“Imaginary Lives: If you had five other lives to lead, what would you do in each of them?” asks Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. Then she writes:
“Name your dream. That’s right. Write it down. “In a perfect world, I would secretly love to be a —–.””
Three years later Sarah Ban Breathnach copies her in Simple Abundance and writes:
“If you had ten other lives to lead, what would you be doing?”
Viola Davis in her acceptance speech at the Oscars for best supporting actress for her role in “Fences” said:
“You know there’s one place that all the people with the greatest potential are gathered and that’s the graveyard. People ask me all the time, what kind of stories do you want to tell, Viola? And I say, exhume those bodies, exhume those stories, the stories of people who dreamed big and never saw those dreams to fruition, people who fell in love and lost.”
When I first heard Viola’s words on TV I couldn’t help but get emotional. I remembered my loved ones who have long gone and the dreams they had and that never came true. I thought mostly of my grandparents and parents and the kind of life they had, or rather were forced to have.
My parents and my grandparents came from Musa Dagh, where they put up a resistance and fought against the Turks. “The Forty Days of Musa Dagh” by Franz Werfell is their story, our story. Kurt Vonnegut also later wrote in Bluebeard:“
“Musa Dagh!” he might say. This was the name of a place in Turkey where a small band of Armenian civilians fought Turkish militiamen to a standstill for forty days and forty nights before being exterminated.””
The story of my grandparents and parents is so tragic and sad that it hurts to even remember. I grew up listening to my grandparents’ horror stories of displacements. How they had to fight the Turks and how they were helped by the French and taken in boats with nothing but the clothes they had on to the safer shores of Lebanon. In a place where they didn’t even speak the language. And what was once their home became a memory they cherished and passed on to us together with the bad.
Both my parents were very young when they became refugees. My mom was seven and my dad was ten. They lived in unbearable conditions under tents in a place where no one had lived before.
Their first school in the refugee camp was a tent where all the children were gathered to be taught. Winters were fierce and there were epidemics like malaria that killed many. But those who survived, through much suffering and hard work, turned the place into the paradise it is today, Ainjar.
I can’t help but wonder what dreams they had before they left their homes and their lands. What were my parents’ dreams when they were forced to work at the early age of thirteen to help support their families? Deprived of their childhood and dreams they worked hard to give us a normal life, and allowed us to dream. And I wonder about the life they could have had if they were not forced out of our homeland.
But we also had our share of misfortune later on when the civil war started in Lebanon. Our dreams also got interrupted. My late husband was among the fifty students accepted into Engineering that year at the American University of Beirut, out of two thousand applicants. But unfortunately after only one semester he had to abandon his dream due to financial difficulties.
It’s sad that his dream never materialized. Sadder still his much anticipated dream of an exhibition for his paintings in this part of the world. This dream died with him, the day he passed away.
So yes Viola, if only our beloved ones could talk and tell us their stories, their dreams.