Life in a Conflict Zone
This blog has been a space for me to share my life on the road with the people I love. It has also served, a few times, as a virtual copy of my journal. There is a part of me that tries to edit out the misplaced optimism that so often graces the writing I put out publicly. I write in the same way I live. And for me, sadness goes hand-in-hand with closure. Conflict with catharsis. And despair with hope. So my words often come out rosy. My thoughts come out clean and pure.
I am glad for this aspect of both myself and my writing. If there is sunniness brimming from inside, I’m glad it demands to be shared and catalogued in my writing. But, there is a part of me that feels like a wolf adorned grandma’s clothes. There is part of me that longs to share all of my truths - even the ones that aren’t easy to swallow. As much as I want to send positivity out into the universe, I also want to send the truth. And the truth isn’t always rosy, no matter how much we may want it to be. Here is my account of life in a conflict zone.
You will share your home, and sometimes your bed, with uninvited rodents and cockroaches. You will feel your house shake when sound bombs are dropped from the sky. You will be woken up by gun shots from night raids. You will forget what it feels like to sleep soundly.
You will collapse on the floor of your bedroom after a long day more times than you ever thought was possible. You will collapse from exhaustion. You will collapse from exhilaration.
You will have days where you feel like you are, for the first time in your life, a well adjusted adult. You will feel good about your accomplishments and the weight of your soul. But, like an older sister who lets you hang out with her at home but reminds you how uncool you are in public, a conflict-zone will keep your ego in check.
You will constantly sit in gratitude as you maintain an awareness of those who have so much less than you ever could have imagined. This will keep you up at night in amazement. This will keep you up at night in anger.
Your bones will become accustomed to anxiety. You will be acutely aware that everyday in this place is just another day in a place nobody will ever hear of. You will feel earth-shattering emotions that this is, more often that not, truly the case.
You will learn more about religion than any textbook or university lecture has ever taught you. You will learn about Islam, Judaism and consult your own religious upbringing for guidance. You will start to believe again.
You will, unavoidably, have left your heart in in the last conflict-zone you temporarily called home. You may have left it finger-painted across the walls of the mosque where you sat and wrote in your journal. Or, you may have left it in the open hands of a man. Wherever you have left it, you will feel the cold pin-pricks of dread on your skin when you turn on the news and hear of a new bombing, attack, or insurgency group in your former home.
You will not understand. You will fluctuate between hope and despair, endearment and fury, wide eyed observation and guilty observation. You will feel the inevitable disillusionment that comes with all of this. You will wonder if you can find your way through the confusing swamp of damage these feelings have brought you. You will wonder if you will be strong enough to dog paddle to shallow waters. You will be.
If it really is all energy, which I believe it is, then of course, the things you long to see, the things you cannot un-see, the new music that surges through your veins and the sounds that haunt you in your moments of quiet all matter. They matter to you. They matter to who you are, who you are becoming and who you once were. You will forget this. But you will be reminded of it on one of those nights when you collapse from exhilaration.
You will learn to say ‘yes’ with lightness. Have one more cup of chai, think about one more idea. You will remember to linger and look at the morning light, and work to find the light more easily in the first place. You will learn that tomorrow will always be kinder than today.
Move away from the learned instinct of using others to bring you back to the surface when you feel down. They cannot. They may not know how to, or, they may not want to. Or most likely, they may simply not understand why you need them to. Don’t blame them. Forgive them. And love them anyway.
In the meantime, what can you do with yourself, knowing that you might be holding the flag-pole of your cause alone, without the understanding of the ones you love the most? You can write. You can internalize. You can think and you can learn to be strong enough to bare the weight of your own causes. 'Relaxing with loneliness is a worthy occupation,' after all.
The first time a loved one reminds you that you chose to feel everything you are feeling by ‘moving to a place like that’, it will break your heart. The second time a loved one doubts that you will finish your contract, it will break you heart. It will break your heart every time. You will learn that the decision you made to be in this part of the world was a trade for your ability to express feelings of doubt, fear, or anxiety freely. Love yourself, your decision, and your loved ones anyway. Know that without experiencing the moments of awe, exhilaration, gratitude and growth, they will never understand. Bare the weight of your own causes. And when your back needs a break from this, write an old-fashioned penned letter to the hands you have left your heart in and revel in the way it makes the knots in your back disappear.