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

Image

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”

 

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?

Gone and Found by: Mo

Lyrics:

“Gone And Found”

Hollow, old ghost
What’s the news, what’s the news
How I’ve longed to see your face again
Don’t look at me like I’m a stranger
Don’t be scared, there is no danger
We pretend that we don’t care
So let’s just take a walk and leave it there

‘Cause sometimes things just don’t turn out as you meant for
And that’s what late night city lights are there for
You asked me back then what I wanted to be
But I didn’t really know, did you?

My mama said, “Someday you are gonna shine.”
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)
“You’ll meet a guy who’ll show you a love that’s kind.”
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)
I’ll run away and follow a strange old sign
(Dare no others would do)
You know I am sorry I let you down
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)

What did you expect from these red lips?
Curses laughter and a tender kiss
Hours went by and you got it all
Empty walls in a hollow city
What was I to do but flee?
When all my thoughts lay far beyond the sea

(Let’s go get lost)

And sometimes life just don’t turn out as you meant for
And that’s what late night city lights are there for
So let’s go get lost, we’re gonna go
Let us do it, my old friend

My mama said, “You will be wise this time.”
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)
“Eager to ride on the waters of your own mind.”
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)
Dimwitted man, you know I am so [?]
(Dare no others would do)
Someday the wave’s gonna show me the way to the sand
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)

Let’s go get, let’s go get, let’s go get lost

My mama said, “Someday you are gonna shine.”
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)
“You’ll be a woman, soft in your heart and kind.”
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)
I’ll run away and follow a strange old sign
(Dare no others would do)
You know I am sorry I let you down
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)

I’ll run away and follow a strange old sign
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)
You know I am bound to be gone and found
(Don’t know where I’m traveling to)

(Dare no others would do
I don’t know where I’m traveling to)

The Right to Love and Be Loved

One of the things that I admire is the right to love and to be loved. I don’t care who you are, where you come from and where you’ve been, we all want to love and be loved. It is this right to love that compels us to enter into friendships and relationships. It is this right that compels us to forgive those that have created hurt in our lives to move on in loving another person again. It is this right that makes us risk everything to love even after the pain of losing a friend or lover. This choice is one of strength. Yes, if you’ve ever decided to love and be loved after the past drama of a friendship or relationship then just know that you are truly on your way. Fear is created by us. We create fear and we allow it to stop us from doing the things that we want in life.

In seeking to love again, we have to make the choice to love. We decide for ourselves what we want. We decide on who we want to engage with in a relationship, how far it goes, where it ends, what we want, what we dislike and what we need. We hold this much power within our grasp. In reading some lectures by Anais Nin, I remember when she stated that she creates the relationships that she enters into. This startled me. I didn’t really understand this until I reread this. As individuals, we hold friendships with people and relationships. We determine when enough is enough. We determine how far we want to take things. We determine if we will strive in a relationship of love or a relationship of misery. This is how we create the friendships/relationships that we enter into. It doesn’t create itself. The reality is that we can either be active or passive participants in the relationships we choose to engage in. So, in saying all of this, we decide on the right to love and to be loved.

The right to love and to be loved is a choice. We can sulk around in our past and think about all of the the things that could’ve change, but this will not help the present. The present-moment is where we are at. This is where we are. We are not yesterday, five years ago, twenty years ago, or even five minutes ago. We are here. We are in the present moment. In “How to Practice: The Way to a Meaningful Life” by His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, it is said that ” under no circumstances should you lose hope. Hopelessness is a real cause of failure. Remember, you can overcome any problem. Be calm, even when the external environment is confused or complicated; it will have little effect if your mind is at peace. On the other hand, if your mind gives way to anger, then even when the world is peaceful and comfortable, peace of mind will elude you”. So, the pain and misfortunes that we have dealt with in the past should remain in the past. We shouldn’t become hopeless in the face of the present moment. We can truly move pass the pain of yesterday or even a few minutes ago. We shouldn’t allow this pain to keep us from functioning. We can and should still love and seek love. This is magnificent. We are able to do this. Not only are we able to do this, but we should demand this of ourselves.

“Life is a process of becoming, a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is that they wish to elect a state and remain in it. This is a kind of death.” – Anais Nin

In life, you can truly go through painful moments. These moments are probably the worst moments of all because they do something to you. They create a new ‘you’ that wasn’t there before. Like anything else in life, you deal with it. However, that is too simplified of a comment to make. I am human. You are human. We are constantly whirling in and out of each other’s lives. We make a difference within the world. In reading “Anais Nin: A Woman Speaks,” Nin talks about this exact reality. We can affect the world around us and the world can affect us. As individuals, we can project certain energies outside of ourselves. If we are laughing then you may end up finding the next person laughing because of you. Yesterday, I rode my bike around and caught the bus back home. The bus-driver was extremely social and happy. She made me happy, as well. Her positive energy projected onto me. Similarly, this is like any of us. We can affect people. I can definitely say that I am certainly struggling myself with life and I could certainly project negative energy with no problem at all. However, what good does that do? What will I accomplish with this kind of attitude?

I’m not saying that we can’t be upset or even hurt because I am. I’ve felt the burning feel of just wanting to run away and leave. I’m not sure where I would go, but I would just leave. I would just isolate myself in a corner of the Earth and live. Now, I understand the unrealistic nature of this, but this is where I’ve been and where I can be. Nothing is worst than having to contend with pain. This pain can either lead to positivity or negativity. We can direct our pain into positive energy through: art, music, prayer, meditation, talking, running, writing, and etc. One thing I have learned early-on is that negative energy has to be directed or channeled in a constructive way or else it will over-take you.

That Night

Wrapped up in darkness
swallowed up by hurt
you listened to the shattered pieces of me
Me with-holding from you the bitter, angry, and chaotic parts of myself,
And you held me
facing the empty streets with lit lights, looking across our two cities, I cried internally
Gripped onto the darkness of my childhood and I shattered
You sat next to me without knowing that every word that I spoke was a part of me shattering
something happened to me that night
the night you sat with me in the spot we call our’s
death settled that night in our spot
and I wonder if you held a funeral the morning after
because there was a rebirth of me
baring my soul with you right there was death to me
your hands wrapped around mine’s felt tender
your head on my thigh was otherworldly
and I died
hearing my pain being spoken penetrated me
I was hurt, unintentionally
One must not be afraid to speak words of truth
even when one’s heart quiver and shake
I was shook/breathless/motionless
And you listened/quietly/attentively
as I swallowed my pride and told you about the rough times in my life
Just at age 22, I’ve felt like I’ve been in war
too many bruises and wounds internally to count
just stories untold to be unfolded
You slipped closer to me/hesitating/not sure on what to do
and I noticed the way you looked at me

As if I was a person you never really knew
and like untold secrets that get told, I surprised you

I’ve told you how I’ve self-medicated my soul with writing

Perusing my pain and emptying out my heart in random notebooks/ across homework/ in books/ and under my tongue

There is a cemetery inside of me where stories are buried
and that night there was a resurrection of untold stories

I've Felt Many Things

I’ve felt hunger rip through me
like lightning cracking a tree in two
I’ve felt the vulnerability of a vagabond
and sometimes wondering where is home
I’ve felt isolation in a crowd of friends; how strange of me to call them friends
I’ve felt life bleed from me; from the inside-out, like the feeling of asphyxiation
I’ve seen oppression crack, rob the spirit of a mother/dousing her in infinite suffering
I’ve felt the way that drugs slice open a family/fiending for another hit/he was gone to get another high
I’ve felt the journey of nowhere as we found home in rooms
like nomads with no destination in sight
I’ve felt hurt as she plowed her fists into his body like bullets penetrating skin and tissue
I’ve felt scared when I ran to find peace away from the chaos of life/ I wonder if they knew how I was dying every second
I’ve felt lost and they weren’t even there to hold me/maybe they were too lost themselves
I’ve felt too many things to even remember the feeling of not being able to feel

No Regrets: Just Southern Boy Hospitality

You told me not to tell her that I loved you
That I loved you in color
Loved you like a morning’s sunrise cracking open free into full bloom
Not to let her know that my name is stained across your lips with forever written in permanent ink
Like our love-story/engraved in the broken/most intimate parts of our souls
That you/that I
Found God in the prayers of our pain
That we’re both two wounded hearts breaking free
That I became hands open wide catching your tears
Planting my all, the seed of my love into your broken soul
That you kept me up late in conversations
Under the night’s skies with the moon and stars as witnesses/witnessing us catching flame to the igniting of this intimacy
That we made great love in the bedsheets of our most intimate thoughts
I never thought I would hate you for the memories you left burning as the centerpiece of my soul
Leaving remnants of our yesterdays within the closet of my heart
Leaving clever lies and empty promises rotting at the gate of my heart
Making me believe your words as truth like divine scripture
To only find your love as truthful as the promises you never kept
And you told me to come back, that you loved me
My love, did you forget?
Did you forget that you left bruises in my heart?
The taste of betrayal upon my lips
Shattered pieces of love across my soul
Distress written in the notebook of my thoughts
And I’ve always said I’ll never allow a man to lay his hands on me
And I guess I was right
Because your hands never found their way/their home on my body
Just the lies that you left in my heart with the rotten love you kept behind
I never knew abuse until I found you
Finding you heart-broken/shattered pieces scattered/broken in all of the wrong places
But you, you left me fractured and tortured in the prison you left of me
With my hands being a burial-ground of the hell you left for me
I unraveled my soul for a man that was less than a king for his queen
So, tell her
Tell her I was everything you never deserved
I was everything you couldn’t be
Honest
Real
Committed
And that a real Southern boy with Southern hospitality wouldn’t call the morning after with another woman’s name still heavy on his lips, mistaking her for me
And that your game ain’t that tight because I heard the hesitation bleeding through the phone
As if she was in the next room over
Unfolding herself from the mess you made of her
And I’m sure you’re lustfully in love with her
Coming easy in her ears to come quickly in between her thighs to simply leave her
But unlike the others,
I will love me whole and never in parts
Split-opened-exposed for a man who just needs a quick fix
And that I will sinfully love me whole
Without regrets