I know it's a tricky title, isn't it? Usually it's self-love we talk about as being without conditions. Well one is a prerequisite for the other. You got to love all of you and you can't until you see it and accept it. And this is me looking in a mirror. I had to put on some good sufi music to make my plunge a gentle and forgiving one, as much as possible. No one said this was easy. Of course I love making things hard, that's one of my specialties. The starker and harsher and more painful it is, the more suffering involved, the more value it has. Having fun? That's a waste of time, your's and mine. I don't mean to mock it, though I'd love to. I do it mostly without awareness. See, I spend a lot of time making people look in the mirror, not letting them get away with anything. And I've always thought that included me, but I may not have been completely straight up with myself. Let me name some of my less savoury parts out loud (you know what I mean). I have violence. I've been violent with my son. I've been unkind to myself. I've tried to get people, mostly men, to rescue me. It's kind of like the way I relate to them. Thing is, lately, or almost as long as I remember, I've believed I need rescuing. Save me, save me. I can't do it alone. I need help. Then I look at myself, and I do most things alone. I have some really good friends, but I spend most of my time alone--even without strangers around. Let me not say most, but half? But let's get back to the violence. I've been agressive, blaming, and really really angry-like teeth clenching and wanting to throw a book at him. His smirk, his dismissal of me, it's so intolerable. Is that a special weakness I have? Do all moms feel that when confronted with their tiny, it really hurt to bring you out of my uterus, children telling them to just be quiet and saying "no, I won't help you; you gave me a choice, didn't you?" I'm sure all moms would be a little hurt, bummed out, surprised, but not all would press their child to the ground and sit on them and yell at them to stop this back talk. And I take my own unhappiness or anxiety or stress out on my son. Often. He either receives it or gets blamed for it. Now I know what my teacher would say: he'd say that unconditional self-knowledge means knowing all my parts, including my more admirable human ones, as well as my divine nature. But let me be sure I'm covering the big uglies, wihout lingering over them or flagellating myself too much. Shoot, I just had a beer and spoke to an old friend of 13 years who lives and teaches in Korea at Seoul University and I think that's all I've got in me for now. Just now, ya Latifa, that you are mahbuba, beloved. And forgive yourself. But I have this old habit of self-blame and bummed-outedness. How can I just give that up to be light and grateful and happy? I'll let you know when I don't need that to be part of myself anymore, okay? with love,
While these entries will have what appears to be only a vaguely marginal connection to Turkish Hands, you can be assured, as I remind myself, that the subterranean connection runs deeper than you or I even know. There is a genetic history running through my veins of more than 200 years, and maybe as long as 500 on my father’s side. Add to that at least 100 more on my son’s father’s side and our combined face to face experience of Turkey for over 12 years, and you will understand that anything I have to say is colored by this heritage. It’s what makes me who I am not, as much as who I am, and leaves me in the position of perpetual outlier and observer. As I sit in a local library in Arlington, VA writing this, I can watch families of bike riders take off their helmets, park their bikes at bike racks, buy yogurt and berry smoothies and play outdoor chess with King-size pieces that you barely have to bend over to move. I’m hooked up to the library’s own wi-fi service so I can blog this. There are people who drove here to eat at one of 15 restaurants, get a massage, visit the theater or have a leisurely Saturday coffee with a friend. I look at this, alone in a library chair, and wonder what my place is out there. I wonder how that fills people up and if I would be filled up if I picked a destination and a place to spend money and moved from activity to activity. I suppose it would because that’s what so many people do.
If this were Turkey, I certainly wouldn’t be sitting in a public library or using a computer attached to free public wi-fi. I might be blogging from an internet café, but I wouldn’t be riding a bike, and if someone daring enough to do so came by, he wouldn’t be wearing a helmet or parking it anywhere but a pole or tree. I wouldn’t be watching people playing outdoor chess, though I would probably be able to watch them having a picnic replete with blankets, aunts, uncles, neighbors, their own grills or kerosene devices, a giant watermelon, plastic bottles of coke and fanta and a bunch of trash that they’ll leave behind because there won’t be a garbage can anywhere in sight.
Do you see what I’m getting at?
In Turkey people would be in groups on their day off, spending the time with food and friends, while in Arlington they’ll spend it alone or in tiny family units and there will be an objective and a goal and consumerism involved. It will be an activity with a clear end time.
Tara Alisbah is a half-Turkish, (dad Bilsel) half American (mom Lorenda) third child of four (Kathryn, Cemil, Nimet) with a son, Eden, and a penchant for digging deep and writing well. Her son is in the 'tween' stages of development and is creating all kinds of learning opportunities for her. Occasionally she is able to laugh about it through her tears.