(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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Mere Seduction That Night

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It was one of those nights

We were ready to feast on each other sinfully, without regrets

Closing the door behind us, he looked at me with passion, a burning passion

And the slightest touch of our hands and our bodies became intimacy

A racing heart, increasing temperature, hungry, and needy

I watched the way he turned towards me with a glance that would entice

Grabbing a hold of my waist from behind with a slow-grind 

The moon’s gaze sneaked too many peeks upon this love affair

Without words, he guided me to the next room, unclothed his goddess

and I watched in admiration the unclothing of this most heavenly being

the night smelled of seduction and fiery passion

we became engulfed in the joining, the meeting of two hearts, two bodies

the darkness swallowed us whole without respite

this Gringo, this lover of Mexican-culture, whispered words of love, of passion, en espanol

“Te Amo, mi morenita!”

his words reaped of desire, unadulterated passion

where did he learn this foreplay?

what goddess invited him to worship love in this way? 

“te quiero”

and my body shook in want, in need of this gift-offering

he had come to my temple to worship

and I giggled in ecstasy

in madness, in anger, in uncontrollable anger

why did I not feel guilty in this?

should not the feeling of intense pleasure satisfy me

I was hungry, frustrated, in need of this

of him

of what he wanted to offer

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

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

I Still Remember

He was deliciously simple and delicate
Dangerous and ravenous, the way he loved tenderly
The risk he took in loving me
Clutching me in the arms of his romance
Stroking me earnestly through words of sincerity
Dying in his presence/resurrecting myself in his moments of laughter
He is the glue piecing together the broken parts of me
The erotic part of me that yearns for intimacy
his conversations seduces/ the way his hands settles in between mine’s
and although we’ve traveled away from each other/ I remember the way his smile lights up the darkness
I can remember the secrets in the midst of our alone-ness in our together-ness

In the words of Jennifer Lopez, “I luh ya papi”

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

On the other end of the phone

I thought I fell in love.
Maybe I did.
Or maybe it was the way his breath settled on the other end of the phone- scared, reassured, alone
The way he hid his insecurities neatly in the basement of his heart reminded me of myself.
Words became conversations, conversations into stories and stories into lessons learned
But have I learned?
Have I learned that a heart is like a newborn baby?
Always needing someone to nurture it tenderly, never quite ready to be hurt.
And his voice would settle like an ocean’s tide upon a shore- calmly and intentionally
I could feel and hear the neediness in his voice like the cries of a baby needing the tender touch of a parent
He was hurt, like me.
The way he hurts is like blades cracking across skin bleeding years of growing up too fast
And he knows it like the way a crack fiend finds escape in taking a hit
He’s as complicated as two lovers trying to find love in hotel rooms
But he is deeply bruised with a swollen heart and a trembling fear of being alone
He’s beautiful behind the pain that frequently creeps up upwardly unexpectantly in our conversations
And just like him and many others, I am the shattered mirror-image of pain and fear.
I am the hotel-room that holds secrets well like walls that will never speak.
I am the heart that yearns for love.
I was the one settled on the other end of the phone feeling scared, reassured and alone.