I feel empty inside. It’s the kind of emptiness when you feel all your emotions inside have burnt to ash, and all your vitality has receded to nothing like a river in drought. I feel things giving life and purpose, but they feel like stars far away in a dark night.
The other day my daughter and I helped my mother-in-law (aka Tita) bake two cakes from scratch. I recently learned that her marriage anniversary to her late husband had just passed on the 3rd, so I told her I thought she was making the cakes for her Eid Gawaz. I mentioned that my own Eid Gawaz was coming up next week as well, so she said the cakes are for us as well. She is such a sweet woman, and as far as family goes, the one I’ve had here has been priceless. My late father-in-law was such a kind and caring man, and showed me affectionate favors that touched me deeply even while he was getting sick with his cancer. I still cry when I think of him, and his dying wish that I am always looked after.
So I have a family I love, a place I love, but no existence in that place. And so, the emptiness. I have a lot of circumstances that I wish were different, but are not right now in my power to change. I was managing in a bubble of detachment for a while, and that was working nicely, but the damn thing started to get shaken, then cracked. Last night the crack gave way and the pain inside me could be contained no longer, and those waters rushed all over the place.
Sometimes I really feel my soul is like water. I can be flowing, soothing, containing, warming, captivating, carrying and amazingly beautiful. Then other times, I am unpredictable, intense, impulsive, confusing, and threatening in my potential to hurt.
Some people love the water, and they even get excited if it starts to churn. They ride waves and swim deep and find treasures. They learn its ways and adore its many faces. But most people, they tend to like water only when its contained. Contained in pipes, cups, pools and bottles.
I don’t think I contain very well. At least, not for sustained periods. There is a part of me that is so stable and sensible and disciplined and loyal. But if I live in that mode and threats start to come, something starts swirling in me. A need to respond, to break out, to change and go free. I sit on that swirling and bubbling a long time. Sometimes years, sometimes days, but if the provocation and threat continues without stopping, I crack and break and the water again rushes everywhere. Sometimes it looks like unstoppable tears and sometimes it looks like moving far away.
To be honest, all I really wanted, since I was a child, was a place to put in roots and raise my family. I am not restless by nature. I am too sentimental to be, really. California was the home I was trying to return to for years, until I came to Egypt, and saw myself living more truly here the life I wanted as a Muslim. I never wanted to move several times. I never even wanted to be married more than once. So many things I didn’t want, but today, can’t change the fact of. I am 42 now, and I just want to find that peace and settlement for the rest of my days, because chasing it won’t be easier the older I get.
Being water has made it easier to adapt to what my life has given me, and respond to it. It’s the foundation of my resilience. And it keeps me going, somehow. But I am really, really tired of being seen as messy, suffocating, and painful.