Note: this is not my usual happy-making fare. You are warmly invited to wait for the next post.
Most days, I spend a little time connecting with some of my refugees friends. A little hello, a little checking in on each other, a little brainstorming, too.
Today, as I am focused on a project, I hear the “ping” of WhatsApp. Instead of a regular emoji-enhanced “hello!!!!” in steadily improving English, I see a couple of YouTube links.
Clicking on the first one, I am faced with what seems to be the news in a language I am guessing to be Farsi.
Since I only know how to say “sit down please” and “popcorn” in Farsi, I am thinking that it is likely I will miss the message, so I inquire.
Within seconds, I get the gist.
My young friends fell upon the news - and filming - of two women from their birth country, being stoned to death for the same crime that had caused the two of them to flee a year ago: being in love with the wrong person. Being in love with someone that was not the family’s choice. Thus the death.
I can feel the tension across the line. The re-traumatizing. The gratitude, too.
They had told me before that this was what they were running from. They had shared with me their story and I have stayed on the phone at times while her tears ran their course: tears for loving and missing her mom so much and tears for knowing that this very mom - whom I am pretty sure loves her also - had vowed to kill them both if they ever saw them. A version of hell.
Today, they wanted me to watch the video. They said that they wanted me to know.
And because they so rarely ask me for anything, I did. From the safety of my home, my cat by my side and much more prepared than I was last January in the small windowless room where I lost my emotional virginity, I watched. With my new eyes and my re-arranged heart.
When I was done, we talked a little. He told me that they had not wanted their future children to ever have to risk this. That in fact, he would never speak to them about what he had seen, of the way his father had died and more. He also told me that “this is not our religion. I will not accept that this is our religion. This is a culture. A terrible culture.”
He then told me that he would not show me this stuff again.
I suggested they watch a silly movie before going to bed.
Tonight, I am quiet. I am grateful to have been allowed one step closer to something I do not understand and yet is part of me, because I am part of them, of all of us.
There are stuff I will never understand and this is one of them. There are stuff I don’t even want to try and understand.
A big fat robin is gorging on berries outside of my window as I write. My cat is sleeping, the sky is getting a little darker. I am hoping that my friends are also asleep, together in their temporary home. I am hoping that many children are tucked in near their parents, simply and safely. That hearts and nervous systems will heal.
I am also hoping that the moments of peace will outnumbers the numbers of … the rest. Especially the stuff I don't understand.
PS: I will be doing a one hour talk online about my experience on Lesvos. The places where unexpected JOY lurks, too :)
Friday, July 6 at 5 pm PST . On Zoom. Register in advance to get the link, ok?
It's been a tough last couple of weeks. The kind of tough that's exhausting to me.
I can do the kind of tough that requires staying up all night to help someone through a challenging spot. I can do the kind of tough that asks to stay at a task for twelve hours straight because something good is going to come of it.
The kind of tough I've been dancing with recently, is much harder. Because it comes with The Voice that says: "you're not gaining ground, you're not getting anything accomplished, you're just trying to get Back to Zero."
And then The Other Voice that says, rolling its mean little eyes: "Pffff... first world problems. You should be thankful to have to deal with this." Yes. I do get that.
I should be thankful to be dealing with a failing, excruciatingly slow computer and the eight hours I was granted with AppleCare on the phone, trying to stretch its longevity. Because I have a computer.
I should (and really, am) grateful for the crazy-making process of choosing a new computer, including research, opinions, buyer's remorse, returning one, buying another one, installing the new stuff on it - more hours on the phone with awesome people who know what they are doing. After two weeks of this, I am up at 4 am typing this with a machine that moves as fast as my thoughts. Back to Zero, says The Voice. Please say thank you.
Then, a string of strange Airbnb anecdotes, the kind that will be funny in a few weeks. Maybe. Yesterday was a 10 hour stretch or ridiculousness I look forward to writing about when I can do so with enough detachment.
Meanwhile, I missed the fact that we just had "International Refugees Day" because I spent part of that day on WhatsApp with a refugee friend of mine who was not receiving the money I had sent her a few days before. It was not in my account, and it was not in her hand. Western Union was not sure where it was. First world problem suddenly became not so first world, no matter how calm she remained, As of minutes ago, it's resolved. Back to Zero.
My credit card got some kind of fraud alert and it took time on the phone with a fraud specialist who was overly sweet ("do you hear your attitude?" whispers The Voice) to get Back to Zero on that one.
Then the bigger stuff. A young friend finds herself in the hospital with a freak stroke. As we share dinner, we are able to celebrate that after a whirl of intensity, she too is "Back to Zero" - to her normal self. Zero has never felt so good as she is one of the lucky few to be granted that gift.
My mom's "Back to Zero" has changed in the last week, and that one takes a bit more adjustment. She texts me yesterday and tells me that her emphysema has reached a stage where outside oxygen is no longer something that feels good, but something which she needs 24 hours a day. She laughs on the phone with my sister about where to put the oxygen tank while she cooks and my sister's heart hurts. Where will our mom's next "Back to Zero" take her?
The sun is coming up now and we have a new day all stretched out in front of us. In a way, we are blessed with a reset each morning. A Back to Zero.
I am going to grab my Gratitude Attitude back and apply it to all the places where it belongs, including the fact that sometimes, just getting Back to Zero is plenty. That life is not about just moving forward but also about dancing with the strange bumps that come our way and making each one into a mini adventure to explore.
But first, I am going to go Back to Bed.
Wishing you all a very sweet day.
My new book