Ramadan Day 28 – One Day At A Time Pt. 2 AKA Advice I Have No Business Giving

 

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Dujiangyan, pictured above, is the site of an incredible venture and is the most traveled tourist site in China (at least by internally). It’s where human beings in 256 BC, hand carved a mountain and developed engineering techniques to build a new water channeling system. It resulted in the construction of a dam that diverted over 20% of the Yangtze River into the Sichuan Province. This simple feat of engineering made the Sichuan region the most fertile agricultural region in China.

It is astonishing to visit, to know what our ancestors created, to know the power of nature and the power of humanity. It was wonderful to visit my mother’s father’s side of the family. My grandfather died when I was young, but he was a civil engineer, who built bridges in France and Laos. Many of his descendants remain in the sciences.

Visiting Dujiangyan – I felt that my breath was supported by history. That is what great places – of transformation – can do to us and for us.

I said I’d write a Part 2 after waxing and waning about a literary contract in yesterday’s post. What can I say – my blood sugar was low? But I really was trying to answer the questions intertwined in Shāʿir’s post, replicated below. It’s been a tough question because it’s deceptively simple, but you just know that there’s so much more there…


 

dear Galumph,

I spent the past month getting to know someone long-distance and we finally met on a blind date.  Prior to meeting up, I felt so certain that this was going to turn into that something that was a game-changer.   I’m trying to follow my gut more and more as I get older and this really felt like a strong gut instinct.  however, upon actually meeting that did not turn out to be so.  beyond disappointment, I feel a bit jaded with this pursuit and my own desire in this sphere.

astrologers of all sorts have told me to be patient.  still, i increasingly wonder if I should chuck this pursuit (as well as the writing career, although maybe that’s a separate question but somehow the two feel intertwined…) and do something meaningful with my life like work in a Syrian refugee camp.  thoughts?

Shāʿir


 

I’m tickled, Shāʿir, at you bringing up astrology and the astrologers’ exhortation to be patient.

As you may know, I only semi-frequently read actual horoscopes, but I love to ask people their signs (not only as a come on), but to immediately assess everything I possibly can about their personality against everything astrology has said to me about their personality. I find it . . . comforting. I also use a personality classification system that’s primarily internal, the enneagram – in other words, it’s the same as how I basically learned Freud’s ego, superego and Id stuff and then occasionally in my head, when confronted by particularly selfish or ambitious people – think wow they’re such a big Id. It’s not like I say that stuff out loud.

 

Gulp. Anyway…

 

Twelve little signs with a whole batch of extras, rising and moon – mercury and venus – Mars and Saturn. There are tons of articles on why queers love astrology. There are people who say it’s generational, racial, etc. etc. You’ll hear I don’t really get it. I’m not like my sign. Yeah, I don’t do astrology. There are a whole bunch of people who call it bunk.

 

I don’t disagree. What is a language to someone who doesn’t understand it or speak it? Gibberish. But to those of who’ve learned the rules, of grammar, of deviation from those rules, how to be creative within its framework – well, that’s all it really is, a way to process, a tool. This one interesting because it speaks to psychology, personality, instinct. It’s also wholly unreliable, like anything that deals with understanding people. That’s probably why I find astrology is the best at dealing with the unpredictable, the unknown, those moments of uncertainty and fear when I know that NOBODY is going to give me an actual answer are when I truly turn to astrology. After break-ups, disappointments, during depression, that is when astrology comforts me the most. Because the astrologer is rarely telling me what to do or how things are going to turn out. The astrologer is telling me I can think about it anyway. Perspective. A place to focus in a world that as Kundera says, is unbearably light in being.

 

It reminds me of the idea that human emotions are less valuable than human thoughts. Think of all the critical decisions people make. For example, perhaps it was which college to attend? If you were so privileged, you could write pros and cons, but then how do you weigh each item? People make lists and lists, but at the end, proportionality defeats the logician in us all. People go with their gut. The FEELING they have about it. A thing that defies sense, control, really anything, and can speak to the divine and the devil.

 

That’s why you can tell a friend all the good reasons to do something or not, but sometimes people just want to hear – I have a good feeling about it. They hold onto that. Remember that assurance, even if it means very little.

 

And as much as astrology can help us understand how other people relate to their signs. For example, if you’re a Cancer (one of my fave signs), I immediately assume that your instinct is to be emotionally private, that you experience strong emotions which are difficult to discuss, that you care a great deal about your home space, that you have a sense of home, that you’re ride-or-die as a friend (loyal), that you will be caring and compassionate, introverted, and that the chances of people hurting your feelings, inadvertently, are probably high. Do my Cancer friends fit these broad strokes? By and large, yes, but astrology has never been predictive of their behavior. At all. I think, what’s interesting is the effect that knowing someone’s sign has on me.

 

For example, I automatically decide to tend to a person’s emotions if I hear they’re a Cancer, but if I hear somebody is an Aries, I assume a certain desire for “success” – a need for external progress, if you will. I often try to help this fire sign in their journey toward an accomplishment, whatever that thing is, as they tend not to spend a great deal of time processing vulnerability. Taurus is awesome because they’re so confusing at first, but when I look through the years, I’ve found that these friends have a unique staying power. They love slower, steadier, and harder. Their adherence to their specific boundaries are often a challenge or a strength, usually both.

 

It’s all about trying to figure out the best way to love somebody, and that’s what a lot of Librans do. I do love my fellow Libras, for the ways in which they love, a strange malleability that can transform relationships.

 

Wait, is this some trick where I’m trying to get you to read an astrology column? Oh please. No, this is an advice column. And advice, as my sage little brother said today, is really about reading about the person giving the advice. You get to know how they think through a situation. He was excited, you see, because he said – can I give your friend some advice?

 

“I’m sure she’d appreciate it. It’s not like I gave her actual advice.”

“No, you’re like telling her that all of life is about doing the work, but I’ve been on a LOT of dates. I do a lot of online dating. I think it applies to her situation.” By the way, this is true. I DO realize that Shāʿir was asking about a long distance situation, which isn’t necessarily the same as online, but I’ll get to it…

 


 

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Boxes … boxes
Are lightly lifted up
As if they are made from air
They turn around and around
They dance with it
They sing sad songs heard loudly in the sky
Breaking the heart of the mountains

They turn and turn
As if they have wings
They fly as if they are dancing
From shoulder to shoulder flying higher and higher
And they drop down

Naked wooden boxes
Abstinent as the death of the poor
It has silenced cries
Eyes dropped down dreams
Smiles have not seen the light yet
With wet faces
With a kiss of a grieved mother.

Coffins … coffins
Gifts
To the luxury wedding of freedom

 

-Maram al-Masri

translated into English by the poet and Theo Dorgan

صناديق صناديق
ترفع بخفة
وكأنها مصنوعة من هواء
تدور تدور
يرقصون بها
يغنون
مواويل تصدح في السماء
تفطر الجبال لوعة

تدور تدور
وكأن لها اجنحة
تطير وكأنها ترقص
من كتف لكتف تعلو تعلو
وتهبط

صناديق خشبية عارية
متقشفة كموت الفقراء
بها صرخات كتمت
احلام مسجلة العينين
ابتسامات لن ترى النور بعد
بها وجوه مبللة
بقبلة أم مفجوعة

توابيت توابيت
هدايا
لعرس الحرية الباذخ

مرام المصري

by Maram al-Masri

as reprinted in Rochford Street Review


 

 

The gay man version of online dating is possibly one of the Internet’s finest evolutions, and my brother’s experience has taught me that I can’t really generalize the dating experience. Everything that has frustrated me about online dating is also what sucks the life out of me when I try to contemplate getting the news. What source is reliable? How to choose? Where is it coming from? For my brother, he’s definitely not just about getting laid, most of the time. He’s using these apps to find love. It’s just that he’s become somewhat of a dating specialist. Different apps for different needs.

 

I already know I’m probably one of the worst candidates to give dating advice. I’ve done a bunch of it, a lot more than the serial monogamist types, but a lot less than my often single status would suggest. In the past, I’ve trended toward flings rather than actual “dating.” Although perhaps that’s just an indication of moving too quickly.

 

That’s why I feel what I can focus on is the idea of the “search” or trying to find somebody. Half the time I feel like actively looking, there’s no point. But I’m also a writer, and I don’t meet as many people as I used to when I was a younger. I know, logically, that it requires getting out there to improve your chances at meeting people. But that being said, the active search is truly problematic.

 

Let me put it this way, one of my dearest friends, and I will call her Calibrate, hasn’t been on a date in the twenty odd years I’ve known her. She always says that she doesn’t date because as a Black woman with a high level of education, her dating pool is extremely limited. She says she’s just not considered attractive (for dating) in too many of her circles. It’s too hard, she says, for her to date because of how damaging is on self-esteem. And, by all accounts including hers (and mine), she has high self-esteem.

 

Truth. I can’t remember the last time I was actively single and “actively” dating, or on searching for somebody, where the dating experience felt like it made me feel wonderful. If anything, I felt insecure, sometimes bored, sometimes horrified. I felt this pressure during these periods to say yes to social things, especially group activities and parties — I didn’t want to do, and I felt anxious when trying to figure out if somebody liked me, or if they were connecting for friendship. In short, it was always a hot mess, and of course I’ve asked people on dates and they’ve said no, but also I think of all the times I’ve hung out with someone and wondered if it was a date, only to discover – along the way – that it’s not.

 

It’s exhausting. Which is why I’m on a dating hiatus. No, scratch that. I’m not on a dating hiatus. I’m on a hiatus from looking. I’m on hiatus from the pursuit. Because the pursuit was doing a number on my head. I was really frustrated with even taking a hiatus. I agonized about it. I kept saying to myself, if I don’t actively pursue dating, then I’ll be alone the rest of my life. On the other hand, saying yes to dating people this past year had brought me more grief then pleasure, or support.

 

And here I want to differentiate between giving up on love and giving up on the pursuit. I still go out socially. I still even flirt if I think someone is cute, but I don’t dwell on it in the same way, because dating has been very disappointing, and I’d rather invest my time and energy on my self. For now. I very much want romantic love to happen, but it’s going to happen without me looking for it. For now. In other words, it’s nice not to react (for a change) to whether people are interested or available or unavailable and just take time for me.

 

I’m sure I’ll change that view, as loneliness comes in fits and starts, if I have the time. It’s all book and baby, settling into the Bay, family, figuring out my home and lawyering stuff, blah blah blah.

 

So here’s what my brother said, “Tell her that I’ve been on a LOT of dates.”

“We got that Justin.”

“No, but you know I used to spend time getting to know people before I went on the date. Like I’d talk to somebody, and we’d chat a bunch, and if it seemed like we were having a good conversation, then we’d meet up. Now, if I like somebody, or even if I don’t, and they just ping me, I ask them to meet up in person. Immediately. At a public place, that’s mutually convenient, like coffee. I don’t really try to get to know anybody first. If they show up, we take it from there.”

“Why?”

“Because when you’re not in person, we start filling up our head with our imagination about the person. How we think they are. Or how we want them to be. But we really have no idea what they’re like. In that relationship way.”

“That’s a good advice!”

“Will you tell her? I mean, you should tell her your stuff too, but mine is really practical.”

 

So there you have it. Dating advice from the galumph’s dating expert who happens to also be my brother.

 

Personally, I think I answered the writing question in yesterday’s post. But, if I’d sum it up, I’d have to say – I don’t know if you should stop writing. I’ve done it, but I came back because it really was harder to stay away. I do know that I want you to believe in yourself. I want you to figure out what you want. I want you to take control of the parts of your life that bring you pleasure and fulfillment, and that don’t depend on other people.


 

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by Layli Long Soldier from Whereas


 

When it comes to dating, I know you’ll meet someone, many someone’s, in fact, and that there are people out in the world who want to date you. Some of them you may have met, some of them you haven’t yet. It almost doesn’t matter, what I say about those suitors. What matters though is that I use this page to tell you about this amazing woman who said something so beautiful to me at the beginning of this year that I couldn’t help but remember it, all these months later, as I write to you.

 

Her name is Terra Bene. I met her the night I did a reading at SOMArts in San Francisco for the opening night of a show called The Third Muslim: Queer and Trans Narratives of Resistance. The show was curated by Yas Ahmed and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. That night was fateful in many ways. Yas and Zulfi helped me engage with being queer and Muslim in a way that I never have before. In their presence and surrounded by the work of the artists who had so bravely contributed to this exhibit, I felt that my writing meant something more than the page. I felt it come alive — as if it (and I) were a part of building community.

I would meet a couple interesting people that night. One of them was a new person who contacted me a couple days later to ask me on a date. Saying yes, eventually, to a date was not a good experience. Unbeknownst to me, however, I also met a guide. Terra Bene, a Cancer, was invited to the show by another friend, and she was new to the Bay. We all hung out after the show. I experienced a link to her, a familiarity that I didn’t understand, and maybe I’ll never know. Understanding the connection matters less to me than what she helped me to understand about love.

 

Shortly after The Third Muslim opening, I left town to visit NYC. Terra Bene and I never hung out, except for twice during group dinners, and the night that she left the Bay back to her home base of Portland. On the way to her going away get-together, she’d given me an ambiguous address, and so I drove quite a ways in the wrong direction, and then arrived much later. The night was at its close. I watched as she drew some Tarot cards with a dear friend of hers M who I’d met once – all of us seated on the bed and talking about our futures. She told me that she was living her purpose. She’d quit her job, and she was devoted to starting her own business where she offered healing sessions – not grounded in discussing trauma or the “blemishes” of the past — but as she puts it about “creating, removing, celebrating, deepening, loving, and illuminating so we can express the thread of our singular life as it serves and weaves with the rest of life – ALL LIFE.”

I confided in her that I wanted to have a baby. I felt very shy telling a relative stranger that very private and irrelevant piece of information about myself. At some point, she talked about her past. She’d been dating a man, and the breakup and possibly the relationship had seemed destructive to her. But, she said that she’d healed completely from it, and the only way that she had done that was by addressing her emotional needs.

 

“How do you know you’re healed?” I asked.

“Because.” She placed a hand on her chest as she spoke. A hush entered the room. “I was heartbroken. True healing means that I know now that I deserve to have the most wonderful love in my life, true love.” She gazed directly at her friend and then at me as she spoke. “I know that I will have that love. It may not be in this lifetime. It may be in the next. It may not come when I want it to come. But, whether or not it comes is irrelevant. I know that whether or not it does, I deserve it. That’s what it means to be healed.”

 

It’s funny what we recall when we speak about love. For me, it’s questions about healing. What is it for you?

 

That night, Terra Bene set a bar for me. Something to aspire to. Something that I realized I didn’t believe, despite the fact that I was dating somebody casually at that moment. I was in a lonely place, and I hadn’t fully healed. I didn’t really think I deserved love.

So I guess as your friend, I can’t tell you when the writing will bear fruition, beyond the process of it. I don’t even know all the heartache and loneliness and loss and disappointments that led you to ask me such a poignant question. I can’t tell you that your work matters beyond work, beyond the fact that your poems, the ones I’ve read, have touched me.

 

I don’t know what to say about going to Syria. I think there’s nothing wrong with going, but I know you do so much good here. And who is to say what the difference between pain here and pain there is? One appears more drastic, but suffering is plentiful and unchanging. Wherever you go, I will pray that your way forward is easy.

 

I don’t know what it is that you’re waiting for.

 

I know the leaves changed.

 

I don’t know what it is that you’re going toward.

 

I know I love you.

 

You deserve to be loved.

 

*

 


 

4.

If I had a harbor in the land

of dreams and mirrors, if I had a ship,

if I had the remains

of a city, if I had a city

in the land of children and weeping,

I would have written all this down for the wound’s sake,

a song like a spear

that penetrates trees, stone, and sky,

soft like water

unbridled, startling like conquest.

 

 

5.

Rain down on our desert

O world adorned with dream and longing.

Pour down, and shake us, we, the palms of the wound,

tear out branches from trees that love the silence of the wound,

that lie awake staring at its pointed eyelashes and soft hands.

 

World adorned with dream and longing

world that falls on my brow

like the lash of a wound,

don’t come close—the wound is closer—

don’t tempt me—the wound is more beautiful.

That magic that your eyes had flung

on the last kingdoms—

the wound has passed over it,

passed and did not leave a single sail

to tempt toward salvation, did not leave

a single island behind.

 

By Adonis

excerpt from “The Wound” from Selected Poems, translated by Khaled Mattawa

 


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