I Write

In the living room of my home in Montreal, in the dining room cabinet, on a shelf behind the glass is a picture of our family. It is an old photo taken in Dubai when my kids were still very young. It was taken on the same day we were photographed individually for our Canadian visa application. There’s an aura of happiness on all our faces.

It’s been a decade now since that picture was taken. So much has happened since then. My eldest has already joined the workforce and my younger is about to finish his studies and follow in his sister’s footsteps. And I am ten years older. During these last ten years, I have put the needs of my family before mine and my profession. I quit my job to be with my husband in his sickness and I have no regrets about it whatsoever.

Except after he passed away. Suddenly I felt so let down. Five years had passed since my last job as a teacher. And I realized that if I wanted to go back to teaching I didn’t have the heart for it anymore. Life has lost its glamour for me and the last thing I would like to do is face a classroom full of kids. But what else can I do?

The fact that I had missed my chance added to my sorrow and my fear of a future life without my significant other beside me. I drove myself crazy thinking about all the things that went wrong, of all the opportunities I missed because I chose to make my family a priority.

Here I was with all these feelings of pain and anger and sorrow bundled up inside me wanting to get out. I wanted to write about my love, my loss, my feelings of despair. Yet every time I tried to put words on paper this little voice inside would tell me to stop. It would tell me to stop whining. You are not the only one.

True. But my mind and soul are so full of memories and losses and fears that somehow writing about them is all I can do. Writing about them helps me understand and forget them. I write to explore all the things I am afraid of; death, loss, life, the future. I write to give myself courage and strength to face the world. I write to keep my sanity. I write, to use Roger Rosenblatt’s words:

“To make suffering endurable 
To make evil intelligible 
To make justice desirable 
and … to make love possible”

Night

ChK

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But If We Wait

“Are you ready?” Klaus asked finally.
“No,” Sunny answered.
“Me neither,” Violet said, “but if we wait until we’re ready we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives, let’s go.” 
Lemony Snicket

A few years after settling in Montreal, my husband was invited to give an exhibition for his paintings in New York. He declined saying that he had a certain plan and that he needed a little more time to make his plan come true. He asked if it could be postponed for a few months, a year to be exact. They agreed. Little did he know that destiny had other plans for him too.

Departure

The perfectionist that he was he was always waiting for the right moment to do things. It never occurred to him that the right moment might never come. Voltaire wrote:

“We never live; we are always in the expectation of living.”

It’s hard being left behind. It’s hard to be the one who stays. Who said things will get better and easier? Days have a certain rhythm for me now. It’s easier during the day. On most days it is just a matter of getting through the day no matter how. But the evenings, the long lonely evenings are for breaking down. Come evening all I can think of is unfulfilled dreams, of opportunities lost, of a life lost.

It’s a horrible world outside. And I can’t help but feel frightened sometimes. I can’t help but worry about things, even trivial things. Things that I know I have no control over. Things like the future, the unknown. And I want to believe that if I am patient and I wait things will get better. To quote Paulo Coelho:

“I’ve learned that waiting is the most difficult bit, and I want to get used to the feeling, knowing that you’re with me, even when you’re not by my side.” 

ChK

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Memories Can Never Rub Away

“A man is what he remembers. And he is free by virtue of what he remembers.” Leon Surmelian

The internet is buzzing with news of Christian villages and towns being destroyed by rebels in Syria, churches burnt, nuns taken hostage and youths beheaded. The latest news is the siege of the Armenian village of Kessab near the border of Turkey. Islamist militants, mostly Turks, have forced the inhabitants to flee and have taken the village, looting and destroying their homes.

This kind of news resonates strongly with me. My mind goes back to the days when I used to listen to my grandparents telling their story of how they were displaced and forced to flee their villages by the same Turks, to never go back again. And what was once their home became a memory they cherished and passed on to us together with the bad. Leon Surmelian wrote:

“Memory preserves continuity. And if it is destroyed, suppression of memories is the most awful tyranny of all, for it destroys the self and kills the soul of man.”

My heart bleeds as I continue to read. Because deep down I want to hope against hope that this time it is not the same. That everything is going to be okay for all those innocent civilians against whom atrocities are committed in the name of democracy or freedom. That people and authorities have learned from the mistakes of the past and that history will not be repeated a century later.

I have first hand experience of civil war, I grew up in it. I have seen and know what it can do to people caught in it. I was lucky to have been given a second chance, to leave and live a normal life outside. As Haruki Murakami writes:

“Most things are forgotten over time. Even the war itself, the life-and-death struggle people went through is now like something from the distant past. We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about everyday, too many new things we have to learn. But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” 

lost i

ChK

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There Is Nothing I Wish More

When I looked out my window today morning it was snowing. I grumbled and sighed and then went into the kitchen to make coffee. Don’t get me wrong on this. I love nature. But this winter has somehow been too much for me to handle. We have had extremely cold days and snow since November now and spring is nowhere in sight even though March is almost over.

I take my coffee and go to my corner. The corner where the light is just right for me to sit and read, or plan my day and time, or sometimes write. Basically a sofa in the corridor between the sitting room and my bedroom. I look for my book to read but then I remember that I finished it yesterday. And then I notice the pile of notepads that I have accumulated on the other side. About six or seven of them. My writing pads.

I grab the first one. It is a small pad with plain white paper. The cover is yellow and laminated with my name printed on the bottom right. A pad designed and made for me by my dear husband.

See years ago when we were living in Dubai, I couldn’t find the kind of notebooks I liked to write on. Some were too expensive. So I used to buy loose paper and my late husband, being the artist and the graphic designer that he was, he used to have them made for me. He made them in different sizes, with different colored covers, in different styles, with different fonts for my name, and sometimes even different colored papers inside. I even have a chart from him explaining all the different sizes of paper.

Size Width x Height (mm) Width x Height (in)
4A0 1682 x 2378 mm 66.2 x 93.6 in
2A0 1189 x 1682 mm 46.8 x 66.2 in
A0 841 x 1189 mm 33.1 x 46.8 in
A1 594 x 841 mm 23.4 x 33.1 in
A2 420 x 594 mm 16.5 x 23.4 in
A3 297 x 420 mm 11.7 x 16.5 in
A4 210 x 297 mm 8.3 x 11.7 in
A5 148 x 210 mm 5.8 x 8.3 in
A6 105 x 148 mm 4.1 x 5.8 in
A7 74 x 105 mm 2.9 x 4.1 in
A8 52 x 74 mm 2.0 x 2.9 in
A9 37 x 52 mm 1.5 x 2.0 in
A10 26 x 37 mm 1.0 x 1.5 in

I shipped them here in a box with me. But on this cold and snowy spring morning here in Montreal, there’s nothing I wish more than to have this coffee with him.

Dad-1

ChK

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Spring Is Full Of Promise

Saturday was an emotional day for me and my family. In fact last week in its entirety was a lot more emotional than any of the weeks before. My son got his engineering Iron Ring on Saturday evening. I was so proud of him and at the same time my heart felt so heavy. I was so emotional thinking of how proud his dad would have been if he had been alive. And I tried my best not to show it and not to cry and to be strong for my son.

After the ceremony and the wine and cheese reception, he accompanied me and my daughter home before joining his friends to celebrate. And it hit me there and then that he has grown so much and turned into a real gentleman. That he has all the qualities his father had, and even more. When did this happen, I asked myself. It was only yesterday that he was just a kid.

I realized then how strong both of them were. That unlike me they did not let their grief and sorrow get the better of them. I felt kind of stupid that I idled my time away. I had focused on my grief and loss for so long that I was no longer in the habit of sitting for hours and working. It’s not that I was bored, I had simply become indifferent, inert. I didn’t feel anything.

Watching the two of them that night I felt my passions come back to me. This struggle, this deceit, to deny my frustrations, to try and keep myself in check, annoyed me. I felt this rebellion rising up in me. And I realized I do not want to live in a kind of stupor anymore, buried in my thoughts and feelings.

Watching my two kids that night I felt serenely happy for the first time in such a long time. And I thought that spring was full of promise, cold, uncomfortable and still dark, but headed toward joy.

Promise

ChK

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The Real Things Haven’t Changed

“You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time.” Abraham Lincoln
 
I wake up every morning promising myself and my kids that everything is going to be okay. And I try to believe that everything is okay or as it should be. As the day goes by and I meet people, I talk to friends and relatives and the first question they ask is, “How are you?” I say I am good. Somehow I try to believe those words myself.

Evening comes and I am having dinner with my kids. I listen to them talk about their day at school and work. They ask me how my day was and I tell them it was good. We talk more, have a few laughs. The evening passes. When it’s time to go to bed, I sigh with relief because I don’t have to pretend anymore. And I break down in the privacy of my room.

And I think about my kids. About how much they miss their father but they don’t say anything because they don’t want to upset me more. Because they want to make me happy. About how much they miss talking to him, about how much they miss his embrace, his hug, his wisdom, his encouragement and his support. About how much they miss hearing his voice, laughing at his jokes, about how much they miss his being here with them, with us.

And I think, why do we have to pretend? We don’t owe anyone anything right? Why do we have to keep up appearances, why can’t we tell people and each other the truth? Is it because, to quote Maya Angelou:

“Let’s tell the truth to people. When people ask, ‘How are you?’ have the nerve sometimes to answer truthfully. You must know, however, that people will start avoiding you because, they, too, have knees that pain them and heads that hurt and they don’t want to know about yours. But think of it this way: If people avoid you, you will have more time to meditate and do fine research on a cure for whatever truly afflicts you.” 

Maybe it is better to be alone for a while if it will help us mend our scars and find our true selves. Maybe it is better to have time to focus on the beautiful things that surround us like the trees, the flowers, the birds, the sky, the sunset. And little by little we start to appreciate these things that are given to us and which we take for granted most of the time. Because to use Laura Ingalls Wilder’s words:

“The real things haven’t changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong.”

Style1

ChK

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You Don’t Figure It Out!

“Don’t cry, I’m sorry to have deceived you so much, but that’s how life is.” Vladimir Nabokov

Is that how life is? Only a deception?

At another time, in a different world or in a parallel universe, I wouldn’t have agreed. I would have said that life was not a deception but an unknown path full of surprises, pleasant surprises. I could have, but not in this world, not in the world I live in.

Why, and I ask myself this question almost on a daily basis, why do I have to be brave and show the people around me that nothing is wrong with me when nothing is right in my life right now? Everything is on hold. The only concrete thing that I am certain of at this moment is my existence. I exist.

I have so many decisions to make, I have so many steps to take and they all depend on the answers I would get, on what the outcome of what I am waiting for, or what I have been waiting for these past few years, will be. I have waited, I was waiting and I am still waiting.

Thinker

Every time the answer I get is not what I expect it to be, my heart cracks but I still hold on. And I try to believe:

“I try to believe that God doesn’t give you more than one little piece of the story at once. You know, the story of your life. Otherwise your heart would crack wider than you could handle. He only cracks it enough so you can still walk, like someone wearing a cast. But you’ve still got a crack running up your side, big enough for a sapling to grow out of. Only no one sees it. Nobody sees it. Everybody thinks you’re one whole piece, and so they treat you maybe not so gentle as they would if they could see that crack.” Rebecca Wells

I try to convince myself that maybe whatever it was that I was waiting for was a waste of time or that somehow it was not meant to happen. That perhaps God, or destiny or whatever name you want to give it, has other plans for me. I try to figure out the other possibilities. And when I am done with them I move on to figure out my dreams, my purpose, my goal. I try to figure out what it is that I want from this world, from this life which I call mine. And then I move on to figure me out. Only to find out that I can’t. Because to use Rebecca Well’s words:

“You can’t figure me out. I can’t figure me out. It’s life. You don’t figure it out. You just climb up on the beast and ride.”

ChK

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