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?

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Flower for an hour

Illness is treated very differently through our lives as well as throughout the world with factors such as age or social habits taken into consideration when dealing with patients. A sick baby attracts more attention than someone in their late twenties, and propriety begs you visit a bedridden octogenarian even if their illness will automatically induce nods and morbid predictions. So if it’s all a matter of decorum or pre-determined fears, where does love fit in the sick world?

Having been in the sick bed recently, I was able to observe the visiting traffic from the opposite perspective, to analyse the different interactions illness provoked in front of me. First, to make things clear, I was in a two-bed hospital room. I therefore wasn’t alone and had to endure frequent visits from strangers coming to celebrate the ongoing life of my neighbours – how riveting.
First, there was a young lady who had just given birth; her friends and family catwalked right past my bed all day bringing flowers and nibbling on chocolate and whatever her husband had spread for the occasion. Conversation was basic, no intrigue, no passion moved their lips except when the offered candy graced their tongues – I’d visit patients every day if I knew I’d be rewarded with food!
Then, when mother and child were given the green signal, an elderly woman replaced her in the white sheets opposite the room. Accompanying her were her son and daughter, both probably in their sixties, alternating smile and pensive pout, worried what the future held for the matriarch of the family. They had no visitors, choosing to remain within the tight bonds of blood, communicating the same banalities they usually exchanged, “did you talk to x?”, “what’s the name of that honey you bought?”. They knew the risks, repeated her age to whoever asked what was wrong, nodded…she’s old, we all know what to expect.

Come to think of it, we deal with illness the way we deal with a beautiful flower bouquet: we hold it carefully, lay it down slowly, talk about it, photograph it with pride…then after a few days, our grip gets more careless, we change the water less often, we don’t talk about it much anymore because we know it won’t last long. We sometimes hang it to dry, stare at the withered petals with affection, nostalgia, and if bugs start clinging to it, we simply throw it away, unfazed. I was a flower bouquet this week, and somehow, I was put in a pot. You don’t take pictures of potted flowers, they’re here to stay, safe…as long as you water them.

White bedding

I had my first surgery ever 3 days ago. I had never been admitted to hospital before, never been cut up or sliced open, never been injected with strange liquids and probed with utensils I wasn’t conscious to inspect or approve. 3 days ago, my safe space was broken into, but my armor found itself strengthened; I survived.

I didn’t have major surgery, my condition wasn’t life-threatening, but I had no choice but to take the leap: say yes to the scalpel and no to this malevolent parasite eating me up from the inside. I admit, I cried a bit, I couldn’t help some lonely tears from trickling down my cheeks as the anesthetics took over my body and shut down all will power I had. I knew that I’d wake up a few hours later weaker, different…brand new maybe? Alas, I didn’t feel all shiny and fresh as I emerged from my foggy state; I felt tired, confused, old and most importantly…stuck. I wasn’t allowed to move, to eat, or do anything natural to my wellbeing. I was instead haunted by needles and nurses with charts, neon lights and an overdose of white. The aftermath. Long hours staring into space, falling asleep and waking in a start, pain everywhere, with nothing familiar to cling to.

I didn’t tell many people about this journey I had been forced to embark on, just a few friends and of course my parents. Visitors flooded the floor with armfuls of flowers and chocolate boxes, balloons and get well soons, and I watched them through my heavy eyelids as they entered other rooms, hugged other patients, kept them company while I composed yet another poem on how white everything was in this antiseptic world. I didn’t crave the applause, the screams and the crowds, I didn’t need all the attention or joyful pity, I simply wanted the nightmare to be over, to be home in bed or in a prairie skipping rope, to be anywhere but in this helpless state at the mercy of unknown arms.

I have often dreamt up situations where the love around me would be put to the test, where those who enjoyed my laughs would do anything to wipe away my tears. I somehow forgot to imagine my own hand holding the tissues, pulling me up saying: this is your test, stop waiting for the world to take it for you.

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.

Too little too much

Ever since I was a child, I have been taunted by the fear of being too much of anything, too loud, too different, too nice and yes, even too loving.

In a society that promotes distance, casual relationships with no profound attachment, caring too much has somehow become a defect of the human heart, something we’re doing wrong. Every time we get too close to another, whether friend or more, an alarm resonates and we pull out of our mischievous trance; today’s society is based on nonchalance and vapid companionship, anything more can turn out fatal. We call friends people who make our hips dance but our souls stand still, lovers those who offer us everything but their hearts, and for some inexplicable reason, this has become completely normal, synonymous with happiness.

I remember watching old films with my parents, listening to fabulously written dialogue and loving diatribes spoken with passion and glistening eyes, and I dreamt of the day I’d be old enough to have someone come up with words as warm and tender as those uttered by the likes of Cary Grant and Gene Kelly, swoon under the riveting gaze of chivalrous men burning with untamed passion. Instead, all I have seen of courtship has been reduced to strangers finding solace in strange bodies, short-term internet-made friendships, divorces happier than weddings and a world much less inviting than my innocent heart had dreamt while watching those films with the only two people who ever made me dream of more than society allowed or taught me to seek.

In the end, it isn’t being too much of anything that truly scares me, it’s the world being too little endowed with what makes my soul flutter and my heart beat faster; I will always do and be more than is advisable, and maybe someday society will finally decide to catch up.

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.

Three cheers for new year’s

Hello to anyone who reads this,
And to all those I terribly miss.
I do not know what to make of the past year,
We’ve in turn felt sadness, anger and fear.
We’ve watched countries burn to the ground,
We’ve seen music lose some of its sound,
Films will never be quite the same
After so many have lost their flame.
Orange is a colour we now well know,
And each day produces yet another blow;
We’ve seen death too many a time
Hoping for our beloved the bell won’t chime.
There is still hope, world, I swear,
In every smile, and sprinkled everywhere.
There is life left to celebrate,
Beautiful memories to perpetrate,
Love enough to go around
For happiness we were surely bound.
Now that wretched year has flown away
Give your heart to this bright new day 🎈

(Maria Sometimes)