Loyalty Integrity Honesty Dignity

“The human journey is so short. We no sooner realize that we are here than it is already time for us to be leaving.” John O’Donohue

For the past two weeks I’ve been contemplating writing an article for my blog. It’s about the spiritual books I read two weeks ago and the one I’m still reading now. In my mind I made a comparison of all the dogmas and the teachings these books and the authors offered, and the striking similarities between them. It’s a big task that one day I would like to tackle on my blog, and I hope that day is soon. But until I do that, there’s something else that’s nagging me and I think it’s also blocking me from further writing. To quote Zora Neale Hurtson:
“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” 

It’s that time of year again. November 16. Today marks the fourth anniversary of my husband’s passing. Four years ago today we didn’t know it would be his last day with us here. I still remember that day as if it was yesterday.

I play the events of his last two days in my head. It happened so quickly. We didn’t say goodbye, he didn’t want to. He said he was coming home with us and like a fool I believed him. He looked so peaceful and calm with a smile on his face before he breathed his last breath. Sadly we drove home alone leaving him on his hospital bed. Four years have passed and the pain is still strong.

“Death in its way comes as much as a surprise as birth.” Edna O’Brien

Those days and the days that followed were a nightmare. I felt like a robot accepting friends and well wishers and trying to be strong for my kids. I didn’t know what was in wait for me. I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was get it over with, the funeral, the condolences, the emails and the phone calls.

It was only at night when I went to bed that I cried myself to sleep. But sleep also failed me on most nights. I was like a lost soul trying to find comfort somewhere, I didn’t know where.  

Four years (1460 days) later, and after going through some really difficult times and facing new challenges, we are still trying to find some comfort. And I know we will never be the same again, ever. There are times when the kids are back from work and we’re gathered in the kitchen having dinner and they start talking about their day where I stop and stare at them, unable to eat or talk.

I think of all the things he missed and is missing, even the little everyday things like the weather, which is so beautiful today like it was on that last day, and all else. All the dreams he had for our kids, the way he would have held his head high proud of their achievements. His dreams, especially his dreams as an artist, the painting he left unfinished on the easel, his sketches, his studies, his canvases, his books and paints. All of these and more.

He wouldn’t know how highly some art critics think of his paintings, that they find his “images intriguing.” I guess he would never know. And that hurts.

Memory

Shortly after he passed away, my uncle Setrak in an email wrote the following about him:

“He was smart. I could tell that when I used to watch him play cards in Ainjar. He was a good bridge player. He could even outsmart his small computer (then in black and white) when he played poker. He was also a good chess player. He was intelligent and wise… and his colors were vibrant and beautiful, his paintings…” and the list goes on.

In my hand I hold his ring, the silver ring that was given to him as a service recognition award by the company where he worked for over two decades. Carved on one side is the company’s logo, the logo that he redesigned, and on the other his initials, VH. Carved under his initials are the words, LOYALTY and INTEGRITY. I would like to add HONESTY and DIGNITY to those words. 

Yes to me, to us, he was all that and more. He was one hell of a guy.

I don’t remember which year he received that ring. His rewards and certificates were so many. We were so proud of him. But his biggest prize is that he was the best dad, and the best husband and friend the kids and I could ever wish for. I feel so blessed to have traveled with him on this journey, life’s journey. I wish that we never stopped and continued ’till old age, like he always dreamed of. 

Robin Sharma writes:
“Painful events come to help us learn the lessons we need to learn at that point of our paths. Sad experiences arrive to help us heal, and grow more philosophical.”

During these four years I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others. I’ve come to realize who my true friends and the people who really care about me, about us, are and I am forever grateful for having them in my life.

And after four years, after going through really hard times, I realize things are never as bad as they seem. The situation that causes us sorrow is also the reason behind our strength and power and wisdom.

Lots have changed in these four years, but the one thing that hasn’t is our love. If anything it has grown stronger. In the same way we feel his love and believe that he is our guardian angel, watching us from a more powerful and peaceful place, from heaven.

Rest in peace my darling and rest assured that your legacy lives through your kids, who by the way have all your characteristics and more.

ChK

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Did That Happen?

Yesterday morning after everyone left to work I sat at my desk to write. But first I had to tidy my desk since there were a few books piled up on it. So I took them to the sitting room and put them back on the library shelves in their proper places.

Back at my desk, I decided also to check my email one last time before I put my laptop away. Then of course I convinced myself to sign in on Facebook just for a few minutes. As usual I got carried away, until a notice at the right corner of my home page caught my attention. It read: “You Haven’t Posted in 17 Days.”

And I thought, already! How did that happen? Am I back to my old habit of procrastination? I promised myself to blog often and yet I didn’t write anything for 17 days. That’s not good. Because it means I haven’t done much with my life and my time other than to reflect, think and contemplate.

to-write

By nature I am a blind optimist, or at least I was. On most days now when I sit at my desk to write I procrastinate and indulge in thoughts and daydreams, wondering if I could have had a different life. But somehow or other I have come to realize that this was my path in life no matter what happened or how things turned out to be.

When I think of how blind I have been to take anything that came my way or was given to me for granted, including my life, I shudder.

Sometimes I wonder, amidst all my past mishaps, was it ever possible to fight my destiny? Was it possible to follow a different path than the one I was destined for? Or do we always become what we are meant to be, not what we think we want to be, nor what we strive to be.

They say freedom comes with a high price tag. So true. Because now I have all the time in the world to read and write. Everything about the present and the future seems so blurry for me. To be honest on most days I don’t know what I want, I don’t even know what I am looking for. I am free yes, but at what price?
 
According to Julia Cameron, personal drama is the enemy of art. She writes: 
“There are two uses for drama. We can use it to distract ourselves from work or we can use it to fuel our work.”

The day that I don’t work, I am a miserable creature. The best cure for my misery is to work. If I can avoid drama I am better off. But how can I do that when drama is all around me and the world we live in is so stressful. 

Writing every day is my only protection against depression and loneliness. If I don’t write I lose my optimism, my well being. And I become lonely and miserable. But when I write, at the end of the day I carry the lives of my characters into my own life. And I feel so rich and happy. I am not alone anymore. 

Then again, absenting myself from my page, not only do I lose contact with them but these ugly feelings begin creeping up my spine and I am filled with doubts and uncertainties. And the moment I hold my pen and start scribbling, all these senseless thoughts and fears, all this pointlessness and emptiness, vanish from my life.  

I don’t want to fight my destiny, whatever is meant to be will be. I can’t plan my life as it is already planned for me by someone bigger or by some higher power. I can only change my circumstances. I have come to realize early on that by writing I know I am doing what I was meant to do. 

Eckhart Tolle writes:

“You can improve your life situation but you cannot improve your life. Life is primary. Life is your deepest inner Being. It is already whole, complete, perfect. Your life situation consists of your circumstances and your experiences. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and striving to achieve things. The mistake lies in using it as a substitute for the feeling of life, for Being.” 

ChK  

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nothing Else Will Give You That!

It’s a beautiful day outside. A bit breezy but really beautiful. 

Last night I had trouble sleeping. I woke up from a bad dream in the middle of the night. In my dream I was being chased and attacked and I was screaming for help but there was no one around me. My screams woke me and afterwards try as hard as I could sleep wouldn’t come. I felt so vulnerable and lay awake wishing and praying that the night would pass quickly. 

On nights like last night I wonder if I shall ever get over this feeling of blank hopelessness. And on such nights a strong feeling of loss overwhelms me.

Night

It’s a beautiful day outside. It’s the first week of autumn and it’s cold. I look out my window and see the evergreen tree standing tall and alone but triumphant. The different shades of green, with the sun shining on some branches. Such a lovely sight. I think of all the winters and summers, all the seasons that it has stood there throughout the years, against all odds, growing taller and looking simply beautiful.

I realize that I have also lived my dream life intensely while it lasted, though it didn’t have to end this way. I realize that I had gotten farther in life than most people are lucky enough to get. It’s been almost four years now since my husband passed away, sometimes I still get upset and angry, and think that whatever happened was not fair, not right. Not for him, not for me, not for us. But who am I to question? Who am I to judge?

This past year has been kind of dark, nightmarish and confusing for me. Each time I faced a challenge, I became aware of how vulnerable I was, of how vulnerable we each are. Afterwards I felt this emptiness inside of me that never left me. And that hurts.

Looking back, I cannot believe I made it so far especially when on some days my courage left me. And I have to admit at some point I even considered accepting defeat. And on those days there was nothing I wished for than to have him around. To have him walk through the door and tell me that “everything is going to be okay.” But I pulled through thanks to my kids and my family. 

I realize now how important family is. How important it is to be loved and have people around me to support me. Even on days when I want to be left alone but they won’t let me, because they care. I realize how lucky and blessed I am to have them in my life. And for that alone I am forever grateful. 

Mitch Albom writes:

“This is part of what a family is about, not just love. It’s knowing that your family will be there watching out for you. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work.”

ChK

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To All Those Who Dream Of Writing

While going through my emails the other day in an attempt to clean my mailbox of the junk mail I receive on a daily basis, I came across a “rejection” letter from a publisher. It was dated decades ago when I still lived in Dubai and was for my book The Lost I. I don’t remember what I did to go that far back in my inbox but knowing me I must have pressed the wrong button or icon.

Now I know I have an unusual name that people find hard to pronounce. So when I email editors, agents, and publishers I always go the extra mile and try to explain in my letter that I am a mother of two, etc. What was weird about this particular rejection email was that not only had they addressed me as Mr. but they didn’t even have the title of the book right.

I had a cover letter, a synopsis, and title page included in my email. And in all of these documents I had the title mentioned not once, not twice, but several times. Could it be a typo then? How could they have missed it? There was one answer to all of my questions. No one bothered to read anything I sent them. Period. 

Over the years and following the advice of other experienced writers I have learned to accept rejections with an open mind and not take them personally. But this one still hurt. And I thought, would it have made any difference if I had sent a letter instead of an email (not that they are accepting letters anymore)? Would it have been easier to accept had the publisher addressed me as “Dear Author, sorry not for us …” instead of Dear Mr.? So I did what I do at times like this. I grabbed my book and started reading success stories of other writers. Here’s one I would like to share with you.

When Linda Stafford was 15 she announced to her English teacher that she was going to write and illustrate her own books. Her classmates laughed at her and her teacher said: “Don’t be silly. Only geniuses can become writers. And you are getting a D this semester.” 
She was so humiliated that she burst into tears. That night she wrote a short poem about broken dreams and mailed it to the Capper’s Weekly magazine. They published it and sent her $2. The next day she showed her teacher and class, they still laughed.
“Just plain dumb luck.” her teacher said. But this time she didn’t cry because she had sold the first thing she’d ever written.
During the next two years she wrote and sold dozens of poems, and by the time she graduated from high school she had a scrapbook filled with her published work and a C-average. But she didn’t mention her writing to anyone.Then years later she met a new friend and here’s what happened:
“It’s easy to write a book,” that new friend told me. “You can do it.”
“I don’t know if I am smart enough,” I said suddenly feeling 15 again and hearing echoes.
“Nonsense!” she said. “Anyone can write a book if they want to.”
I had four children- the oldest only four. We lived on a goat farm in Oklahoma, miles from anyone. While the children napped, I typed on my ancient typewriter. I wrote what I felt. It took nine months, just like a baby.
I chose a publisher at random, put the manuscript in an empty Pampers diapers package, which was the only box I could find (I’d never heard of manuscript boxes). I enclosed a letter that read: “I wrote this book myself, I hope you like it. I also drew the illustrations. Chapters 6 and 12 are my favorites. Thank you.”
A month later I received a contract, an advance on royalties, and a request to start working on another book.(Crying Wind became a bestseller)
People ask what college I attended, what degrees I have and what qualifications I have to be a writer.
The answer is none. I just write.
I’m not a genius, I’m not gifted and I don’t write right. But I have beaten the odds because I tried and I didn’t give up. I wrote what I loved and had the guts to mail it. If it was rejected (many were), I put it back in the mail the next day.
To all those who dream of writing, I’m shouting at you. “Yes, you can! Yes you can! Don’t listen to them.”

Hear

ChK

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

One Year And Seven Months!

“Dear Author,
Thanks so much for letting us take a look at your materials, and please forgive me for responding with a form letter. The volume of submissions we receive, however, makes it impossible to correspond with everyone personally. Unfortunately, the project you describe does not suit our list at this time. We wish you the best of luck in finding an agent and publisher for your work, and we thank you, once again, for letting us consider your materials.” 

I received this email on the 29th of April 2016 and it completely took me by surprise. How could I receive a rejection letter from an agent for a query I didn’t remember submitting this year? 

I went through my sent emails and found out that on the 12th of September 2014 I did send a query to this particular agent for my first novel The Lost I.

I was having issues with my publisher Raider International. My contract with them had ended on May 2011 and they (up to now) have my book listed for sale on Amazon. So I tried to find another publisher for it.

The agent I applied to showed interest in stories about the Middle East and the agency had no problem dealing with books that were already published. I didn’t hear from them until the end of April this year. And that just a formal letter.

I find this strange. It took the agent one year and seven months to just send me not an individual, personal letter but just a formal rejection letter?

Donna Bucian Currie wrote that when she sent a story to a now-defunct literary magazine here’s what happened.

“I waited the required time for a reply, then added a month before I sent my first letter (with appropriate SASE) asking about the status of my piece. I waited, then sent a second letter a month after the first.
Just as I was about to launch a third query, my manila envelope returned with my manuscript nestled safely inside. I looked for a cover letter or form of rejection, but found nothing. I riffled through the pages, thinking there might be some communication stuck inside my manuscript. Nothing.

REJECTION

Jokingly, I turned the empty manila envelope upside down, opened it wide and shook it vigorously. A small piece of paper no bigger than the slips found in fortune cookies, came wafting out of the envelope and settled on my lap. On it was typed “sorry not for us” and nothing more. No signature, no initials. And no punctuation or capitals, either, for Pete’s sake.
I wanted to cry. Thinking about what a heartless response I’d gotten, I began to wonder:
Did someone type this and cut it out just for me, wasting a whole, larger sheet of paper, or did they have so many rejections they couldn’t afford anything bigger?
When I pictured how many of these tiny rejections they could cut from an 8.5 x 11 sheet, the rejection felt much less personal.”
 
One year and seven months! Luckily I had forgotten all about it! 

ChK  

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

What Makes Us Writers Write?

I was attending a talk on writing last week when the writer who was giving the talk said something like: “Writers lie. We lie. We tell lies. When we write about something it is our version that we tell, as we see it. We each tell the story as we believe it to be. While there may be only one truth, there are numerous different ways of saying it.”

That got me thinking. Isn’t our fascination with the written word what makes us readers fall in love with the story? The way the writer writes, the way some words sound. What is fiction after all? 

One of the definitions of fiction in Reader’s Digest Universal dictionary is: a feigning – a lie- a literary work whose content is produced by the imagination and is not necessarily based on fact. 

Aristotle wrote that Homer “first taught the rest of us the art of framing lies in the right way.”

People told stories since the beginning of time. Didn’t Scheherazade’s tyrant husband in One Thousand and One Nights anxiously wait for her story? In fact Scheherazade avoided her fate because she knew how to keep her intolerable husband in suspense- the only literary tool that had any effect upon him. 

Shehrazade

“Well I have to find a way of saying the truth without saying it; that is exactly what is literature, after all: clever lies which secretly say the truth.” Simone de Beauvoir

It’s the specific details in which the writers frame their lies that distinguishes them from each other. The way they each tell their stories is what gives them their unique voice, their style. That’s why we like some writers more than others, and some we don’t like at all.

Lajos Egri writes: “If Balzac, De Maupassant, O. Henry, hadn’t learned to write, they might have become inveterate liars, instead of great writers.”
 
What makes us writers write to begin with?

Words? Our love of words and how they sound? How they can associate us with our senses, our feelings? How they provoke our memories or experiences?
 
Or we feel we have something to say and we think it to be so important that we want to share it with the world. Or maybe we even want to make a statement- leave our mark- make our point heard. And why not one day also be remembered for our stories and writings.

Personally I feel I am a richer person when I write. I love it when people talk to me about my writings or my book even if it is in the negative. It means that I have an audience, I have readers and that makes me feel confident and kind of important. 

On the importance of being important, Lajos Egri writes:
During the classic time of Greece a terrible thing happened in one of the temples. One night the statue of Zeus was mysteriously smashed and desecrated.
A tremendous uproar arose among the inhabitants. They feared the vengeance of the gods.
The town criers walked the city streets commanding the criminal to appear without delay before the Elders to receive his just punishment.
The perpetrator naturally had no desire to give himself up. In fact, a week later another statue of a god was destroyed.
Now the people suspected that at madman was loose. Guards were posted and at last their vigilance was rewarded; the culprit was caught.
He was asked,
“Do you know what fate awaits you?”
“Yes,” he answered, almost cheerfully. “Death.”
“Aren’t you afraid to die?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Then why did you commit a crime which you knew was punishable by death?”
The man swallowed hard and then answered.
“I am a nobody. All my life I’ve been a nobody. I’ve never done anything to distinguish myself and I knew I never would. I wanted to do something to make people notice me… and remember me.”
After a moment’s silence he added, “Only those people die who are forgotten. I feel death is a small price to pay for immortality!” 

What makes us writers write then?

ChK

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Times In My Lifetime

In the book I am currently reading there is this question, “In a perfect world what would you like to be?”

I close the book and think. If the world is perfect do we really need to dream?

Our world is anything but perfect. Look around you. People terrorizing and killing people, committing atrocities against each other. How many innocent civilians have to die for the world to interfere and stop this madness?

There was a time not that long ago when I was living in Beirut during the civil war. Death and destruction were everywhere. People lived in constant fear. I lived in constant fear. I was afraid to lose my home, my loved ones, and my life. 

lost i

Many were the times then when I wished I was born in a different part of the world. Many were the times when I wished my parents and grandparents hadn’t been displaced. Sometimes I still wish that I can somehow play with and change the script of my life like I do with my stories. Sometimes I wish I can change the way I feel about things. Oh the things that I wish.

I personally do not believe in wars no matter what their cause. We are human beings and as such we have the ability to reason and communicate with each other. I strongly believe that all conflicts could be resolved with dialogue. As I strongly believe that no one wins in a war.

I am not an extremist nor am I fond of fanaticism in any religion, social or political belief. I believe that human beings must have the right to a free and dignified existence regardless of their religion or political beliefs, regardless of nationality. I do believe however, that change is necessary, but not at the cost of human lives. It is so disturbing to see people in some parts of the world go through the same thing over and over again. 

Three times in my lifetime I have changed cities and countries and even continents. Each time I have left behind family, friends, and loved ones as well as many possessions and belongings, with so much heartache and regret. Because I had to.
 
My heart aches when I think of how hard it was for me, for us to work and acquire all that we did, and then leave them behind and go through the same thing yet again, this time in another city, in another country.

My heart aches to see people killed and displaced. Homes destroyed beyond repair. My heart aches to witness children, teenagers, and innocent people lose their lives for reasons beyond my comprehension. My heart aches to see militias doing the unimaginable to women and young girls in the name of God or Allah. My heart aches to hear of children being abused and assaulted by people they trust most. There is no God who supports abuse, killing, rape and other atrocities. 

How can we live in this madness and be part of this world and sit still? 

Molière once wrote:
“It’s not only for what we do that we are held responsible, but also for what we don’t.”

ChK

Posted in Ramblings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment