents’ medication and hasn’t been on a single vacation for years to make sure all her money goes to caring for her family, that man started stuttering after receiving a shock watching his son get hit by a bus and hasn’t been able to heal since, and that person with osteoporosis used to be a champion runner, but their current illness has them swallowing pills by the dozen hoping the torture would finally end. Maybe it’s the background music carefully selected in films that activate the waterworks, maybe people really feel moved by the stories on screen, however where does all the compassion go when real life comes knocking, when the people who really need support and empathy end up receiving all the blows? Yes that handsome man is dating a fat girl, and he likes it. That boy with all the scars got his puppy out of a fire, that woman was raped and hasn’t been able to smile for the past 4 years, that young girl with the double chin has a nutritionist mother who feeds her very well, but she’s diabetic and her metabolism is too slow and that “geek” who never got a date dreams daily of finding the cure for cancer. This goes beyond stereotypical situations, this happens every day to people struggling to stay positive and get through life as wholly as they can, but they weren’t in a movie, they might not get prince charming or their dream job because in real life, nobody goes “awww”, not enough root for them to succeed but instead bash all their efforts because they don’t fit the carefully drawn molds the media has voluntarily helped shape. Why would they let the “imperfect” ones win when they’ve spent so much time and effort becoming “perfect”? Whose ego would allow to condescend?

They say life imitates art, but isn’t cinema considered the 7th form of art? Then why isn’t everyone cheering for the misfits, the marginals and the unfortunate ones that life didn’t spoil? Why is it our hearts beat faster when we’re in a dark room and nobody knows how deeply we can feel?

Musical musings

I woke up this morning to the sound of Frank Sinatra’s velvety voice. My father, an early riser I definitely took after, has those sudden urges to blast his music at the strangest hours of the day, notwithstanding the countless interferences and warnings of the sleepy neighbors underneath – the remainder of the building’s inhabitants probably too hard of hearing to mind.

Oh Franky, how far are the days of good, really good and genuine, music resounding in people’s houses! Nowadays people dance, if that’s what you call nodding energetically and shaking their behinds, to the horrifying sounds synthetically maneuvered by musically-challenged chart-topping “artists”. I believe real good music went somewhat extinct around the mid-eighties maybe, with a few sightings of genius here and there every once in a while, replaced by crowd-appealing tunes. If there is one thing that is certain, it surely is the fact that when trying to reach the majority of a population, the quality of something finds itself radically diminished and the product significantly dumbed down. Albeit some classic songs did make it into modern day, their true essence was lost in the transition; ┬áthe smooth philosohy behind Sinatra’s “My way” has been disconcertingly disfigured, quoted under instagrammed pictures of people dressed in abominable clothing and striking poses unfathomable at the time of the song’s release. The unfortunate tale of good songs turned into parodies of themselves continues with half naked girls and gritty-voiced men covering beautiful lyrics with distorted versions of the original melodies. Deep sigh. “New York, New York” is playing now as I type, images of how it was back then racing through my disillusioned mind, I find myself wishing I had been born in any other era but this one. Music is the most expressive way of conveying a period’s truths, and all I hear on the radio these days is the world’s downward spiral into IQ oblivion.

I started writing this thinking of all the joy my father’s music collection brought to my life, the bearings of more authentic times, and here I am concluding that no matter how beautiful it was before, it simply isn’t anymore. How fitting, life has the most perfect timing sometimes; “Yesterday” just came on, nostalgic and unforgiving, “oh how I long for yesterday”…