Tag Archives: mental health

The taboo of divorce…

Her name is not Lena but that’s what I’ll call her. She’s my age maybe a bit older. She has blue strands of hair, but her natural caramel is growing through her scalp and you can see it clearly. She has misty blue eyes, the kind that’ll capture your attention in the middle of a crowd. Lena isn’t the only child, she has two older siblings, a Russian blue cat and two Betta fish that died because no one fed them.

I met Lena in high school, during gym class. We both had one thing in common: our hatred for working our muscles off for a class that wouldn’t even be averaged in our GPA. I leaned more towards the chemistry side, while she leaned toward the arts.

“It’s when I hold that pencil- I transport into this other dimension.” That’s what she told me when I asked her about her favorite subject. I never had the chance to tell her that I felt the same way, except my pencil, didn’t create images or sketches, it created words with raw emotions. 

Out of all the people, I remembered Lena because we both were socially awkward to the point where each of us would find a bench and sit in the corner, so no one would notice us. We were the outcasts, in a world that wanted to be an outcast.

I’m writing about Lena because I have no idea where she is. She could be reading my blog from Argentina or maybe she’s pursuing her dream of becoming another Picasso. Either way, she’s carved her mark in my mind, or maybe I carved it myself because I liked her. 

I remember Lena not because she was the only girl who was willing to be my partner during basketball practice, but because she had a story of her own that she was afraid to tell, and I was eager to hear. A story that still disperses in my mind, like waves on a shore.

Her parents got married because her grandfather was ill and was about to die. So, he decided to get his daughter married to the son of a farmer. Things at first were going pretty well, then the economy dipped, and the married couple moved to America- to make all ends meet. Lena’s siblings were born in Argentina and she was born in the states.

Her mother worked as a waitress and her father worked in a garage. Her father was a good man and her mother was a humble woman. But according to Lena, they never got along with each other. They both had their own issues, their own insecurities, their own flaws but they would always come at each other’s throats, trying to prove each other wrong. They were like two magnets that were somehow joined but always opposed each other.

“Their fights start as arguments on the smallest things, but then they escalate to the point where the whole neighborhood can hear them,” Lena told me once when I sat next to her in gym class. Her eyes were puffy, and her cheeks were swollen from all the crying. “Sometimes it seems as if they love each other, but then it looks like they can’t stand each other. If I take a side I feel guilty because sometimes they both seem right and sometimes they both seem wrong.”

Listening to Lena wasn’t something new. I had heard stories before of parents fighting. Physically hurting each other. Emotionally scarring one another. The effect on the children would cause riots in the families and like a domino, one fall would lead to another.

“I wish they could just get a divorce.” This sentence of Lena was what caught me off guard. I gawked at her, like a small child, with my mouth hanging open.

Why would she say that?

Maybe she was mad. Maybe she wasn’t thinking properly. Maybe – just maybe she was being an insensate little teenager because her hormones were all over the place. I tried to convince her. I gave her false hope because that’s what friends do. They make you believe that the monsters you’re fighting aren’t real.

But later on, when things got worse, when Lena would cry in the locker room and when she eventually disappeared I realized that maybe she was right. That maybe divorce was so tabooed and so frowned upon that I let my hatred of it consume me into believing that it was a bad thing. I’m not vouching for divorce. But when every option runs out, when every boat drowns its better to part ways than to be the reason for someone else’s sinking. Her parents needed space. They needed to let each other go because holding on was hurting them and in return, they were hurting each other, and Lena was the one suffering.  

The effect on Lena was horrible. She stopped talking to me, became a ghost and disappeared beneath the evils of bad company. It felt as if she pulled down her barriers to make herself strong, but in that process, she broke her spirit. She broke something human in her.

Her parents would never understand. Maybe because they were fighting their own battles that her wars seemed insignificant. Maybe they never saw the world through her eyes. Or maybe they just didn’t care.

Love has the ability to heal, but sometimes against odd circumstances, it can also be the cause for pain. Maybe her parents were in that state where they were fearful of letting go just as fearful as they were of holding on. I’m not saying divorce is a good thing, but I’ve seen way too many people around me suffer in agony because they were afraid of the label of divorce. They’ve lived their entire lives in silence because suffering is better than being a divorcee.

Understanding suicide….

Mama walked ahead of me while my aunt trailed behind her. They were holding shopping bags in their hands that were filled with old t-shirts, pants, and shalwar kameez, my siblings and I refused to wear.

“We shouldn’t have bought her with us,” my aunt said as she threw an angry glance at me. I gladly gave one back. I loved my aunt and she loved me, but sometimes she didn’t understand that I couldn’t stay home all day long. I was a cage-less spirit who needed to breathe.

“It’s okay,” Mama assured herself more than my aunt.

“Maybe we could leave her with our cousin Meher.” My aunt stopped walking as she pointed to their cousin’s house. In our village everyone knew everyone; Ironically, we were all somehow related. By either blood or unwritten promises.

Mama didn’t say anything, which meant either she was thinking of abandoning me, or she would take me along with her. She decided to do the later.

Our village was like a maze, and Mama knew the way inside out. She grew up here, in these streets, among these people. We walked through the lanes and ended up on a narrow pavement. We walked until my mom stopped in front of an old house made partially of bricks and mud. A gate stood in the middle, but parts of the walls were missing. There was a hole on the left side and through it, I could see the brick house inside.

Mama stepped forward, knocked on the door and gracefully stepped back. A boy no older than me opened the gate. He had a bald head with mud smothered on his cheeks. Part of his kameez from the top pocket was ripped. He smiled at Mama as if he knew her, and Mama did the same.

We stepped inside and on the right, I saw a small garden with wilting plants. The vegetables were dying like they hadn’t been watered for a very long time. The house on the left looked more like an old shack.

A woman just as old as Mama came forward. She embraced Mama and Aunty, then led us into one of the rooms inside. We sat on the cots that were draped with old bedsheets. A few kids came and asked me if I wanted to play with them. I politely declined, not because I didn’t want to play but because I was really shy.

The woman came back with tea. Mama and Aunty picked up the cups and I watched them slowly takes sips. I wasn’t allowed to drink tea.

Mama gave the woman the old clothes, telling her she brought them for her kids. Mama also handed her some money, convincing her that if she needed anything she could come over to Nana-Abu’s house or she could call Mama any time.

She tried to smile, but thick drops of tears cascaded down her cheeks. She wiped them away with her chador and looked out the veranda at her kids.

“I was cooking outside on the clay stove. He kept asking me what the date was, and I kept telling him. I was reminding him that his pay wasn’t due anytime soon. Then all of a sudden, I hear a gun-shot. I didn’t know what happened and I ran inside, in this room and there he was laying on the floor with a bullet in his head. There was blood all around and… and…” the woman cried.

Mama got up and hugged the woman. I didn’t understand what the woman was talking about, and I was too afraid to ask.

The woman pointed to the metal crate placed on the side of the room. It had words in Urdu written on it. “If it’s a boy,” the woman read, “name him Ahmed. If it’s a girl, name her Ayesha.” The woman cried uncontrollably. “How am I supposed to take care of these kids all by myself, and what about the one that hasn’t even stepped foot on this earth-”

“Go outside, make new friends.” My aunt kicked me out of the room. I did as I was told but I didn’t play with the kids; I sat on the steps and wondered what it meant to die, but my ten-year-old self couldn’t grasp the concept of death. For me, death was closing your eyes in one world and opening them in another. Death wasn’t a bad thing, and I wasn’t afraid of it. I was intrigued by it. But watching that woman hopelessly cry made something in me crack. It made me realize that death wasn’t exactly opening your eyes again.

That day when we went back home. I laid on the bed next to mamma at night and asked her about that woman.

“She’s my best friend and we used to play together when we were young. Her husband recently died,” Mama said, whispering so she wouldn’t wake up my grandma and my siblings.

“He killed himself?” I asked. Mama didn’t say anything, so I asked her why. Mama didn’t have an answer, or maybe she thought I was too young to know. Either way, it was frustrating. I laid awake that night wondering why someone would do such a thing. I hated that man because he was a coward. Because he didn’t understand the beauty of life. The beauty of love. How could he leave behind his family? How could someone do such a thing? Did he know what he was doing? Would he regret it? Did it hurt? Would God be angry with him?

Years later, when we moved to America, Mama told me about that woman again. Mama was surprised that I remembered her. She still doesn’t know why her friend’s husband killed himself. The woman at that time was pregnant. The man wrote a message on the metal crate for his wife with a permanent marker.

Mama also told me that the woman’s brother recently died because both of his kidneys failed. This time I didn’t understand why life was so cruel to some people. Why was it that some people had so much while others were completely empty? But this incident made me question the validity of suicide. What if it was done to remove pain and suffering. But why do we fail to realize that while doing so, we’re causing pain and suffering to those around us? It’s like transferring pain to those whom we want to see happy. We all suffer, don’t we? Maybe some more than others. Undoubtfully suicide is wrong because you never know what will happen tomorrow. The sun will rise again, it has to! Life is too precious to waste it on self-harm. You need to fight your demons no matter how strong they are. Miracles exist because we’re all breathing miracles.

The memory I had locked somewhere in my unconscious mind came crawling out. The boy who opened the door for us was probably my age now. I bet he never had a chance to go to school because he had to work to feed his family. Was he okay? Does he remember me? Maybe as the girl with the pretty dress. Maybe I wasn’t someone important in his story. How does he feel about his father?

The thought of suicide just ricocheted in my mind. I had hated that man because I did not understand why he would kill himself but now I did. The hatred transformed into anger, then to guilt. I had judged him without knowing anything.

How desperate and hopeless do you have to be to take your own life? To end everything. To close your eyes forever. The empty feeling of nothingness is like a black hole, everything just disappears into it. You don’t feel sadness or anger or despair. You just feel hollow like a huge chunk of you is missing, and the worst part is that you don’t understand what you’re supposed to feel. You hold everything inside because you’re afraid that you’ll drown everyone else around you, and you don’t want that.

 

After thirteen years I understood why the man did such a thing. It wasn’t right, but we live in a world where accepting your flaws is a taboo. Where saying, ‘I’m not okay,’ is a sin. Where breaking down and crying for help is worse than suicide. The man didn’t kill himself, this society we live in did.

 

The kiss of failure!

Isn’t it weird how sometimes you work so hard on something, just to be kissed by failure at the end? And it’s not the soft, subtle kiss you find in those happy ever afters. It’s one of those kisses that makes your heart sink somewhere near your kidneys. The one that makes you doubt your very existence. It’s the kind of kiss that haunts you for the rest of your life.

The kiss of failure never comes alone. It comes with self-hatred, doubt, desperation, and despair. It slowly creeps on you from the back and jumps on you when you least expect it. But you fall so hard that the earth stops rotating on its axis and I’m sure the sound is so loud that the angels up in heaven can hear it too. I’m sure they’ve gotten used to it by now.

Failure isn’t the only thing that bothers me. The after effects are just as worse; like an earthquake. When it comes it rips and tears everything apart and the after-shocks are just as worse. They break what’s already broken.

It’s like your mind becomes your greatest enemy and the world transforms into a very dark place. The beautiful masks people wear come dripping off and you get to see their real faces and they’re not pretty. You understand your fall but along with that, you understand what value people around you have. You understand that the mountain you were climbing had faults of its own. I’m not saying that failure is a bad thing, but it isn’t something that gives you comfort. If there’s one thing I’ve learned that is- the mountains you want to climb won’t get smaller. The paths you want to voyage won’t get prettier. The journeys you want to travel won’t get easier. And the fall definitely won’t hurt less. But the real question is how badly do you want it? How badly are you willing to fail? To fall? To crash? To burn? And then to reform? If your will to reach the peak empowers all other wills, then even failure will bow down to you.

It’s hard, very hard to swim in an ocean that’s pulling you down, and yet here you are, trying to climb a mountain you can’t even see. But if you give in, the waves will drown you. If you fight, then maybe, just maybe the waves will give up and they’ll push you to the shore.

There was once a man in Halacin who wanted to become an artist, but his parents forced him to become a doctor because according to them an artist had no value. “Artists don’t get paid much. How will you live? How will you ever be happy?” the parents argued. The man wanted to please his parents, so he left his passion and went to med school. There he studied hard, but no matter how much effort he put into his work, he would always fail. His joy vanished, and his heart did not align with his head. Every second that passed by pulled him toward art, but the man did not give in.

Because the man was doing so poorly in med-school, he was kicked out. Having no other option, the man burned his books and set sail to begin his journey as an artist. His parents disowned him and because of that the man had to take odd jobs to support himself. He worked as a mechanic, a dishwasher, a servant, but he did not complain. He was happy because for the first time he was listening to that voice in the back of his head.

The man wandered for years, but he couldn’t find a destination. Every journey he would travel would lead him to more turns. The man, tired of being on the road for so long, and aimlessly walking around, became tired and decided to give up and go back to his parents.

His parents were willing to accept him on one condition; that he follow the journey they had chosen for him. The man did as he was told, but he was unhappy, and he failed miserably. He did not understand what life had in store for him, but he knew one thing that failing while dreaming didn’t hurt as bad as failing without any dreams. The man, even with failure constantly kissing him, understood one thing, that failure was inevitable and so was suffering. No matter what journey he chose he was bound to fail, but he could choose what type of failure he was willing to endure. And in that instance when he did not know which journey to choose, he understood that he was willing to fail again and again, on a journey that made him happy. He was willing to suffer on a journey without a destination because it made him value himself. It taught him that failure is just as important as success.

He told his parents that he was willing to suffer, but of his own accord. His parents, furious with him, kicked him out again. The journey his parents had seen for him was easy, but it didn’t make him happy. Yes, he had a clean bed and warm food, but he lacked the ambition to move forward. He lacked the desire to do something.

The man left his parents and aimlessly voyaged again. He faced many setbacks and there were times when he wanted to give up, but he always remembered the reason why he held on for so long. When the man finally climbed the mountain of despair and hopelessness, he saw victory, wearing a blue cape, waiting for him on the peak of the mountain.

“Took you long enough,” victory scowled. The man was baffled. He was mad, angry, and annoyed. He was furious at victory. He couldn’t hold in his tears anymore, so he wailed like a small child.

“Why?” The man cried. “I spent years searching for you. Did you not pity me at all?”

Victory smiled at the man and said, “Every time you took a step toward me, I took two steps toward you and every time you stopped, I stopped with you. Every time you doubted me I doubted you. We’re linked. Don’t you understand that you’ve made it here on the back of failure? It was your perseverance that bought me here, to you.”

I’m not saying that your path will be easy. It won’t. But comparing your journey to someone else’s won’t make things better. Failure is a part of life. Maybe instead of fighting it, we should learn to embrace it. Kiss it back with such passion that victory gets jealous. Learn, and move on. But remember, every fall of yours is bringing victory closer to you.