Crying and ReclamationPosted: April 9, 2014
I am not always strong.
There are times that I experience steep slopes of sadness. This doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, the sorrow arrives as crude, impolite explosions.
I don’t have everything together, no matter what type of confidence seeps out of my writing. I spend most of my time struggling from paycheck-to-paycheck, too poor to actually date should anyone ever ask me out. I’m always in a suspended state of fear that this is all my life is going to be: a lonely existence with a salary that is barely livable. I feel like I’m stuck, and inertia is a type of sin in my world.
Sometimes, I feel like I should just give up and claim my rural White heritage. I will move to some small Southern town and live in a trailer park. Forget my complicated identity. Screw my vast life experience. I am nothing special.
There are days I feel like low hanging fruit.
I write this not because I want sympathy, but because I know everyone else feels powerless and hopeless at times. I need you to know that you are not alone.
I had an unusually bad weekend not too long ago. I started crying spells in the morning that did not stop until eighteen hours later.
Let me provide some context: I had not seriously cried in almost a year. A good weep was overdue. I needed to breakdown.
The first trigger came during a Snap Judgment story based on the documentary, Seeking Asian Female, which is about Steven and Sandy. Steven is a sixty-year old white man who has little money and a thing for Asian women. He isn’t marriage material at all, but somehow, an independent thirty-year old Chinese woman, Sandy, agrees to be his mail order bride. She barely speaks English. Sandy decides on her own accord to come to America for this much older, financially bereft white guy.
I started crying because the notion of a white man with “yellow fever” made me ill. But I also cried because Steven got the little Chinese woman that he wanted. And yes, he grew into the role of an somewhat enlightened husband once he realized that she wasn’t going to cater to him all the time. Sandy wasn’t demure in the least. But what were the odds that this Asiaphile would find a mate? I sobbed because this man’s luck seemed so unfair. Against global probabilities and with racism as a backdrop, Steven found someone to love him.
Will someone explain to me how this works?
I continued weeping because the emotional exhaustion of my daily life sometimes catches up with me. As a writer and storyteller, I want to hear other people’s stories, and most people feel special when someone takes time to listen. In an age of social media, it is rare for people to experience real engagement. I love to provide that moment for others.
No one ever asks me about my stories. I think there is an assumption that I already have an audience. Having readers is not the same as having an intimate companion who wants to know your stories. There is a difference. In that space of emptiness is a frightening form of loneliness that sometimes physically hurts.
I need someone in my life. (These are such hard words to write.) I need someone to hold me. (How uncomfortable it feels to admit such vulnerability in the sentence.) Then I stop to think that maybe Steven felt this kind of pain, as well, and his miracle was this woman who took a chance on him. Perhaps Sandy felt her life was inert in China and she embarked on something risky yet brave.
Maybe Steven was her miracle.
We all need miracles.
I cried the rest of the day and well into the night. These were huge wallops of grief filled tears so thick they stuck in my nose and bloated my face the following day. I felt so powerless and alone that it I imagined Allah didn’t want me anymore. Everything seemed so hopeless. Perhaps I already had enjoyed my allotment of magic and miracles, and now my ration was finished, khalas.
This caustic loneliness and inertia felt like cosmic betrayal. Maybe I’m wrong about my existence. I thought. I’m nothing, really. Maybe I’ve been living in this reality thinking that I’ve got something good going on (Great writing skill! A warm, loving heart!) but that is all bullshit. I’ve duped myself.
There is the hadith that if you take one step towards God, then God will come running. So I metaphorically reached out. I cried, and I waited.
Come on, God, body slam me or something.
And then, I got angry. I mean, really angry.
You know what I said?
What kind of God are you!
I didn’t say this inside my head. I shouted it out loud.
WHAT KIND OF GOD ARE YOU?!?
And you know what kind of answer I got?
We have all had these moments of breakage and spiritual exhaustion, but many of us will never admit to them. We are often made to feel ashamed when we do. I felt guilty even in my sadness, for my life is far better than many people I deal with on a daily basis. I try very hard to practice gratitude, and most days I have great success.
But not all days, like the day I demanded Allah prove His/Her existence to me. Not like those moments when you don’t want to die but you need someone to provide a reason to continue investing in life. We have a right – even an obligation – to embrace our despair. These moments often reveal new possibilities.
These instances make us so small. They strip us from the masks that we wear throughout the day. There is profound authenticity when we are able to be so raw, emotional, and even infantile with God. If we can’t be that naked with the Divine, then we will struggle to be authentic with the other relationships in our life.
Breaking down is to visit our own humility in acknowledgment of our humanity. I once told a friend that I have always burdened my dark tides and transformative moments on my own and with no witnesses. I take pride in this strength. Yet, I admit that I am too small to carry the burdens alone. There is wisdom in this acknowledgment. I want to experience a different type of strength, the kind that allows me to show my frightening vulnerabilities to another person and have them still love me the next day. I want to be there for a companion after their darkness so they know that they are loved.
That is what life is: the distance from God, then the return. Love is the crucible and the cusp.
There is always a return.
Let us hope that there is also always love.
The next day, my face bulged in the aftermath of the deluge. I’ve never had my eyes ache so much after a day of despair.
Yet, my knees fell to the floor in prayer.
Later, I danced in the dark.
Prayer and dancing in low-light settings are metaphors for the way forward.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without words
And never stops at all.
Deonna Kelli Sayed is a Love, Inshallah contributor and a LoveInshallah.com editor. She is a published author and an emerging digital storyteller. Her work is also found at altmuslimah.com, Muslimah Media Watch, and storyandchai. Deonna is currently working on a memoir with support a Regional Artists’ Grant from the North Carolina United Arts Council. To learn more, visit her website, and join her on Facebook and Twitter.