Saturday, October 16, 2010


My birthday was last month. It was on a beautiful and sunny Sunday with the temperature in the 80s. I was determined to have a good day. I went to a BBQ with some friends at a park. What I enjoyed the most was playing with my friends’ three-year-old son. He was such a happy child full of energy and life. And he had the most adorable face being half white and half Hawaiian. He had big round brown eyes and red hair. He was at first shy of me and hid behind his dad when I tried to talk to him, but within a couple of minutes, he ran to me, pulled my arm and made me run with him on the grass and play with him. The urge to pick him up, kiss and squeeze him was overwhelming.

As I watched the children play, I thought of my two miscarriages, and my heart ached. If my babies had lived they would have been 9 and 7 years old. I keep track of the years and try to imagine what they would have been like at different ages. I have grieved those losses and have come to term with them, but sometimes I can’t help be reminded of what I have lost.

I didn’t feel much emotion about my birthday until the next day. Monday at about noon, I came across a piece of writing that really upset me. All the thoughts that I had pushed back resurfaced. I saw my life as meaningless and empty. I thought of what I had expected my life to be like and what it actually was. I thought of all my futile struggles in life and all I had not been able to achieve. I thought of all the people who have hurt me, and how gullible and vulnerable I have been. I thought about all the times that I felt used by different people. I thought about all the times that I trusted people when I shouldn’t have. Sitting at my desk at work, I started to cry. Life seemed really ugly to me. It seemed like a burden, a burden I could not get rid of. I remember thinking, “Some day it will all end, and I’ll be free”.

Half an hour later, I checked my email. Don, a man that I dated briefly about 3 years ago, who lives in Albuquerque, had sent me an email wishing me a happy birthday. I read the email and started to cry again. I replied to the email with an emotional response, telling him that I felt like a failure in life explaining to him all that I thought was wrong with my life. Everything poured out of me, totally, unfiltered. I felt comfortable telling Don how I felt. I guess, through our conversations over the last couple of years, I have come to feel safe with him. This is a major change considering during our very short time dating, I concluded that he was a superficial man wanting to explore as many women as possible, which would not have been difficult for him to do, since he has GQ looks, is an educated professional and intelligent. When we ended our very short relationship, I thought, “I will never see or hear from him again”, but nine months after the last time we had spoken, he called me one night from Albuquerque. He said that he has thought about me from time to time and wanted to be in contact with me. When I told him how insignificant he had made me feel when I last saw him, he apologized to me. We have stayed in contact since, and I have come to know him better. My opinion of him has changed.

What ensued from the original email were a series of emails going back and forth between Don and me for the next few days. In his first reply, he listed all that he thought I had going for me. He wrote, “You are not a failure! You are intelligent, beautiful ... Don't live in your head so much. You are your own worst judge.” He was right. I analyze everything too much. I think about everything too much. I judge myself too severely. In the next email I wrote, “My being "intelligent, beautiful…" hasn't brought me much happiness." He responded, “That is because you don't trust the validity of the experiences those qualities bring you. We heady people screw up most in the moment. Perhaps you should and be more in the moment.” I have always had a hard time living in the moment. Our correspondence helped me move on from the place that I was stuck on emotionally. Don made some good points using his own life experiences. By the end our week long communications, my outlook towards my life had changed. Yes, my life has not been what I had expected, but what I have has a lot of good in it. I am grateful to Don for taking the time to help me sort through things. He gave me all the assurances that I needed in order to feel better about myself. Despite all appearances, I am very fragile emotionally and struggle with life constantly. I often feel like I don’t know how to live and how to make sense of my life. Almost nothing in my life has turned out the way I wanted. On the outside, I may seem happy and confident, but often that is just on the surface.

So, after that Monday, I decided to live in the moment and try to enjoy what I have. I planned a series of activities for myself. Tuesday night, I got together with Vince. I had not seen or communicated with him for about a year and a half. I decided that it would be fun to have a conversation with a very smart and intellectual guy. Vince is a very interesting person to listen to. He is articulate, contemplative, well informed and discerning. He puts ideas and concepts into words in such a poignant way that I sometimes want to say, “Say that again, I want to write it down.” It is enjoyable to listen to him.

Wednesday morning, I had a meeting at 9:00 AM. I tried to leave my house early enough to get to the meeting on time. I would have been on time if the traffic on I-25 wasn’t so bad. At about 8:45, nervously, I called my boss to tell him that I would be a few minutes late. As I was approaching downtown Denver, I got in the right hand lane, which is only for buses until 9:00 AM. The traffic was bad, and I didn’t want to be too late for the meeting. As I was speeding in the lane that I should not have been in, I was pulled over. I thought, “Now, I’m going to get a ticket and be very late.” The police officer was a tall African American man with broad shoulders and dark blue eyes. He was striking. After a brief conversation, I gave him my driver’s license. I was sure I was going to get a ticket. I was at fault, but I decided to relax and not dwell on it. I was more concerned about my meeting. While the officer was checking my driver’s license, I put on my makeup. A few minutes later, he came to me and said, “You just had a birthday.” I said, “Yes”. He said, “How was it?” I said, “so so”. He said, “Why just so so?” I said, “I don’t know, just life.” He smiled and gave me back my driver’s license. I said, “No ticket?” He said, “No ticket.” I was so happy that I could have kissed him. This was the first time in my life that I was stopped for a traffic violation and didn’t get a ticket. I said, “thank you” and drove away carefully. I got to my meeting 30 minutes late.

Wednesday at noon, I went for a long walk at lunch. It was a beautiful day. I tried to be mindful of the beauty of the nature around me and the warmth of the sun. It was a pleasant walk. On the way back, when I was standing behind a red light, I noticed a nice looking and well-dressed man in his forties looking at me on the other side of the street. He continued to look at me as I crossed the street. Once I got to the other side, he got close to me and said something funny. I laughed. He then took out a business card from his wallet and introduced himself. He said, “I’m a lawyer. I practice Family Law; if you ever need my services or if you just want to go to lunch you should call me.” He exuded confidence. I looked at his left hand; he was wearing a wedding band. I said, “But you’re married.” He laughingly said, “Yes, that ring is a chick magnet.” I said, “I don’t think so” and walked away. This was the second time in the last couple of weeks that some married man had hit on me. Trying to remember all the things I’m grateful for, one more thing came to my mind. I’m grateful that I’m not married to this guy. I thought of his wife and felt sorry for her. I could not handle being married to a man who cheats.

On Thursday, another beautiful sunny day, I went shopping during my lunch hour. I went to my favorite store in downtown, The Loft. I love that store. They carry a good selection of petite sizes, and all the clothes in my size always fit me perfectly. It is as though, their designers used my measurements to make their size 2 petite. I found several things I really liked. I was so happy, I cloud not contain myself. I looked great in everything I tried on! For one hour, I was in a shopping coma; nothing else existed in the world. I had no other thoughts except to see what I looked best in. I was perfectly happy, didn’t need anything else, didn’t notice anyone else. Life in that little dressing room was perfect. I felt loved by the world or at least by the clothing industry. I do love those designers and manufacturers. They make me happy. This shopping experience was therapeutic. I, totally, lived in the moment. I lived in the hour! Five items of clothing and $230.00 later, I had no regrets. I was exhilarated. Walking back to work, I thought, “Shopping, clothes, shoes and accessories make me so happy. How did Mother Teresa wear the same habit decade after decade?”

A side note, after mother Teresa’s death, the text of some of her letters and diaries were published. They revealed that she struggled with feelings of abandonment by God for nearly fifty years until the time of her death. She had a spiritual experience, in 1946, which she called the "the call within the call". This experience led her to dedicate her life to serving the poor. But for many years after that, she felt disconnected from God and struggled with faith. She wrote, “Where is my faith? Even deep down ... there is nothing but emptiness and darkness ... If there be God—please forgive me. When I try to raise my thoughts to Heaven, there is such convicting emptiness that those very thoughts return like sharp knives and hurt my very soul ... How painful is this unknown pain—I have no Faith. Repulsed, empty, no faith, no love, no zeal, ... What do I labor for? If there be no God, there can be no soul. If there be no soul then, Jesus, You also are not true.” When I first came across such writings of Mother Teresa, I was surprised to see how she struggled with faith. I was not disappointed. I think we all struggle with faith from time to time, but by the life she lived, I thought that she probably always lived in the state of knowing and believing. What is referred to in the Baha’i faith as “Certitude”. She was more human than I thought. She had her struggles just like the rest of us.

Thursday evening, I went to some networking party with my friend Lisa at a restaurant called “Little Europe”. The owner was from Ukraine, and the food was mostly Russian, and it was free that night. My job doesn’t require me to do any networking, but I went mostly for the free food and hanging out with Lisa. I met several people throughout the evening. One was an older heavyset man, named Frederico, from Chile. He owned a translation company. I told him that I have done a lot of translation from Persian to English and vice versa. He got my number to let me know of translation jobs that may come up. We talked for a bit. He said, “I love Persian food. You will have the key to my heart if you cook me Persian food.” I thought, “I don’t think I want the key to your heart or anything else you might own.” I told him that one of the authors that I like is Isabel Allende who is from Chile. He said, “Oh, I don’t like her. None of her work is original. She just imitates the style of the great Latin writers. Literary people of the Spanish language do not respect her.” I was somewhat disillusioned. About ten years ago, I read 4 of her books that were translated to English. I thought she was a gifted storyteller. She writes historical fiction, and her stories are well researched and fascinating. I had read some Latin American literature before reading her books, so I had noticed some similarities. She uses “magical realism” in her writing, a style of writing originated from Latin America. Listening to him, I wished I knew Spanish so that I could read and find out for myself. As I expected, a couple of days later Frederico called me to ask me out on a date. I told him, I gave my number to him for translation work not to go out with him. I told him I wasn’t interested in dating him. He was polite and told me if he had any translation jobs, he would call me. Of course, I know he won’t. That wasn’t why he wanted my phone number in the first place. I get asked out by guys that I would not even consider going out with a lot. It gets frustrating at times.

Friday morning, as I put on a pair of pants that I had just bought, I thought, “I hope my butt looks good in these pants.” When I got to work, Andy, the young man that I work with sent me an instant message saying, “I know you told me not to give you any more compliments, but you look really hot in those tight pants.” I thought, “I guess, I don’t have to wonder how my butt looks in these pants.” The reason that I have asked Andy not to give me any compliments is that all of his compliments have a sexual undertone, and that makes working with him uncomfortable for me.

Friday night, I went Swing dancing. I learned the East Coast Swing a few years ago, but I hadn’t gone dancing in a long time. That night I had the most fun I had had in a long time. The place was filled with people who were serious dancers wearing dancing shoes and clothes. As I started to dance, what I had forgotten came back to me. I danced with Dave the dance instructor who taught me the Lindy Hop. Once I learned the steps, I was able to dance with him in sync. As we moved in perfect harmony with each other and the music, I laughed. I became aware of what I was feeling. This was “joy”. Something I hadn’t felt in years. I tried to hold on to that feeling for as long as I could. I wished that I could freeze that moment. I danced with a lot of different people that night. It was really nice to dance with guys who knew how to dance well. Everything would fall into place naturally, and I was able to follow their lead easily. There were some really old dancers there. After all, Swing is a very old dance. I danced with guys in their sixties and seventies. At one point, I danced with a guy who was about 80 years old. He looked very frail. When he asked me to dance I thought, “I hope he won’t have a heart attack while we dance.” He didn’t. He had very strong arms. He pulled and pushed me into different moves and led me into sophisticated turns. He was a good dancer.

Sat. morning as I was getting ready for my day, I was listening to a program on NPR. It was an interview with an author. He read a piece he had written about his struggle with cancer. He was first diagnosed with cancer in his twenties. Now, at the age of 46, cancer had come back as the result of the radiation that he had received to treat the cancer when he was in his twenties. He explained that what had to be done was the removal of one arm and one shoulder; the area invaded by the cancer. That was the only treatment possible. He had written about trying to get used to the idea of not having an arm and a shoulder. He was trying to visualize it in order to minimize the impact of the loss when it finally happens. As I listened, my heart ached for him. I kneeled and put my forehead on the floor. I cried and prayed. I asked God to give him what he needed in order to go on with life, to give him strength. Then I thought of all the suffering that exists in the world. I remembered that my nephew who is in his twenties is battling stage 4 Lymphoma. He will have to receive radiation after his chemotherapy is finished. He could be going through what this man is going through later in life. I thought of the story of the concentration camp survivors and the unimaginable and abhorrent cruelty they went through and witnessed. An image came to my mind; a picture I saw at the Holocaust museum in Israel. It was of a teenage girl in one of the Nazi concentration camps. She was skin and bones, barely able to walk; two people were holding her arms so that she could stand upright. She was looking straight at the camera. She was one of the human guinea pigs that Nazi doctors used to perform experimental surgery. She was standing next to a hospital bed. I remembered the story of a Tutsi woman in Rwanda, a genocide survivor. In a documentary that I saw a few years ago, she explained how her husband and two children were killed in front of her. Then she, who was pregnant at the time, was imprisoned and raped daily for about four months. One day, she begged one of the men who was about to rape her to not do it, at which point, the man stabbed her in the belly and then raped her. Months later, she gave birth to her child alone and sick in a field. Unable to take care of the baby, wild dogs surrounded her and ate the baby alive. I have often wondered how she continues to live; how can one go on with life after such experiences. I remembered more of other people’s sufferings. We live in a cruel world. Life in the US is so amazingly comfortable and good compared to so many other places. As I laid on the floor crying, I felt ashamed about complaining about my life. Much has been given to me in ways that I take for granted. I have been spared so much. I could have been the Tutsi woman in Rwanda. I could have been the girl in the concentration camp. I could have been so many other people dealing with extreme suffering.

That morning, I spent a long time thinking and acknowledging all that I have in my life. I thanked God for all that I have received without deserving. I thanked God for not testing me beyond my abilities. I, also, decided that I’m not going to be attached to my ideas of how things should be. That has caused me a lot of misery in life. It has stopped me from enjoying things the way they are, and things are good a lot of the time. I think the happiness that we, often, dream of is mostly an illusion. It is a mirage. It is a fantasy.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Never Let Me Go"

I saw a movie last weekend at the Esquire movie theater in Denver. It was called “Never Let Me Go”. It was a British movie based on the book written by the Japanese born British writer, Kazuo Ishiguro, who is also the author of the novel “The Remains of the Day”.

The story is a very powerful and emotional story told masterfully. It is the story of an enduring love in very unusual circumstances. The lives of the characters are described and their emotions are expressed so poignantly that it is impossible not to identify with the characters.

The story, also, takes the subject of Genetic Engineering beyond the intellectual realm. It forces the viewer to consider the human aspects of what we may someday be able to do. It raises some serious ethical questions.

This was the best movie I have seen in a long time. It is deeply moving and thought provoking. Time magazine named the novel the best novel of 2005 and included it in its “TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005”.