(Re)discovering Beauty in the Ugliness of Life’s Chaos

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Over the last few years of my life, I have met many people. Some stayed and some left. However, in the passing of time, I have learned a few life-lessons to keep in my pocket for the long-haul. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for the encounters that I’ve had and the experiences that I’ve been through. Sometimes life just seems too much of a mess to contend with, but there is beauty in it. Yes, I am saying that there is beauty in the mess of it all. 

I graduated only a few months ago in December 2013 with my degree. I was in total bliss. I knew I would quickly find a job that paid more than the part-time job I was relying on for sustenance. However, this was not the case. Not only this, but I was experiencing a crisis in my belief in God. This crisis drew me into a phase of questioning everything that I once knew was stable. I questioned everything from the existence of God to the issue of scripture being truly divine. I was dancing on egg-shells, but I didn’t care. I was at the crossroads. I was struggling to know God, myself and the world around me. I was dealing with financial-instabilities and family-problems. I was dying daily. I didn’t know what to do or who to turn to. I would frequently isolate myself from people. Some people would fight to stay in my life during this period of isolation, while others simply didn’t care. I don’t blame them. I was probably too far away from reality to even be contacted. 

Not only did I find this time of uncertainties troubling, but I had suitors in the midst of it all. These suitors never impressed me. They seemed to want the typical “perfect” Muslim-wife that would ‘cook, clean, obey’ them. I wasn’t going to stick around for this. Not only this, but the pressure of getting married by friends and the external Muslim community sent me further away. There would be the occasional, “You’re so beautiful. You’re young too. Why aren’t you married?”. I must admit that I was pushing hard for a good period of time to get married, but I never found contentment in this towards the last semester of school. I was still…young. I hardly knew what I really wanted. I thought I knew what I wanted, but I don’t think I did at that point. I knew that I could be the “perfect” Muslim wife for any man, but I don’t think I had come upon anyone that truly understood me. However, I did yearn for the Muslim-family that I would see at the Eids (twice a year celebration after Ramadan and during Hajj-season). I wasn’t raised in a Muslim-family and would practice Islam alone without anyone else. I wanted that, but I didn’t want to get pressured into just marrying any person. Furthermore, I started to question the institution of marriage. I didn’t like the fact that I would need my wali’s permission (guardian of the woman) to get married. I was perfectly capable of choosing my own spouse on my own terms. I thought that my guardian (father) would totally void my agency, my own voice. The prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) certainly warned the men of the Muslim-community that a female’s permission is needed in order for any marriage to be valid. However, I was at odds with this when learning that I needed my guardian’s permission to marry a man. So, does my permission even matter if my father’s ‘no’ was good enough to stop a marriage? Yes, the purpose of the wali (guardian) is to check out the man’s credentials, his background, his income, his mental state, and etc. Some would even explain to me that a man knows another man. I’m not saying that marriage shouldn’t be a family-affair, but I most certainly am not going to give away my right to having a voice. Women have had their voice continuously stripped from them in history, through patriarchy, and in various communities. I will not have this happen to me. I will not bow down to a role that oppresses me. I will never teach my daughter(s) to succumb to a system that isolates her participation in her community, her society. As long as a man can determine and choose what is right for me then I should not expect to have a voice. Unfortunately, this view of mine’s may be in conflict of the Islamic-tradition, but I will maintain my stance on this. At the end of the day, this same woman will be with this man, romantically, sexually, mentally all throughout the marriage alone. There will not be anyone within their household day-in and day-out except for them. They will be the only ones determining solely the situation of their marriage. Sure, you will have arbitrators to help resolve marital-problems, but generally it will just be them. Not only this, but I have an issue of having a guardian. It is said that the woman’s guardianship transfers from her father to her husband. I’m sorry, but this is not the case for me. I will always maintain my own identity. This identity will not be compromised…at all. I am not a part of a business transaction. I am not to be passed off or transferred to. I will empower myself by denouncing this guardianship. I understand that some women are definitely okay with this and will delight in this. However, I am not one to delight in this. The role of the guardian is to: protect, provide, and maintain the woman. Now, once again…this is not for me. I will leave this for the next woman. The issue of a woman’s place just always give me chills. Brrrrrr! 

Nonetheless, I will express the positive side(s) to these last few months. In trying to find my place in the world, I had entered into a close friendship/relationship with someone. I’m liberal. I started seeing another world outside of the one I was living.  I was treading on a path of: spirituality, love, lust, sexuality, education, identity, and etc. I happened to have stumbled upon another person, similar to myself, having questions about religion. I didn’t suspect that I would find answers in the midst of finding another person like me, confused. However, I did. In the poverty of my own life, I was spending most of my time reading about religion. I would stay consumed in religious-studies. I would visit my college to talk with professors about life. Yes, I am a bit…extreme. However, I was dying in this crisis of my life. I was broke. Starving for answers about God. On the fence about feminism. I was suffering a minor-depression. Nonetheless, I soon found a close companion to share some of the intimate parts of the pain I was struggling with internally. The simplicity of the friendship/relationship was the real beauty of it all. The occasional bilingual conversations in Spanish. The occasional meals at a local restaurant. The frequent bike-rides alone or in a group. The long conversations about: faith, poverty, dreams, sexuality, feminism, and problems. Very simple pleasures. Nothing expensive. Simply simple. I must admit that this quote is true:

“Living simply makes loving simple.”― Bell Hooks

I didn’t intend on engaging in a companionship, but I did. I would say that I regret doing this because this isn’t acceptable within the Islamic-tradition. However, I did engage in this. I certainly did grow from this encounter. Interestingly enough, I realized the importance of taking risks. 

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.” — Anaïs Nin (The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934)

The world we live in is not black and white. It is not as simple as we may think. Its complicated. I’m sure someone that is reading this is shaking their little finger at me and threatening to forever label me as a ‘sinful’ and ‘impure’ woman. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Settle down. Life is what we make of it. In a time in my life when I wanted to just fold up under the covers and cry, I didn’t. I reveled on the beauty of what I had discovered at the most unlikely of times. I would frequently stay away from people because I was broke and didn’t have money, but with the friendship/relationship I was engaging in, I didn’t have to always have money. I learned that living doesn’t have to always mean spending. You are not what you own, can spend, and can display. I didn’t feel like going to another all-women’s party/gathering and putting on a front. I didn’t feel like putting on a prom-dress to just attend a dinner at another woman’s home. I’m not that shallow. Yes, I can isolate myself, but I am not shallow. There is this pretentious secret that happens too frequently for me. For many women, the whole women’s only scene is a battle-field. Women would dress up in ostentatious outfits that they would only wear once to show-off. I’m usually not at such events. For one, I’m not going to fake as if I have money by wearing something I may never wear again. Secondly, I can’t afford to go to a high-end restaurant every week. This is just my reality. I’ve experienced the whole ‘women’s only’ scene and do not find joy in it. If I know someone that isn’t into the whole ‘let’s-show-off-our-wealth’ then I will attend her gathering. 

Well, I definitely did go on a long rant there. Back to what I was saying, I didn’t have to contend with this reality when I was in this close relationship/friendship. I was me. Simply me. I didn’t have to dress-up or put on a front. I was simply Lauren. It was the simplicity that kept me in engaged. It was living simply to love simple. 

In the midst of it all, I experienced new places within my own backyard. I went to many places that I never knew existed in my city. I traveled to several places on my bicycle. I discovered new cultures. I experimented with various religions, philosophies and ideologies. I was confused, but awakened at the same time. I didn’t feel the pressure of getting married just for marriage-sake. I didn’t feel like I had to put on a mask to fit in. I was just taking my life day-by-day. I was and is broke as hell. There is no shame in that. However, I am living. Before, I was just existing. I was going about life in a routine. I started to see that we all are struggling with something. We aren’t perfect. We all are dying a death internally because of someone or something. We just have to find beauty in the midst of ugliness and chaos. 

“And sometimes I wonder, why we care so much about the way we look.
And the way we talk and the way we act and the clothes we bought, how much that cost.
Does it even really matter?
Cause if life is an up hill battle
We all tryna climb with the same ol’ ladder
In the same boat, with the same ol’ paddle
Why so shallow? I’m just asking
What’s the pattern to the madness
Everybody ain’t a number one draft pick
Most of us ain’t Hollywood actors” -B.O.B. “Both of Us”

 

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Both of Us Lyrics

“Both Of Us”
(feat. Taylor Swift)

[Chorus: Taylor Swift]
I wish I was strong enough to lift not one but both of us
Someday I will be strong enough to lift not one but both of us

[B.o.B:]
Uh, ever thought about losing it
When your money’s all gone and you lose your whip
You might lose your grip when the landlord tell ya that you’re due for rent
And the grass so green on the other side
Make a nigga wanna run straight through the fence
Open up the fridge ’bout twenty times
But still can’t find no food in it
That’s foolishness
And sometimes I wonder, why we care so much about the way we look.
And the way we talk and the way we act and the clothes we bought, how much that cost.
Does it even really matter?
Cause if life is an up hill battle
We all tryna climb with the same ol’ ladder
In the same boat, with the same ol’ paddle
Why so shallow? I’m just asking
What’s the pattern to the madness
Everybody ain’t a number one draft pick
Most of us ain’t Hollywood actors

But if it’s all for one, and one for all
Then maybe one day, we all can ball
Do it one time for the underdogs
Sincerely yours, from one of y’all

[Chorus: Taylor Swift]
I wish I was strong enough to lift not one but both of us
Someday I will be strong enough to lift not one but both of us

[B.o.B:]
I can feel your pain, I can feel your struggle
You just wanna live, but everything so low
That you could drown in a puddle
That’s why I gotta hold us up, yeah hold us up
For all the times no one’s ever spoke for us
To every single time that they play this song
You can say that that’s what Bobby Ray wrote for us
When the tides get too high
And the sea up underneath get so deep
And you feel like you’re just another person
Getting lost in the crowd, way up high in the nosebleeds
Uh, because we’ve both been there, yeah, both of us
But we still stand tall with our shoulders up
And even though we always against the odds
These are the things that’ve molded us
And if life hadn’t chosen us
Sometimes I wonder where I would’ve wound up
Cause if it was up to me, I’d make a new blueprint
Than build it from the ground up, hey

But if it’s all for one, and one for all
Then maybe one day, we all can ball
Do it one time for the underdogs
From Bobby Ray, to all of y’all

[Chorus: Taylor Swift]
I wish I was strong enough to lift not one but both of us
Someday I will be strong enough to lift not one but both of us
Oh, oh [4x]

I Couldn’t Find a Love More Stranger

 

 

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I used to lay awake

destined to be apart of his fate

mistaking lust for love, for God’s sake

I awoke in early hours to pray, to simply think straight

But love was on my mind

his hands, sweeter than honey, more dangerous than fire, kept my heart laced

into submission/ this ironic juxtaposition of lust and love/ imprisoned me/ intoxicated/ a drunkard of love

but his hands felt like safety and danger

he explored the most intimate parts of me/ parting with my everything/ but this lust or love or infatuation was from the Heavens above

and the moment I left/ crept away/ was the ending of what was/ for he was terribly beautiful and ugly/ protective and dangerous/

honest and deceptive and human/ and with a love like this/ I couldn’t find anything stranger

Don’t Come Looking For Me

I will feast away at the splendors of life

Take a big whiff of life and make passionate love to it

Scream in an orgasmic cry and celebrate the pain, the joy, the chaos of it all

I will meditate under the sun’s rays, dance furiously beneath the stars, and melt in the the pages of my poetry

I want to be stroked, to be held, to be caressed, to be kissed dangerously in full submission

I crave the intimate parts of people, the parts that are deeply hidden from public-view, but I’m a hunter seeking to save and be saved

We are too many miles away in our own worlds and its lonely there, isn’t it? 

I know how dark it is in that tunnel of a world you live in

I found myself too many friendships gone and missed 

I found myself too many lovers unexplored

I found myself too unreachable to taste the bliss of true friendships

I will marvel today and in the present

Don’t come looking for me

I’m too far gone looking for what I’ve been missing for too longImage

A Memory Worth Yearning For

You slaughtered the little girl in me
And I opened up, blossomed for you, for me
you tasted the bitterness in my heart, but you ravished scandalously in the woman I became, didn’t you?
you plucked away too many years of my oppression and reveled in what you found
our bodies would come-hither with no reservations
and I delighted in it
you bit me, you vampire, you caused a death, another life to be born of me
I hate you, I despise you, but I desire everything about you
I seek refuge from you, but you call me without speaking
I come racing to find you but you’re just a memory
a memory that infuriates, intoxicates
leaves me yearning for more

The Aftermath

The coldness in the words you say freezes me in awe
Do I know you? Have we ever met each other in some other world?
We stand too many planets away to see the tears, but I know the pain in the words you mumble in the cracking sound of your voice
If you touched me, I wonder if your heart would pulsate in hunger of us?
Should I dig through the memories of us and make passionate love to the past that has passed?
Or should I merely walk pass you if I ever saw you again?

A Love to Remember

I have managed to pretend that you hate me, that all efforts made were a mistake, that hours spent were meaningless, but this isn’t the case, right?
Does pain signify regret? I regret not what was
I yearned for the danger in us/ in you
You lit the flame/ the wick that forever awaited for a lover to light it ablaze
In the nakedness of our conversations, I unfolded and undressed my soul for you/explored the painful parts of me
You are a riveting madness/ an imminent threat/ a lover
what am I to do when the lover has hollowed out the intimate parts of me?
leaving me empty/ with just memories/ words to remember
I am guilty/ for the lover and the beloved are one/ never separated/ always together in each other