[S1, E1]Healing the disease of aloneness / going Home: I made a vow of silence

A {Birth of a Hakim} Multimedia Series


You can listen to or Read [S1E1]‘I made a vow of silence’

This lifetime, I made a vow of silence.

A vow that would protect my life and those I love.

I am soul full of stories that can cut like the sharpest sword, like a tongue made of obsidian precision. Stories that can make or break a life. And I hold them.

I made a vow of silence because, for this lifetime, living long was more important than dying young. And that has not always been the case for me, for other lives.

But with silence comes great sacrifice: I live with the disease of aloneness.

There are three kinds of stories eating at me inside.

There are stories you may never hear. Stories I wish I could share but they will die with me protecting those who’ve risked their lives to keep me alive.

There are stories I’m afraid to share. Stories that will stretch what you know to be truth - yes, even the most magical of us that respond with ‘try me’. Stories that can make you question my sanity and maybe even yours.

There are stories that are yet to be revealed to me. Stories I hear when I’m listening at the interstices of silence, time and bones. Stories that are waiting for me, for us to be ready for them.

Yes, telling a story is medicine. And sometimes it is poison.

And sometimes the poison is medicine. And sometimes the medicine is poison. And most of the time I’ve been confused and aching to understand the difference. For every story holds with it immense responsibility.

I learned very young that telling a story is a privilege not afforded to many. And in most parts of the world that I lived through growing up, telling a true story is the difference between life and death.

Sometimes you want life and sometimes you want death. Sometimes telling a story is an act of great courage. Sometimes keeping a story is an act of deep love and survival. One thing is for sure, especially when the stakes are high… you have to know what you want.

You have to know who you are and what you came here to do.

You have to know your truth.

My Jedo said: “the question is almost never “what should I do?” the question is almost always “what do I really want?”.

Wanting is dangerous. That kind of timeless desire is dangerous. The clarity of wanting is what our enemies fear the most. It is our desire that made us alive - that makes us come alive. That makes us refuse to be controlled. That brought us to this earth with an encoded purpose we are meant to live out. When we know what we truly desire, we are free.

“Do you know what you really want?”

Because in our deepest wanting there is only love. And everything else will be consumed by a truth that dissolves into the greatness of whole, the bigness of love.

I know what I want.

I want this big, timeless dangerous love. I want to heal the disease of aloneness.

I want to go Home.

How do you go Home when you cannot tell your stories?

How do you make Home when you cannot trust?

Betrayal is the end of us. The revolutionaries. The wild ones. The genius of who we are is often killed by those we are closest to, those we are fighting for, those we are dying for. And ultimately, we learn to betray our truths in the name of survival. We become our truth’s most vicious and insidious abusers.

My family knew the price of betrayal blood deep.

My Mama said: “only time knows the truth - look (palms up signaling to her own life marked by unforeseeable betrayal) -, walk slowly and cautiously.”

I made a vow of silence and sometimes it feels like a slow walk to my death.

The words of my Papi looping in my ear as I left him for the first time: “trust no one. You are not at home.”

I understood what he meant. Like all revolutionaries. With all his genius and his wildness. Our wildness. We were not seen. We were not known. We were feared and ridiculed. Sometimes revered and sometimes despised. We were dangerous and threatening. Necessary but sacrificed. We were never safe. We were not at home.

As a kid, he would often tell me: “I’m not from here you see. Do you think I’m from here? What do you think... since you’re a genius and all?”

And even though I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by ‘here’, I knew what he meant. And I may tell you or I may not. Let’s see how the stories unfold...but one thing is clear.

He was here to remind me that we, We, the wild ones, were never at home. That is what makes us wild.

We are those destined to be ostracized.

Sometimes destined to our early public ends causing ripples of awakening.

Sometimes destined to be unknowable so that we may be invisible, protected enough to complete the work.

But one thing is certain: we are here to search and know ourselves with unwavering clarity.

Destined to roam the lands in search of our truth beyond the confines of an illusory, collapsing sense of at-homeness. One that holds no depth or rigor. Or most importantly, one that holds no love. One that restricts life for all.

I was destined to inherit, biologically, ancestrally, spiritually, this disease of aloneness. And I know, it is the key, the clue and even the gift to finding my way home.

Where I come from, the very idea of home is a luxury.

A home that would hold us whole and free is not even a potential dream -- it’s never been and may never be. At the dinner table, we may romanticize a distant past for the glory of a good story, a temporary balm for our wounds... but we all know its deep dysfunction.

I was raised on a healthy dose of leftist, ‘third world’ cynicism. “We tried. I tried so many times to fight for my people” my Papi says “Nobody’s worth it. Leave.” he continues with a bitterness that clenches his throat.

What happens when everything you’ve done amounts to almost nothing. Or worse, betrayal.

I’ve heard the stories.

They tried to be free. To be sovereign. To be in love with the nation but the nation betrayed them. Because true love is fragile. And what they thought was Home was decaying at its foundation, under their feet.

Lilo always tells me, a cigarette in her mouth: “What were we fighting for anyway? You’re doing the right thing. Get out”

I’m in our small living room on the plaited couches, counting down the days when I go West across the Atlantic. My Papi sits one leg stretched on the table, the other folded by his hip, wearing his night robe and a white kufi over his baldness: “Everything I have done is to see you do this today. I want you to leave all of this behind. I know you can’t be you, here. I know that. I raised you…” He pauses to contemplate the doom he had conjured. “Don’t look back. Keep your eyes forward. Don’t worry about us. You know where we are headed (he goes on his now typical political rant about the slated demise of our nations under capitalism). Maybe you can make Home there. Be free. I did all this for you. Be free”

I held the salt of my eyes in my heart. Waiting for him and my mother to be out of sight past the airport corridors. I often found my father’s requests totally absurd. Like he had forgotten that I was his and my mother’s child. That they had raised me to fight for us, all of us. To love the nation despite and through it’s betrayals.

He, out of anyone knew this story, my story very well. He had left his nation to study in England some 30 years before that day, running from betrayal but for a range of reasons ended back up in its peripheries. “I wish I had the opportunity to go to Amerca instead. I would have been a Quantum Physicist!” he often told me. “But now look, my wish has come true. God brought this scholarship to you for a reason. Don’t question it.” (he signals at me with a trembling hand). My father, with his unusually high IQ and limited social prowess. My father, a man beyond his time in mind and soul. A man who had taught me to believe in magic, in my magic, but often wished he hadn’t been born to this kind of earth. One that was undeserving of his love.

I am a zero generation, queer, brown immigrant. My tongue sliced four or five ways. My body Diasporaed twice and constantly. The stories of my origins erased many times over.

I step off the plane in San Francisco after 48 hours of travel, only to find that the promised university bus meant to take me to campus had already left and wasn’t coming back. No one checked for me.

I went to the information desk dragging 2 instruments, a duffle bag and 2 suitcases. A black woman sits in a swiveling, squeaking chair. She asks me: “are you ok?”

Me: Yes, thank you. I think that my bus left though.

(We talk. She confirms that she thinks she saw it leave.)

Her: Where are you going again?

Me: Stanford

(She picks up the phone for the loudspeaker)

Her: Anyone care to help this young man who’s going to Stanford?

And through the fog of my mental haze, I hear a voice from behind me.

Him: Hey, you’re going to Stanford?

(I turn around and it’s a young Arab man with a sweet face, kind water-filled eyes)

Me: Yes.

Him: I’m Abir, I’m Kuwaiti, I’m a junior (extends his arm out to shake) and... I have a car. I’ll take you, let’s go.

(He grabs my duffle bag)

And despite the words of my father, to “trust no one”, I heard a soft whisper, the one I hear when I most need it and has never failed me: “trust him”. So I went.

I stared out the car window onto what looked to me, with third world eyes, like the most pristine structures and flat roads — and towering, assertive buildings peaking through a reddish fog. We small talked but I was dazed. I was overwhelmed by the sense of feeble and empty opulence. The overpowering stench of deep loss was palpable, unable to be masked by its modern facade. We were the living consequences of this greed abroad, there’s no way it could hide from us.

We got to campus by the dorm. Abir points over to the entrance and says:

Him: Did you call your mother yet?

Me: No, I need to get a calling card. It’s too late now right?

(The darkness had settled and there was no moon to be found that night. He opens his glove compartment and hands me a fresh calling card)

Him: Yallah, take this. I’m sure she’s worried. There’s usually a pay phone right outside the dorm.

Me: Thank you, really. Thank you.

Him: You’re gonna be ok. I’ll see you around.

I walk over with my caravan of bags. I reach to open the door and it’s locked. I knock, louder and louder. There’s no one there. On my left, there’s the payphone. I lay down the bags into a mini-mountain and walk to the phone.

I call my mother.

Me: Eh alo, ma…

Mami: Alo, Samia, harab ‘albeh!

Me: The flight was delayed mam…

Mami: why, shou sar?

Me: they had to deplane us for security reasons, twice. They had to go through our stuff.

Mami: Are you ok?

Me: yes ma

Mami: how was customs?

Me: secondary check for a few hours.

Mami: what did they ask you?

Me: It’s nothing ma. We’ll talk about it later. I’m ok.

Mami: Did you eat?

Me: yes ma

Mami: Where are you?

Me: I’m inside the dorm mami.

Mami: are you settled?

Me: Yes ma. Go to sleep. I’ll call you tomorrow.

Mami: Ok habibeh, bye. bye…

We hang up. I try knocking on the dorm entrance a few times. It’s deserted. I’m too tired to be angry. I look over at my mountain of bags. Twenty minutes in now, I resigned to making myself a bed. I’m sitting with the memories my mother shared with me many times of her brother, her cousins, my father. The leftist men that fled during the Lebanese civil war for fear that they would be tortured or killed by their enemies. “When they got to Paris, they slept on the street with their bags for a week before our cousin came to get them” she laughed “some of them didn’t even speak French yet… at least you speak English” kindly reminding me of my great and true privileges before I left her.

I lay down the big bags first, my backpack as a pillow. I stare into the night sky. At least I can see the stars and that’s a sight. I look around, “It’s so clean out here”, like it’s not real. How did I, a generation later, after all the sacrifices of my parents, end up right back here sleeping on the street on top of my bags in this damn place. I call out “somebody come get me, I’m not doing it like this -- you told me to come here, I’m here but I’m not doing it like this”. Well… at least, ‘I speak English’.

Not a few minutes passed and I hear the door squeal open. The R.A. pops his head out and says “hey, are you trying to get in?” I stand up quick. “Yes”. The RA asks for my name and goes “No one told me you were coming. I wasn’t supposed to be here, I just came down to check on something -- I almost took the other door out”. No one had informed him I was coming. A convenient oversight. What happened to the 10 forms I sent in about all this?

I drag my bags one by one up the stairs into the second floor dorm room. The room is northern California cold in September-- shit, this is California? I look around at the empty room with a twin bed and no bedding. I make a pillow with my sweatshirt, pull out my jacket as cover. My stomach is screaming. I grab half a man’ouche my mother carefully wrapped in aluminium foil. I feel the salt water slide down each side of my cheek, mixing with my man’ouche bite. What was I thinking, coming here?

Of all the losses I had endured, none felt like this kind of internal breaking. The rotting smell of decay caused by manufactured diseases that glorify aloneness. You know it’s severe when the poison of aloneness is advertised and bought as a medicine, as supposed freedom.

I thought I was alone before. All the derision, bullying, ostracization, life threats, the threat of war, the intimate violence and crossroads I had been through -- this was somehow worse. No one warned me how much worse it would get at first.

I am the stranger that knows of other places so broken but nothing was more broken than this place, here. Convenient, comfortable, clean but deeply broken. It was an insidious kind of broken that had forgotten it was so.

But this was my destiny. To meet the ugliest, most insidious face of the disease of aloneness. At its core.

Fast forward 13 years>>

After several years of healing and a year of initiation, after my skin was peeled over and over and over again. All the way down to the bone, past the bone and into nothingness.

All that was left was this core truth: I have been and still am living with the disease of aloneness.

I have been surviving, not living.

In an Ifa life reading, my Godmother looks me in the eyes and says: “you’re suffering due to severe loneliness. Nobody knows how alone you feel”.

It soothed like an overdue medicine.

In that specific moment, I felt so incredibly seen and revealed. I’d heard bits of this before but not like that. I knew she had seen me, that part of me, because the words poured from her eyes into mine, cut through the noise of everything in my head and I was suspended in time. I was suspended in a truth I was trying to deny.

Someone had seen the depths of me, inside, inside - that part where nobody goes. The pain that held all of who I was together. Yes. I feel so deeply alone.

It was that simple. It was quiet now, inside my head.

I had walked into this life a deep lover. A life destined to explore and heal this disease of aloneness. A life destined to question, understand and re-imagine Home. Make Home at the most profound level. A more beautiful, wonderful Home.

But how quickly we forget what we come to know. Two long years would pass before I would realize again and again and again: the pain of aloneness had painted every single aspect of my life.

Every single thing I had done, out of love or out of fear, could be traced back to that pain. Every destructive pattern I was investigating. Every unfit relationship I had prolonged. Every song I had ever written. Every moment of panic and anxiety that took me over the edge and made me wish myself dead. Every fear-based decision I had made under the pretense of staying safe. Every word I had written. Every mentor I had met. Every woman I had loved. Every thing.

For years, I have been living with the disease of aloneness.

For years, I have been trying to go Home.

For years, I have been keeping this vow of silence.

And now, I am breaking my vow.

This is a Birth of a Hakim series: Healing the disease of aloneness / going Home by Samia Abou-Samra.

Thank you for witnessing Season 1, Episode 1: I made a vow of silence.

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Also, my Godmother in Ifa who’s mentioned in this piece (and myself) will be having a conversation on The Power of Life Purpose from an Ifa / Orisha perspective on Thursday 06/13 @9pm EST / 6pm PST — you can sign up here if you’re interested.