Life Is Always Moving

“I have always known that at last I would take this road, but yesterday I did not know that it would be today.” Narihara

I am having kind of an off day today. I certainly am not myself. In fact all week last week felt kind of odd to me. It was as if I was observing my own life pass by and I had no part or say in it. I am cranky because my writing corner is messy, my desk is cluttered with books and notebooks and I can’t find anything. I am cranky because I am exhausted. I’ve let myself forget my moments of solitude necessary to center myself. Instead I feel that I am trying to fill myself up with the wrong things.

There was a time in my life when I hungered for space and time to nurture my creativity. I remember being so organized and disciplined that I could take care of my children, my house and my job and pursue my dream even if it meant spending sleepless nights at my desk. I always thought that it was the right thing to do until I read what Toni Morrison had to say:

“We are traditionally rather proud of ourselves for having slipped creative work in there between the domestic chores and obligations. I’m not sure we deserve such big A-pluses for that.”

If only I knew then what I know now. I’ve been this way many times before. It’s not easy when I don’t have a specific place to go, somewhere to be every day. It’s not easy to feel that I ought to be doing something when there is nothing in the next twenty-four hours I have to look forward to.

“How can you know what road to take unless you know where you are going?” Dumas the Younger

The life I want is not the one I have chosen and made but the one I will be choosing and making. Life is always moving and it’s not that life is throwing something new in my face every time. It is the same wretched thing over and over again. When this happens week in and week out I know that I am not experiencing harmony in my daily life. I know that I am not participating in the process of living in the moment. I need to find my inner peace. I need to start again, begin at the beginning. I need to find something that sparks my imagination. I need to move on.

The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne originally published their poems and novels under male pseudonyms: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. George Eliot’s real name was Mary Ann Evans. She assumed a man’s pen name to publish her books Middlemarch, Silas Marner, The Mill On The Floss. They, like many contemporary female writers, did this in an age that discounted the genuine longings of a woman.

George Eliot Wrote:
“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good and we must hunger after them.”

ChK

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To Our Angels

“It is a curious thing, the death of a loved one. And yet it is always a surprise when it happens to someone we know. It is like walking up the stairs to your bedroom in the dark, and thinking there is one more stair than there is. Your foot falls down, through the air, and there is a sickly moment of dark surprise as you try and readjust the way you thought of things.” Lemony Snicket

I lost two loved ones last month. My aunt Lucy, my mom’s younger sister, died suddenly on the 9th of February. Her death was so unexpected and her loss so great for us all, and especially for my mom. My mom died of a broken heart twelve days later on the 21st of February. Not a moment has passed since then that I haven’t missed them both. Not a night has gone by that I haven’t cried myself to sleep.

I admit I’m still in some kind of shock. It’s heartbreaking to lose a loved one, let alone two, within such a short time. I still question how and why. How did this happen? Why both? I search for answers but can’t find any.

You know the saying that everything happens for a reason? In my mind I am convinced that this is what happened and maybe it’s for the best, but my heart tells me something else. I can’t help but feel angry. Angry at myself that I lived so far away and I hadn’t seen them in a long time, even though we talked every day. Angry that I wasn’t there to give them a hug, cover their lovely faces with my kisses, hold their hands and tell them how much I loved them and that they both meant the world to me.

As the days pass by, my feelings of sadness, hurt, and loneliness get stronger. During this last month and weeks I feel like I am spinning in and out of uncontrollable emotions. One minute I am sad, the next I am empty and depressed and crying my heart out. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross claims that the depressive state is not a mental illness, it’s a response to a great loss.

I remember the exact moment I received the sad news each time. The hardest thing is when the life of a person you love stops suddenly and you are left to put the pieces together. Strange how a feeling of panic hits you when you realize the reality of the situation. You become aware of the fact that they are gone and it’s final. You become aware of the shortness of time, of an unfulfilled dream, of a wish not granted, like on my part the wish to see them once more. You feel sadder than ever and try to accept the fact. You think you will be okay but the truth of the matter is, you won’t.

As always when I am in trouble and overwhelmed with sadness I isolate myself from my surroundings. That’s the only way I know how to heal. Being alone is my way of adjusting to my world of loss. I feel helpless with people who don’t understand me. I don’t want my feelings to be exposed especially when I am grieving.

And I turn inwards to try to understand the meaning of all this. I find myself filled with so many memories, so many stories, so many treasured moments, and of course so many questions that are all trying to surface. Tears, pain, crying, despair that cannot be stopped nor reasoned with. The only way I can capture all of these is by putting them down on paper. And on days like this I can only put words on my page. Words that once written could help me leave those feelings behind… or so I wish. And by doing so I try to find myself after all has been lost.

Dearest aunt (morkour) how I wish more than anything to hear your voice once more as I wish I had more time with you to tell you how much you meant to me. You were the dearest and nearest person to me and I loved you so very much. Growing up I looked up to you. You inspired me in more ways than you can imagine and later on you became my best friend. What we had was very special and sweet and irreplaceable. You were my special person and I think deep down you knew that. Now that you are gone I feel kind of lost. You were so giving always, ready to help your loved ones no matter what. I miss hearing your sweet voice, your encouraging words. I miss your smile, your liveliness, your optimism, and your prayers. You were there for me every step of the way and I couldn’t even be there to pay my final respect. I am forever grateful for your love, for your support, for knowing you and having you in my life. I think of you every moment of every day and I will always remember you for as long as I live and for as long as it is possible for me to do so.

Dearest mom you always told me that when you die I shouldn’t leave my family and travel all that distance for you because you won’t even feel it. But I wish I could have done so. It hurts to know that I wasn’t there to pay my final respect to you both after all that you two have done for me, for my husband, for my kids, for my family.

Dearest mom you left us unexpectedly without me being able to tell you once more how much I love you, how much I miss you. I miss hearing your voice, your loving words, your blessings and your prayers. I miss hearing your voice telling me all will be okay. Thanks to you I am the person I am today. Your sacrifice to your family and loved ones was so great. You inspired me to be a good mother to my children, you never tired of giving. You were always there for me. Every time I faced a difficulty it was you who gave me courage to go on. Words are not enough to express my gratitude for what you have taught me, for all you have done for me, for us, for all the sacrifices you have made so that I can be where I am today. It’s hard to go on knowing you are not in this world. I miss your hugs, your love and your giving and caring nature. Love you forever.

I know I will never find an ending to this grief. The feeling of a loss never goes away. Sarah Dessen writes:
“You never got used to it, the idea of someone being gone. Just when you think it’s reconciled, accepted, someone points it out to you, and it just hits you all over again, that shocking.”

If it’s any consolation we have two more guardian Angels in heaven watching over us just like they did here on earth. The world and this life will never be the same again now that you’re both gone. You will always be in our hearts. We miss you both so much. We will always love you both and will never forget you.

Rest in peace my Angels.

ChK

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Blessed To Be Valued As A Woman

“Sometimes I feel quite distinctly that what is inside me is not all of me. There is something else, sublime, quite indestructible, some tiny fragment of the Universal spirit. Don’t you feel that?” ― Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn

I read a report by Al Jazeera dated 28 Jan 2019 about how ‘Twitter users mocked authorities in the UAE after it emerged that winners of an initiative designed to foster gender equality in the workplace were won entirely by men.’
The report also referred to the status of women in UAE, saying:
‘The UN was concerned that it was still possible for a man to prohibit his wife from working and to limit her freedom of movement.’

This last paragraph took me back to our first years in Dubai in 1984 when we first went to work and live there. We were part of the foreign workforce in Dubai. For any of us in to be able to work and live in Dubai we had to have an employment contract and a sponsor, primarily the employer.

As I have mentioned in my earlier blog posts, the advertising company that my husband worked for transferred him to Dubai before closing its offices in Beirut due to the ongoing civil war. So his company, in this case his sponsor, was responsible for his work permit and thus his residence visa.

As for me, even though I had a signed contract with a company, my husband suggested at the time that it was better if he sponsored me so that I would have the freedom to change jobs. Something he didn’t have then. To change jobs you had to also change sponsors and your visa would get cancelled; you had to leave the country for six months and only afterwards could you apply for a new job. Back then that was definitely not an option for my husband and for so many of our friends.

I was lucky that my husband belonged to the category of workers who could sponsor their wives. Not everyone could do that. However, before I could even work my husband had to write a letter to the Ministry of Labor. In the letter he wrote that he had no objection for me, his wife, to work, and hence I was granted a work permit.

He did the same afterwards for my driving license. Once again he wrote a letter to the authorities concerned saying that he, my husband, had no objection for me, his wife, to drive a car. Hence I was allowed to register with a driving school and get my license.

We didn’t mind doing whatever was necessary. I had my family and a great job teaching mathematics to high school kids and coordinating the entire Math department in an international school of over 3000 students, so it wasn’t a big deal writing all those letters and filling out all those forms.

In my spare time I was also taking correspondence courses and writing a book. When I finished my manuscript I started looking for publishers. I got a list from Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and I queried them. Unfortunately 9/11 had just happened and all my manila envelopes were returned back to me unopened. So I had to look locally and was lucky to find one publisher.

The first and most important thing the publisher informed us was that the manuscript had to be approved by the Ministry of Information and Culture and that my husband had to write another letter saying that he had no objection for his wife to write a book, and what’s more, that he did not object to have it made public. The publisher then instructed my husband to take the letter and my manuscript on a floppy disk on my behalf to the ministry for approval and censorship. Only then was an ISBN assigned and the disk went directly to the printers, in this case Al Bayan Printing and Press.

After the book was published, my husband had to deliver ten copies of the book to the ministry, as required. All the talk and negotiations were carried out on my behalf by my husband. I was never present in any meetings and yet the book got published. There was no press release or anything. The book was placed in Book Corner, a bookstore that sold English books.

When it was time for us to leave the country for good in July 2006 and immigrate to Canada, a representative from my husband’s company drove us to the airport and accompanied us to the departure gate to make sure that we were leaving the country and that our visas were cancelled.

Despite all that I felt sad at the airport. Sad that a part of our lives, a good part of our lives, was over. All rules and regulations set aside, we had a good life in Dubai, we met so many good people and made many good friends.

Twelve years later as a Canadian citizen, I feel blessed to have a place to finally call home. I feel blessed to be valued as a woman and treated as a first class citizen. I feel safe knowing that I won’t be escorted out of the country when I lose my job. And for the first time in a long time I feel that I belong.

“When traditional rationality divides the world into subjects and objects it shuts out Quality, and when you’re really stuck it’s Quality, not any subjects or objects, that tells you where you ought to go.” R.M. Pirsig

Have a great week!

ChK

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Write Myself Into Well-Being

“In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order.” Carl Jung

Last Tuesday my horoscope from my phone app read:

“If you have been wondering about your purpose here on earth, today is a great day to gain some revealing insight on your life. You may be frustrated because life’s daily challenges, petty disputes and irritating problems are getting in the way of doing whatever it is you are meant to be doing. But if you take some quiet time to dwell on your purpose today, a window will open up to you giving you a clearer, sharper look at why you are here. Hint: those challenges, disputes and problems are part of the learning experience. So don’t curse them but rather embrace them for what they are.”

This past week has been a rough week. We had the biggest snowstorm of the year so far in Canada and of course here in Montreal. According to Environment Canada meteorologist Alexandre Parent: “With the temperature not exceeding -15 degrees Celsius, we have to go back to 1920 to see a snowstorm like this.”

On a personal note I endured a challenge last week. I didn’t see it coming; it happened just as I was back on track with my writing and I thought everything was okay. I’ve confronted and overcome many challenges in my life before, some even life-threatening, and I still do so. The fact that this affects my writing is when it gets depressing for me.

Feeling sad, bitter, angry, and discouraged, I started to doubt everything in my life. I asked myself questions like: “Could I have done something?” “Should I have done something?” “Was I right to do what I did?” “Why couldn’t I have been smarter?” “Why couldn’t I have been more alert?” and so on.

Joseph Campbell wrote:

“Life is like arriving late for a movie, having to figure out what was going on without bothering everybody with a lot of questions, and then being unexpectedly called away before you find out how it ends.”

It’s easy to become caught in self-doubt, weighing and analyzing the unseen factors. It’s like these past few days I have felt a force pulling me into the mysterious world of fears, worries, and regrets. I’m dragged away from the life I have into empty fantasies about the life that could have been, if only things had turned out differently.

I don’t remember who it was who said that life is like a game of chess and that “no one has ever won the game by taking only forward moves. Sometimes you have to move backwards to take better steps forward.” I tell myself I have to stop dwelling in difficult times. I have to stop this blaming process for the decisions I made decades ago. There is no need to count back over the past looking for wrong turns. I must choose to focus on the positive and avoid the negative. I cannot change the past but today I can perhaps do better.

Past experience has taught me that with time any given situation or problem resolves itself. The trick is not to panic, not to stress. Hence I must write. With pen and paper I’ll revise my world and my priorities- as much as I can for as long as it takes- or as long as is possible for me to do so. I must write myself into well-being.

I must make a wish list. Wish lists have always worked for me in the past. It helps me get real and be grounded. It helps me remember who I am and what my goal is. I only have to force myself to focus on the possible positive. I have to just keep on keeping on. I have to muster the courage to continue.

Creative changes begin in the heart. When I start within myself from my wish list and move outward, expressing what I love and what I value, life eventually will get better and I will feel better. Or so I hope.

Carl Jung wrote:
“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.”

ChK

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My Corner My Refuge

“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.” Virginia Woolf

Isn’t that every aspiring writer’s dream regardless of gender?

I grew up in a small village in the east of the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. My grandparents came to that place in 1939 as refugees with nothing but the clothes they were wearing. My mother was seven and my dad ten. They lived in tents under dire conditions in a place where they didn’t even speak the language. Through hard work, determination, and a will to survive, they beat the odds and turned that place into the paradise it is today.

Growing up, we didn’t have much, but we had stories and we had books. My parents loved to read and they passed on that love to us. I would feverishly wait for the start of the school year when I would stay in bed with all my new books. I would make their spines crack gently as I opened them for the first time. I would sniff their special smell, look at the pages, the pictures, and then start reading.

As a child I shared a bedroom with my two siblings. My bed was in a corner by the wall. My most cherished memory of my childhood is sitting on my bed with a lap-desk that my father had made me, immersed in my books or scribbling with my pen in my notebooks, with the sound of rain beating on the roof.

I was a teenager when I got my own bedroom. In a corner next to my bed I had a desk with a typewriter which I only used to write term papers. I did all my scribbling and writing in that corner in long hand using fountain pen. I would fill page after page only to tear them up afterwards.

Back then I didn’t think I had enough material to write about. I hadn’t really lived my life. The only life I had known, the only people I had really known, were the ones living in my village. Later I discovered that a writer could focus on a small place; that if he wrote about it honestly and intimately enough, he could make it his own, and he could make it matter.

Years later when I moved to Dubai with my husband, I carried my writing with me. I fixed a corner of my bedroom to be my sanctuary, my writing corner. The only difference from my previous corners was that this time I had a real desk with drawers on both sides.

I don’t know why exactly I never considered any room in the house for writing other than my bedroom. Maybe because I am someone who gets scared very easily and late at night when I would sit to write, having my husband sleep in the room gave me some kind of security or safety. Even with him in the room my corner was my place of solitude. It was the place where I was free to go into my own world and dwell in it for as long as it took. It was my place to be alone and write my stories and my books.

Moving to Montreal, I shipped my desk with me and again set my writing space in a corner of my bedroom. I thought finally I would be able to write what I had wanted to and dreamt about all along.

Shortly after, my husband passed away and I found myself in a hole, at the bottom of a bottomless pit, in almost total solitude. Inside my house I was so alone that I almost felt alienated. I felt so isolated from my surroundings and even myself. It was then I realized that only writing can save me. My corner became my sanctuary, my shelter, my refuge, my altar, my home.

Joseph Campbell writes:
“You must have a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”

ChK

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Cheers And Happy New Year

“Man follows earth, earth follows sky, sky follows the way, the way follows nature. Don’t commit actions which go against the basic character of nature, don’t commit acts which should not be committed.” Gao Xingjian

The New Year is around the corner and I can’t decide on any resolutions. I gave up on promises long ago when I discovered that no matter what I decide or do, if something is bound to happen it will happen. As the saying goes, “if it is meant to be it will be.”

I believe that we can to some extent take control of our lives. I also believe in fate. I learned this through my personal experience. The truth of the matter is that even if you do everything by the book, destiny strikes and something totally unexpected happens that turns your life upside down. Fate is unyielding and humans are frail and weak. People experience realities which differ greatly.

As 2018 is coming to a close I look back at the good times and the bad times I had. I lost two special people who were very dear to me this last year. I regret not having made the time nor the effort to call them often. I regret losing opportunities to advance my career as a writer. I regret my lack of courage to approach people with my ideas and projects. I regret not being forward and persistent in chasing after my dream. I regret spending my time sitting like an idiot waiting for the phone to ring.

Too much critical thinking, too much rationality, too many implications! Life has no logic! Otherwise how can anyone explain why people fight? In a century that is most advanced of all centuries technologically, scientifically and medically, why is there so much violence? Why do innocent people get killed? Why do terrorists torture people? Why are women and children abused by people they trust most?

I used to think that when children played outside it meant that people were safe, that times were good. But time has proved me wrong again. Even children are not immune from falling bombs. Where is the logic behind all this? What is the meaning behind all this? I think I need to break away from this kind of thinking, this is the cause of all my anxiety. Life is to be lived, not understood.

To be a good writer, you do not have to have a complicated moral philosophy; a writer always tries to understand a little about life and pass it on. To be a good writer you not only have to write a great deal, but you have to care.

My perspective is always changing as I age. I don’t know where I am going and sometimes I don’t even know what it is that I’m searching for. Not knowing what one is looking for is pure misery. I sleep badly and I get up early and that sort of behavior damages my self-esteem.

Somehow these last months I was able to get myself out of my inertia. I managed to write a blog post every week since November 11, the day I decided to put a stop to all the nonsense excuses I created for being lazy. Thanks to my readers and fellow bloggers I am back in the game.

Kurt Vonnegut writes:
“When a man becomes a writer, I think he takes on a sacred obligation to produce beauty and enlightenment and comfort at a top speed.”

Writing takes a combination of complexity and purity, it takes integrity, a conviction that something is beautiful since it is right. Henceforth, my resolution for 2019 will be none other than to continue writing. I will try and write from the deepest part of myself and go on giving and writing, since I believe as always that the giving is going to be my best reward.

“All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you and afterwards it all belongs to you: the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was. If you can get so that you can give that to people, then you are a writer.” Ernest Hemingway

Cheers to you all and a happy New Year!

ChK

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That Which Is Most Personal

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a writer. I loved books and paper and pens. I loved to read books and create stories in my head. I loved to collect pens and pencils and journals and diaries and notebooks of every shape and size; white paper, colored paper, lined paper, blank paper…

My favorite pastime was doodling on a blank page. I would just write anything and everything on the page. Stories I came up with, things that happened to me, thoughts that occurred to me, phrases that did not make sense at all. I would continue writing for as long as the ink lasted in my pen. And then I would tear up the pages. As Arthur Hailey writes:

“I never just sit and think; I do it by making notes because you doodle naturally. The first ideas are always very naïve, and I always destroy them because I never want anyone to read them.”

By the time I was in high school, the civil war had started in Lebanon. Overnight everything changed. All the dreams that I had for my future suddenly became impossible for me to realize given the terrible state of the country. I gave up on most of my dreams – survival became the priority.

Years went by and I finished university and got married. The company where my late husband worked closed its offices in Beirut and they offered to transfer us to Dubai. We were lucky. It was a wise move at the time, even though it was emotionally very stressful.

The war was still going on in the country and we were leaving behind our families and friends. At the same time, we were happy since we both had jobs waiting for us in Dubai. For us having a job meant security and peace of mind.

By the time the civil war stopped we were already settled in Dubai. We had our circle of friends, and somehow Dubai had become our home away from home. Our life seemed to be normal once again and I was free to dream. Finding the courage to dream again, I also found that the parts of myself I had put aside or misplaced were alive and well.

Neil Gaiman writes:
“People think dreams aren’t real just because they aren’t made of matter, of particles. Dreams are real. But they are made of viewpoints, of images, of memories and puns and lost hopes.”

I started writing. I participated in writing workshops and enrolled in correspondence courses. I stopped tearing up the pages I wrote and I started to share my writings with others. I realized that the more freely and openly I spoke about myself and my experiences the more people could relate to them, and the more connected I felt to the world. The more genuine I became in communicating my feelings and doubts, the more people connected with my writing. In the words of Carl Rogers:

“That which is most personal is most general.”

Dubai offered me comfort and safety and my job gave me the security I needed to realize my dream. I became not only a writer but an author too when my first book got published there.

I still remember our first Christmas in Dubai. In December 1985, on Christmas Eve, after attending my husband’s company’s Christmas dinner, we stopped at the nearest supermarket to buy some milk on our way home. As we were about to enter, a group of little kids came out shouting and screaming cheerfully. They were so young that the oldest looked hardly ten years old. They were kids from the neighborhood, the boys wearing their traditional dishdashes and slippers, and the girls in their long colorful dresses with their black shiny hair combed into long braids. The youngest of the boys, the tiniest, stopped to speak to us. His face beaming with happiness he said in an excited and loud voice,
“Look! He gave me Christmas, did he give you yours?”

He showed us his hands. He was such a sight to look at. We went in to find Santa handing out goodies and sweets, much to the amusement of the local kids.

So whether it’s Christmas or Hanukkah or New Year you’re celebrating, I hope it will bring joy and peace to your hearts the same way it brought happiness to that little boy even though he belonged to a different faith.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

ChK

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