early sunlight steams
through the shades
my eyes flutter
at the interruption
he steps all over me
his feet on my belly
on my thighs, my feet
i sense whipping lashes
criss-crossing my ankles
his voice was low
anger and annoyance
intermingling, becoming one
as i open my eyes
i meet his unflinching gaze
coldly staring into me
his mouth opens
deep, low, elongated
the hairs on his face
moves as the muscles
contract and release
moving as he mouths
Amina and Hannah rock it spoken word style! A Muslim and a Jewish girl, together, find more in common than what sets them apart. Bravo! Recorded at the Brave New Voices 2013 Quarter Finals in Washington, D.C., the performers are Amina Iro and Hannah Halpern.
never talk about
and nothing much
Maundy/Holy Thursday. Different thoughts, issues, dilemmas scrummage through this brain of mine. The comforting thought is that even Jesus, Son of Man, battled with vulnerability – “take this cup away from me” – the fear, the anguish, the despair. Then, again I think of those He called friends, those He asked them to keep watch with Him. They failed Him even in that. He knew death approached Him yet chose to sit down to a meal with His friends. He washed their feet. Surrounded by the Roman army, He asked Peter to lay down his sword. Confounding. And this time of the year always reminds me of traditions I grew up with. Easter was more special than Christmas to us Eastern Orthodox Christians. From Wikipedia:
- In Kerala, a state in south India where Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis are in high population, this day is observed with great reverence. This day is called as Pesaha, a Malayalam word derived from the Aramaic or Hebrew word for Passover – Pasha or Pesah – commemorating the last supper of Jesus Christ during Passover in Jerusalem. This is also a state wide declared public holiday by the Government of Kerala. The tradition of consuming Pesaha appam or Indariyappam after the church service is observed by the entire Nasrani people till this day. Special long services followed by Holy Qurbana are conducted during thePesaha eve or at mid-night till morning in the Syrian Christian churches. The Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis are living all over the world including United States. They also celebrate this day as ‘Pesaha Vyazhashchya’ (Maundy Thursday) by having Holy Communion services in the parishes by following the liturgy of the respective denominations from Kerala.
To those of us who deal with issues of health, that Gethsemane night is so familiar. Each ‘close-call’ becomes one too close and leaves you wondering, is the next one ‘the’ one? I may have passed out five hundred times before but what if this one is the one to end it all? Having been through it five hundred times does not make it less scary. On the ‘good’ days, we wake up so motivated because we actually got to sleep, and feel we can tackle the world. Here we come to get things done, world! Woohoo! Lists written out, plan of action in place. As you get done feeding your pet, and having a bite yourself, the all too familiar pain begins. You barely hear anything because the sound of your heart pounding inside your rib cage drowns out almost everything. You push it away. Ignore it and it won’t be, right?! Within minutes, the pain overwhelms, bores into the very depths of you. You double over the kitchen sink or stumble your way back from the front door. You have no choice but to abandon those fab plans in lieu of finding relief through pain medications, topical balms – something, anything – and literally not moving.
When situations crank up into high gear, as emotions battle with physical pain, your mind goes blank. You see the other person in front of you, talking, moving their hands. You hear bits of it, and there are moments when those few words that do get through your dysfunctioning brain are enough to crush your spirit. You question why even begin to believe in hope? And to what end? Why believe in baby kisses, rainbow colours, love’s touch or the good in humanity? If you are a burden, a constant worry upon another, why doesn’t God, who gave you this cup to drink of, just bring your Judas and end it? Why the prolonging? What is it that we have to prove? We’ve been rendered useless, at times without any respect to the very fact we are still human beings. We may not have won awards; we may not have medals around our necks, we may not have been able to finish our degrees; we no longer are social – not because we do not want to, but the sheer work of getting dressed, looking presentable and walking out that door is enormous effort. Then the effort, strength and focus we need to actually function in the social setting. We may just be a shadow of who we used to be in the past; does that automatically reduce us into a shunned fringe of society? Are we now ‘unproductive members of society’? Have we become moochers? But aren’t we still the work of God?! We are still ones made in His own image – Imago Dei.
Then the days when everything goes hyper-bloatified come upon you: nothing fits, not your clothes, not your wedding ring. Or when you catch a virus and it tail-spins you into a crisis, as your body shuts itself down and you are all alone, with your cat watching your every belabored move, trying to soothe you by licking your tears. You crack open that pill bottle again and triple dose yourself to stop the crisis. And you pray. You beg to get through this. You swear not to complain about anything again. Your legs begin to go numb. Your hands shake involuntarily. You mumble gibberish, saliva dripping down the side of your mouth. In your hallucinated mind, you see Mother Mary reach her hand out to you. Tears flow..’as I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, your rod and your staff, they comfort me.’ What and where are my rod, my staff? Shepherds use them to guide and protect their sheep. I found my staff in the listening ear of a handful of friends; my rod, the friends I can lean on during these times, reaching out to grab me as I sink into the quicksand of fear. Yet, I myself am now hesitant to reach out. In the fourteen years of living in the US, I changed. I have learnt that many say the right words but hope like heck you don’t call them on it! So, I learn to make do. A pot of rice goes a long way. On good days, I make a few dishes to last awhile as I ration them out and freeze some for ease of use during a tough spot. I’ve learnt to recognise when a fainting spell is about to happen and find a safe spot before it hits me, even if it’s sliding down to the floor of the kitchen, with a kitchen towel rolled up under my head. Once the beginnings of an Addison’s crisis rears it’s head, I make sure the emergency syringe and vial is next to me and I alert someone about it, usually my husband. And make sure my Medic Alert bracelet in on.
There is of course, the issue of depression which haunts us all. Unlike terminal illness where, as horrid as it is, you are given a timeline, a gauge of when, how and what, most with chronic, rare illness are not given that luxury. You are in a constant state of guessing. With Addison’s and Dercum’s Disease, alongside other Rare Diseases, they can’t really tell you much and that uncertainty eventually becomes our undoing. Many suffer not just the trauma of the myriad of ways the illness/es affect them physically but also the shaming they endure in doctors and physicians’ offices where they are usually told to get off their behinds, eat healthy and exercise. No explanation given about why there are lumps we can all feel and why they cause such a searing, burning pain or why our skin looks the way it does, but instead are ridiculed. In fact however, most, if not all, DD-ers cannot exercise because of the lactic acid produced during and after strenuous exercise which in turn, causes more lipoma growth. Those who can, do water exercises. Eventually, we get immobile due to lipomas growing around, on top of and inside muscles, tendons and organs in the body. Pleasurable tasks or activities become a pain, in more ways than one. Once immobile, we depend on charity. Charity of heart and of will. Many get food delivered by services like Meals on Wheels. By this stage, we become known as shut ins. Many shut-ins live alone. The depression caused by the illnesses contribute to family members and friends keeping a distance and sadly, dropping completely out of our lives. Some of us DD-ers do not show any signs of those pesky lipomas/tumors clustering all up and down our lymphatic system and wherever else they so choose to grow. We look ‘normal’. Yet, there are so many times when we suck in the pain, bite our lips as pain sears through a particular spot in our body and to you outsiders, we seem just fine.
Maybe it is our cup to drink of because He who loves us knows the strength that lies within us. He knows how we will find one another, build our own communities amongst those who will completely understand what you say even if what you’ve written is pseudo-legible. It perhaps is our cup to share with others who come after us what we’ve learnt about this illness. To soothe another’s fevered soul, to reassure that we can do this together. How the older ones, like our beloved Grandma Sylvia, who encouraged hundreds around the world just by ‘being’ there in forums. She lies in a hospice now , slowly losing her battle while cards and letters flood her Ohio care center from all over the world, from Australia to the United Kingdom. As we drink of this cup, with each sip, the notion of life – all the knotted, tangled, disjointed but beautiful mess that it is – is slowly understood. It is never the quantity of life, it is indeed in the quality.
I recently heard an uncouth person remark, ‘oh how I wish I too could lounge around all day and not worry about working!’ Really? Feel free to trade places with me, dude. I really would absolutely LOVE to see you handle half the pain I go through, Mr./Miss Wussy-oh-no-I’ve-got-the-flu-imma-gonna-die-crybaby!! If you are an artist, I want to see you produce pieces with constantly shaking fingers and hands that jerk around. Same goes to chefs, writers, musicians. Show me a person who can run while their legs uncontrollably twitch. Show me someone in the tech industry who can code while your head suddenly jerks up, you’re lost for breath and yet, you keep on coding.
Not one of us wished we would be given this cup. But it is ours to partake, ‘no return with receipt by thirty days if unsatisfactory’. There have been, are and will be times, certainly and without a doubt, when we fail. Fail miserably. When our veneer of keeping it together cracks and you see the fugly cry. When we hold on to your hand so tightly, it may break the circulation in your said hand – sorry! Know that we cannot keep it together all the time, we are human. We are scared. When we are gasping for air, fear overtakes our minds and we reach out for another’s touch, a hand to hold on to. You see, it is not the pain that gives us the greatest fear. It is the thought of leaving here, this little patch of land, alone.
[image via http://www.omhksea.org
If the suns rises
The earth beckons
The waters roll
The fires burn
(image via docismo)
Finally, pretty awesome to read from a man and a husband defending his wife!
Originally posted on The Matt Walsh Blog:
It’s happened twice in a week, and they were both women. Anyone ought to have more class than this, but women — especially women — should damn well know better.
Last week, I was at the pharmacy and a friendly lady approached me.
“Matt! How are those little ones doing?”
“Great! They’re doing very well, thanks for asking.”
“Good to hear. How ’bout your wife? Is she back at work yet?”
“Well she’s working hard at home, taking care of the kids. But she’s not going back into the workforce, if that’s what you mean.”
“Oh fun! That must be nice!”
“Fun? It’s a lot of hard work. Rewarding, yes. Fun? Not always.”
This one wasn’t in-your-face. It was only quietly presumptuous and subversively condescending.
The next incident occurred today at the coffee shop. It started in similar fashion; a friendly exchange about how things are coming along with the…
View original 1,051 more words
The first glimpse I had of her was the elegant, white sloping shoulders of the Sacre Couer. Rising up from the hill upon which she stood, since 1875 when her foundation was laid. I know now I have come to expect this first visual promise of Paris every time I’ve returned. I was on the RER, the suburban train line that connects Charles de Gaulle airport to the city. I met a wonderfully vivacious young lady from Laguna Beach and we instantly connected. In the course of half an hour, she managed to crack me up several times. Again, a good omen. We exchanged info and are still in touch.
I was quite knackered by the time I settled in but got into the swing of things after spending quality time with my host. We watched the sun set over the Seine and cast it’s golden hue over the towering Eiffel while eating a home cooked dinner. All around me were the constant life that’s Paris – the special sirens of the emergency vehicles and the police; the constant honking of passing cars and the occasional “merde!” or worse heard from a passer by. The were also giggles of children, chatter of young adults and the sound of the Bateaux-Mouches with it’s touristy information being repeated every half an hour or so in the background.
It’s been over a year since I was there. Many of you have asked why I have not written about this particular trip as I usually do. First I thought, too much happened over such a short period that it was too personal and no, I can’t relive it again in my thoughts. But now, I do realise that regardless of the good, the bad, the beauty or the ugliness, Paris is still Paris. As the saying goes – We’ll always have Paris!! I got scammed by a gypsy, so shell-shocked by the experience that I did not move from my spot in the Musee D’Orsay for over forty minutes, with tears welled up in my eyes. I felt so violated, so used. I had just had a rough night, and then this! Ohh, how stupid could I be?! As I beat myself over and over in my head, my eyes laid rest upon the beauty that surrounded me in that place of wonders.
Soon, I forgot that bit of ugliness of human nature and got caught up in the restorative beauty that is art. I was mesmerised by the different methods and periods; each brush-stroke held its own meaning and message. The following days were chock full of art, art and more art. I used that museum pass like there was no tomorrow. Never mind that I was practically limping by the time I got back – I couldn’t care less! Why? Because I had stood an inch away from a Van Gogh painting; because I sat for more than an hour staring at every angle of the circular walls of the Orangerie where Monet’s wall to wall paintings were housed; because I found the obscure little museum off the beaten path from the Opéra Garnier that so, just so, happened to have a special exhibition on Modigliani. It was as if Paris was slipping me an exquisitely wrapped, decadent chocolate truffle under my pillow at night so that my dreams of her will always be rich, beautifully experienced and seemingly created just for me. Because when I limped up the stairs, saw a bench, sat down, took my water bottle out and as I took a gulp of refreshing hydration, my heart beat faster – there she was. Right across from me in the next room, but looking at me squarely in the eye was my favourite Modi painting. ‘Jeanne-Hebuteme-au-Collier’. It was one, if not the only, painting of his great love, his wife in soft blue and adorned with any jewelry.
At night, I could hear revelers from the nearby cafes, bistros and pubs – Irish pubs were a big thing, next to American style cafes and classic burgers – and fell asleep dreaming of the myriad of colours and the imaginations behind those works. How could a mere mortal sculpt such beauty out of a gigantic piece of stone?! How many bottles of wine were broken upon these cobble-stoned streets I walked on by the temperamental artists like Modigliani and Picasso, his rival and sometime friend or writers like Hemingway and James Joyce? What were the thoughts pondered upon the steps of the Sorbonne where I sat to eat my crepe?
Although some of my initial plans had fallen through and I almost gave up the whole trip, I stuck it through and decided, heck, I waited six years to return, I am not going back before I have to! I poked around and found a room with on airbnb which ended up to be the apartment of a young lady I had met in the summer of ’04 at my friend’s wedding! So, from St. Germain des Pres, I moved to Les Halles and into all it’s crazy vibrant energy. Celine and Vincent were wonderful; the apartment was old, with creaking floors and bright sunlight that flooded through it’s single paned windows. I cooked them a simple dinner and had one of the most interesting conversations I had in a long time! Perseverance sure pays off! I planned a trip to Chartres, the famous medieval cathedral with it’s equally famous indoor labyrinth. Oh, I am so thankful and grateful that I did. It so happened that the day I planned to go, a Friday, was the only day of the week during summer, that the church-keepers remove the chairs from the sanctuary to reveal the said labyrinth and you can walk through it! I was a little delayed and missed my train. No worries, said the guy behind the counter. He came out of his cubicle/counter place out to the waiting area, took my tickets, helped me manuever them on a machine and voila! I was on the next train. Just like that. And they say the French are rude ;) The train took me south west of Paris, lasted an hour and I saw the beautiful wheat and rapeseed fields of the countryside. And here I thought I could not love the country more – ha! But then, upon existing the gare and entering the town of Chartres, I felt like a Hobbit. Like I was in The Lord of the Rings and was supposed to speak the Elfin tongue of Sindarin or something. Before me towered the steeple of the cathedral, built high on a hill. I made my way there as though in a trance by the sheer magnificent majesty of the structure. Along the cobble stoned path I walked and came to the garden in the front of the cathedral. It was as though the ground-keepers in their wisdom, made the quarry-stoned gravel pathways between the rectangular wicker-weaved planters filled with hydrangeas, roses and various herbs, so simple that it gave a respite to the eyes from the glorious behemoth that arose from the ground past them. It was the yin to the yang of the cathedral. I did all I could to keep my jaw from dropping. Holy Mother of Christ! Seriously. Who were the men who imagined, drew up the plans and built this cathedral??! I entered in awe, each step with increasing reverence. I saw the labyrinth; laid my bag on a chair, took off my shoes and stood in line to enter the maze. I walked. Each step a prayer. A confession. A surrender. I reached the center. Peace. I knew then, this was meant to be.
I walked around the cathedral and left to go check into my simple room at the hotel run by the church. Free wifi! I washed up, took a nap and heard the bells ring for vespers. I went to the sanctuary and sat as I listened to the prayers and songs. At the end, one of the deaconesses began to sing a hymn attributed to Mary. All I could think of was, she is no deaconess, she is an angel. Who could sing like that?! And with the acoustics of that fantastically high ceilings…. my heart felt it could burst! When it ended, some of the people shook my hand and I walked to the chapel of Mary. This was yet another one of the “Black Madonnas” as the one I encountered in Brussels. They had printed out example prayers to help those who were lost for words (like me) and I just knelt there in silence for awhile. I made the sign of the cross, put in a small donation into the box, took a votive candle and left to find me some dinner. I had dinner with Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Strange combo? I think not. I walked around the town a little and really began to fall in love with it’s charm. When I got up the next morning, I searched for a famous creperie down the hill, past the bridge but, alas, they were closed. I walked back, run smack into a farmers market and found a little cafe. Stomach filled with good local ham, cheese and strong coffee, I headed back to my room to pack up and check out. I still had an hour before my train arrived, so I walked the ground of the building and found a gorgeous little nook – a ruined old archway, covered with vines and ivy, leading to what used to be the Bishop’s residence. And to my right, several good meters below, was an outdoor labyrinth. I watched as a man and his dog played fetch. Past them was the city of Chartres, centuries upon centuries old. The air was so pure, I felt so alive! I sat at one of the little bistro tables in the courtyard and made some notes of my thoughts. Then I bid it adieu. I boarded my train, settled into my seat and a thought hit me like a tonne of bricks: my limpy, wonky leg had not hurt me since the night before. Even with all the walking, climbing up steep streets etc, no more pain!!
I returned to Celine and Vincent’s apartment happy, fulfilled. But I only had one night to rest as I was to leave for Lille to visit my old friend Nil and her husband Eduoard. This time I headed northeast and the landscape slowly changed. As I got out the train, there was my sweet Nil with that smile of hers!! I was just delighted to see her again, especially to behold her pregnant! Being with them was like coming home. They made me feel so welcomed, so loved that it washed all the nastiness of the week before away. I hated having to leave the beautiful town with it’s Flemish influenced architecture infused with doses of modernity here and there. What I hated more was leaving these friends, this warm, wonderful woman who I first met as a fresh faced intern in Kuala Lumpur way back in the late 90′s. And here she is, graduate of Sorbonne, and one of the youngest associate professors in the University of Lille. So proud of her. I knew her mum (her zucchini fritters are to die for!) and her sister, who dropped in on me a couple of hears ago on her way to Vancouver BC. As I write this, my tears are pooling up in remembrance of those mere hours spent together.
After a day in Paris, I packed up once again and left to Wales to see my Malaysian friend, Josil, who I had only met once and it was of course over dinner – how else would Malaysians meet?! Her gracious mum had cooked a wonderful Malaysian feast and it totally filled Brett and my cravings for Malaysian food. The company was gregarious and fun while Josil had a warmth to her that I instantly took to. I had reached out to her when my initial plans had fallen through and she was in Italy with her fiance. She invited me there but I chose to wait to see her in Bangor, Wales. I arrived past ten at night into Liverpool airport and hauled ass to get to the bus Jo said to get on to get to the train station. I panicked because when I looked at my watch, it seemed like I was too late and missed the bus, hence the train. My brain was cooking up a back up plan with a hotel in sight across the bus stop, when I hear a hearty male voice, saying, “Allo there, dearie, you ok? Need ahyneeethin’?” I looked at him and said I was meant to catch the number 5 bus. He siad’ not to worry my pretty head’ because he was the driver of said bus! When he came around with the bus, I told him, quite in a panic, that I suspected I had missed the train, so won’t it be better if I just stayed at the hotel for the night? He said the train to Bangor, via Chester? “you alright there luv, I’ll get ya there in time – remember there’s the time difference!” Silly dang goose I was! Phew. Then it struck me I’m now in the UK, and I only have Euros. Once again my knight in bus driver uniform gallantly saved me. “Name’s Paul, you get in my bus for free anytime there, luv!”. Oh lawd, did I want to chuckle out loud. Thanking him profusely, I took a seat and began to breathe normally again. Crisis averted! Yay! I realised the stewardess had mentioned the time change but her Liverpool accent was so thick, I didn’t understand what she said! Paul dropped me off at the train station, told me a shortcut to get into the station faster and fared me well.
I reached Bangor way past midnight and there was my kawan (friend) waiting for me with a cab :) It was so good to see a friendly face again and we got to her ancient stone walled cottage where she made me an impromptu pasta primavera. Ohh, it felt so good to have a hot meal! The sweet thing let me sleep in the next morning and left me a note saying we could meet up for lunch. We went to the pier, where we looked out onto Snowdonia, the highest peak in Wales. I was back on British soil after fourteen years. The rolling hills, the misty early morning fog..and the scones!!! We had our scones and tea and later I met Jo’s housemate and other friends. These young people really grew on me, like super duper, licketty split quick! They were so hospitable that they broke all the stereotypes you’d have of people their age. Then I realised it came from they themselves having been the stranger, the sojourner in many foreign countries. James lived in Bangalore for a tad bit, loved making curries and would go for long runs, to come home completely soaked in sweat and get ordered by Jo to go straight and have a shower! Jo and I cooked almost everyday, we made Malaysian food in that tiny weeny kitchen and I felt so much peace. There was also Geraldine, the soft spoken gal from Montpellier and James’ girlfriend and Jo’s best friend. Sabrina was the vivacious Italian who they teased was more German than Italian because of the locality of her hometown. She kept me in stitches. We welcomed Claudia who was on scholarship from Malagasy. There were group steamed mussels lunch on the pier; there was Malaysian night at the cottage and a bbq out on the slate stones that surrounded that quaint cottage. I found myself writing during the mornings, making espresso on Jo’s well used Bialetti stove top espresso maker. I had my writing spot, in a chair by the lace covered window, looking out to the wet/dry little pot of garden the kids had going there. These young’uns saw me through the last day I was there, all converging together for a last meal before I left for the train ride back. I miss Jo and her sweet smile and her sass. I miss us cooking together, our talks and her graciousness. I will forever hold this group of young, genuinely good hearted souls within mine for they have blessed me without even knowing they did. Which is the beauty of it all.
I had one full day in Paris before flying out the next morning back non-stop to Seattle. The spunky gal I met when I landed, she was gonna be there too. So we hooked up, got my bag from Celine’s apartment to my hotel room, I changed clothes and we walked across the street, got a bottle of red wine and made our way to rue Bonaparte to get me some macaroons to take home to my honey bunny. I got Ali and I a gigantic slated caramel one, we went to the cafe across the street, looking out to the St. Sulpice square and church (made famous by the Da Vinci Code), split our macaroon into equalish proportions and drank kir royales to celebrate. There were gusts of wind and unfortunately for the lady sitting beside us, Ali’s wine glass toppled right onto me and the woman! She glared at us as though we controlled the wind, but whatever.
We walked through St. Sulpice and I showed Ali my favourite Delacroix painting in one of the naves. Then, we were off to Trocadero to drink wine and eat crepes and do what girls do best – talk!! We shared the wine while having the best view of the Eiffel Tower and eating crepes. Most of all, we shared us. Ali became the perfect bookend to my trip. Viva la Paris!!
Anne Bronte said in The Narrow Way, that “He who dares not grasp the thorn should never crave the rose.” I craved the rose. The Rose. Granted my hands did get somewhat bloodied in the process. But in the end, I have the Rose, she is mine, held firmly in my somewhat bloodied fingers. Her fragrance will fill my nostrils with the heady fragrance of her inner sanctum; her petals will caress my cheeks with velvety softness and her Being will always remind me of lushness and womanhood. Always and forever.
And I will always have Paris!! Je’ taime.