Loving after loss (Part 2)Posted: November 9, 2012
I woke from deep slumber with the gray lights of dawn peeking in. I had fallen asleep in the middle of President re-elect Obama’s acceptance speech. Though the East Coast was celebrating, in California we were still waiting to see the turnout results come in on some heated statewide propositions.
I groggily snatched my bedside smartphone, and scrolled through my twitter feed. At 5am, the only people reporting were Obama-thrilled East Coasters or people overseas. I finally found what I was looking for. The local NPR station reported that we had won on Proposition 30. State government wasn’t going into crisis mode. Relieved and with a pounding headache, I buried my head under my covers and fell back asleep.
I found myself climbing a set of stairs inside a house with my civic engagement team from work. There was an atmosphere of elation, and bright pinks and blues. We were discussing going to an Election Day celebration party and I told them I’d meet them there – I needed to change. Still in campaign attire, I was in no condition to celebrate.
I wasn’t sure what house I was in but it looked vaguely familiar. Like I had lived here before, once, in a former life. Maybe as a child, when life was colored in brighter hues. I wandered through a loft, where a pile of cute Election Day toddlers giggled happily. I wanted to stop and play, maybe even keep one. But I had to keep walking through the labriynth of the house.
I walked into an open space where an Deshi party was happening. I could tell because everyone was dressed in their finest attire, and people looked happy, sitting quietly, or eating biriyani, plates on their laps. It felt like Eid morning. Of course they were celebrating – we had just won an election.
I scanned the room. My dad was sitting to the side. I recognized a couple of girls sitting at the table as childhood friends. I wanted to join the party but knew I had to change, so I ducked out. I saw my Mom sitting on the sofa, smiling to herself. I walked behind the sofa, meaning to tell her that I’d be right back.
And then it clicked. This was a dream. And this was my Mom, who passed away last year. She was visiting me in my dreams. Or was she? It didn’t feel like she had been sent to me in this one, it felt like she was just a character to my adventure. But I reached over her shoulder and grabbed her hand.
I gripped her hand with all I had. “I don’t know if this is really you, or if this is just a dream version of you. But I need to tell you I miss you,” I said.
Her hand felt so real. It was calloused and meaty. It was rough, the way I remembered it. And it felt real, though everything else was blurred and dreamlike. She didn’t say anything or acknowledge what I said. But her hand gripped back. Her touch was the most real thing about the whole dream, reaching out through the fog.
“I don’t know if you’ll hear this. But I just need to tell you that I miss you so much.” I broke down in my dream, gasping and crying.
I woke up, breathless. It took a minute for me to realize that I was awake, and it was the day after the elections. It took a second more before my pillow became soaked in my tears. I was weeping like the day she died.
It probably was a terrible idea to jump into working an intense campaign within months of my mother dying. It also was probably a terrible idea to fall in love with a younger man with a child that I met ten days before moving to Los Angeles. It was probably a terrible idea to find myself in a new (old) city again with no close friends to lean on as I healed through grief and a broken heart.
But here we are, the day after Election Day. And I survived. Bruised, broken and tattered. But I’m still here.
We have a black man as a President, for the second time. We passed Proposition 30; California remains partially sane. And I ran one of the biggest campaigns of my life – with 13 languages, 288 volunteers, and 18 different community partners.
But was it worth it? Professionally? Yes. I’m at the point of where I feel pretty confident with my niche skill set and I’m grateful that my organization trusted me to run a campaign with no real limitations. But personally? I dunno. Every day-after-election-day I swear I’m never going to do another campaign again.
When things used to get hard on campaigns, I used to call my Mom. Most of the time, I wouldn’t even have to call – she’d just call me, her intuitive sense kicking in. I wouldn’t tell her what was going wrong, or what was making me upset. I didn’t have to. She was my mother. She just knew. She could hear it in the crack of my voice, or the curtness of my words.
Campaigns are hard with long hours, tough tactics, and little time to focus on yourself. I think she knew why I did this work, that I wanted to make the world a better place. But it wasn’t until later in my life that she begin to accept that civic engagement was what I wanted to do with my life, not as a hobby. She couldn’t always understand what I was doing, but when things were hard, she was always there for me.
This was my first campaign since 2000 that she wasn’t here for. It broke me.
But something else also happened. I was able to slowly rebuild a community of radical desis and Muslims in Los Angeles. I was able to find comrades in my work. It was incredibly lonely, but I found people that I could reach out to. And, thanks to the internet, I was able to maintain constant contact with the people I couldn’t see regularly.
I painted a little. I drove to the San Francisco Bay Area when I could. I made lots of guava jam. I even found time to read. And finally, I think I’m ready to write again. I have no confidence that I can find my voice again, but I want to return to it in a way that I can’t remember feeling in the past 3 years. Luckily, the support network I’ve found here is creative – the misfit writers and renegade radicals who will help me nurture the space to write and create, I hope.
So, thank you. To everyone that sent an email, text, IM, tweet, FB post. To people that showered me with love and concern. People that took the time to pull me out of the phone bank and have a conversation with me. People who fed me. People who volunteered at our phone bank. People who let me cry on their shoulders.
I needed that, especially since I didn’t have Mom here anymore. In an odd way though, I feel that maybe she sent each one of you, with that IM/tweet/email/text/soup. Maybe that was her way of reaching out for me from where ever she is.
Thank God we won. Let’s move forward, in whatever manifestation that may be.
Tanzila “Taz” Ahmed is a writer, community organizer and policy researcher based in Southern California. She founded South Asian American Voting Youth (SAAVY), and is a contributing blogger at Sepia Mutiny.com where she writes about pop, music, politics, and anything tied to a Desi identity. Her writing has been featured on The Nation, Left Turn Magazine, Angry Asian Man, MTV Iggy, Taqwacore Webzine, Wiretap Magazine, Alternet, PopandPolitics and has been published in the books Mirror on America and Storming the Polls. She also has two self-published chapbooks of poetry, Secret Confessions and Diamond in the Rough. She is currently working on a memoir about her journey on finding purpose, love, poetry and familial revolutionary history.