Diplomacy

Diplomacy

Our oldest son is an actor. When we left Iran, he was five years old. He did not attend school and did not learn to read or write in Farsi. When he chose the path of acting, many filmmakers assumed he would be fluent in Farsi. Growing up in the U.S., we kept speaking Farsi at home and he responded in English as soon as he attended daycare. He wanted to belong and be like his American friends. He did not show much interest in Farsi classes and chose not to attend.

In 2008, he informed us, he was going to be in a short 9 minute film directed by Jon Goldman. The film was about the U.S. Secretary of State, a woman, meeting with the Foreign Minister of Iran, a man in an unknown location to explore the possibility of diplomacy between the two countries after thirty years.

The writer / director had done a brilliant job in showing the tension between the two diplomats. The script was written in a profoundly clever language, to the point, witty and thought provoking.

Our son was playing the role of the interpreter for the U.S. diplomat.

The Farsi in the script was about politics and diplomacy, not ordinary conversation; a vocabulary our son had not been exposed to and had to memorize phonetically. This bright young man was amazing at speaking Farsi at a level he never heard before. My heart was smiling.

The short film received a worldwide recognition for its avant-garde topic, script, superb acting and directing. It was invited to the Paris Film Festival among many others worldwide.

When Jon informed us it was being shown in Paris. I Jumped! I was going to be in Paris visiting my mother, aunt and cousins at the same time.

“We will be there!” I shared with Jon.

Diplomacy was going to be shown on our son’s birthday. I was like a child going to Disneyland for the first time. Our son’s birthday is July 12th and France’s Independence Day is 14th of July. I was going to invite all of our family and friends in Paris to this event and support the film. Unfortunately, it was vacation time for many, and many were out of town.

We went with my mother, a friend from high school and two cousins who lived in Paris. I was filled with joy, happy that my family was able to see Omid’s performance at the festival, on his birthday! Was this all a coincidence? I asked myself.

We met Jon at the theater and met his parents for the first time. The huge theater was full.  It was an occasion to celebrate. After we saw the movie, there was time for a Q & A with the director. I had a few questions yet my French was not good enough to ask questions. I thought I would ask my questions later. Then my mother said she wanted to ask a question. I was pleasantly surprised for this daring woman wishing to speak in a theater filled with Parisian art lovers.

I had the opportunity of visiting Paris many times having relatives there. I love speaking in French. It sounds like beautiful music to my ear.

In 1987, as one of the last things I did for myself before starting a family was living in Paris for three months and attending Alliance Française daily for 6 hours a day. I was determined to learn French.

My limited experience / exposure to Parisians was that like many metropolitan capital cities in the world, Parisians were in a hurry, seemed stressed, extremely well dressed and had an air of sophistication about them. They seemed to be knowledgeable about world affairs and carried an attitude of “better than thou”.

The appearances seemed to be essential and speaking with intelligence was highly valued. One’s way of communication appeared to determine the value of the person.

Before I knew it, my brave mother raised her hand indicating she had a question. Jon, knowing she was my mother invited her to speak. She said, in her broken English, she does not speak French nor English. She wants to speak in Farsi! She continued in English about the glory of the Persian Empire, history of Iran and about the U.S. government’s policies in Iran.

My internal process was of an intense and deep conflict. The struggle was to identify my inner feelings and trying to sort out what was going on within my psyche. On one hand, she seemed like Jane Eyre, the brave girl who spoke her mind, not intimidated by the Ego of those in authority. Part of me was admiring this amazing woman with a 6th grade education. I could see her potential and years of repressed needs and desires. It was like a volcano erupting, no longer able to hold the hot repressed lava inside. There was an opportunity and she took her chances.

Another part of me, perhaps the child in me felt embarrassed, a familiar painful feeling. My inner shame had been triggered. I was experiencing a shame attack. There were memories after memories in my mind of feeling shame related to choices she had made. There were times I wished she was not my mother. She did not seem to be aware of how her words and actions caused such deep pain in my sensitive, fragile heart.

I reminded myself in the darkness of that theater, she is a severely wounded child with untreated trauma in the body of an aging woman. Part of me wanted to act as if I am not with that woman and part of me wanted to salute her courage and cheer for her.

Yes, her comment was out of place. She really didn’t ask a question, she took charge of the place like an ego maniac who wanted to hear oneself speak in a narcissistic manner.

There was a moment of clarity. Yes, I understand where she is coming from. It was Now – or – Never for her to feel like a “Shooting Star”. Her grandson was on the big screen at the Paris Film Festival for God’s sake. Paris, the most beautiful and sophisticated capital of the world. Yes, perhaps she wondered if she had an opportunity to manifest her dreams?

I smiled and felt at peace with myself and with my beloved mother. I reminded myself, I am not responsible for her choices.

Jon Goldman respectfully, articulately and warmly stated he is a filmmaker, does not represent the U.S. government or its policies. I wondered how my life would have been different if I was raised by wise parents with his kind of wisdom.

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Click the link below to view the short film “Diplomacy” by Jon Goldman.

https://vimeo.com/23562755

The Gift

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“Mom, I’d like to invite you for dinner on Sunday for your birthday.” Our daughter said with a warm loving smile a few weeks in advance.

“Thank you my love. I would love to, yet I know you and your husband work hard and long hours during the week and weekends are important to rest, relax and re-energize. How about if we order pizza and will have some time to visit and be together.” I suggested,  knowing how tired they were.

“No, we would like to cook for you! What would you like for dinner?” The love in her voice was priceless. She was thinking of an intimate family dinner, just the four of us having a great time playing games and having fun.

I call her “My Beautiful Aries”. Yes, she was born under the zodiac sign of Aries. Have you seen a photo of a ram? They have big round horns. Have you seen how rams fight in the wild? They bump heads with all their might until one proves to be the victor. It has been suggested persons born under this sign are willful, determined, strong, doers, good planners and basically people who get the job done. It is said Aries are always “right”. Many of them are also private and do not necessarily enjoy being in large crowds. My husband and our daughter, both Aries, have this characteristic.

For them the best birthday or celebration is having dinner with a partner and loved ones in a good restaurant, joyfully quiet and peaceful.

For me, on the other hand, a great  birthday is to invite all of our family and friends to an all day pool party from 11am to 11pm! I absolutely love birthday celebrations. When our children were growing up, we would have 50 – 60 guests, adults and children and big BBQ parties. For me, it was creating joyful memories for our children.

Here is my fantasy birthday. I love family, friends, neighbors, colleagues all coming over on that day with their bathing suits, bringing a dish and a fun memory to share. No gifts. To me, the loved ones are the gifts and spending fun time together is the best gift I can imagine.

After having a whole day in the pool, in the park playing volleyball barefoot, swimming and all kind of games; let the feast begin. A potluck is ideal for me. Growing up in Iran, I did not know about the concept of a potluck. When a host invites guests, they provide food according to the cultural norms; if there were twenty guests, there was food for at least 50 guests. The host honors the guests with the quality and quantity of food.

Then at sunset, I’d love to have a gathering at our recreation room at our community pool sharing funny memories. I always wonder what memories we remember and what we forget.

Then we can have music, play instruments, sing, recite Rumi or favorite poetry throughout the night.

I imagine myself going to bed feeling loved, energized with deep gratitude reviewing the day in my mind, remembering every encounter, every conversation, every smile, every photo and my favorite is a group photo to keep the joy of the day for a lifetime. You get the picture.

“Please come around 3 pm so we have time to play games.” Our daughter suggested.

When we arrived, the couple welcomed us with warm loving hugs, my favorite drink and snacks. There was a big birthday balloon at the chair I usually sit.

“Let’s start the celebration with your gift.” Our daughter said.

I was reading the most beautiful card she had given me. I think she could write cards for Hallmark. She has a gift with words; gifted in expressing her feeling with the most loving, caring and authentic words. I usually read her cards over and over and keep it at my bed for months reading them at night before going to bed, feeling loved and blessed. Her words send a warm fuzzy feeling down my spine.

“OK, I am ready” I said. I would have liked to read her card one more time.

Our son-in-law came down the stairs with a big tall box wrapped in beautiful wrapping paper with birthday balloons.

“OMG, I wonder what this is. This gift is taller than me!” I was trying to guess what it could be, nothing came to my mind.”

While she was at my side inviting me to open the gift, my husband was ready with his camera to take photos and our son-in-law was videotaping. I thought they knew how much I love taking photos and videos. I felt loved and honored.

I opened the present. It was a top of the line vacuum cleaner! I started laughing “How did you know we needed a vacuum cleaner so badly?” I asked our daughter.

Now, when it comes to being a homemaker, I am domestically impaired. I find every excuse possible to delay the necessary cleaning to the next day. There are always more important things to do while cleaning is never urgent to me. It has been a challenge to find quiet, undivided time for me to write the many stories I’d like to write. I have a whole list of them waiting to be written. I am well aware, the best time to write a story is when I am touched, moved and inspired by an experience. If time passes, the quality of the story will simply not be the same. I am aware of the difference. How can I possibly clean when my soul is filled with joy to create a story with a healing message for the soul?

I have a wooden board in our living room. It says “Live now, Dust later.” There is usually dust there waiting to be dusted. When our daughter visits, she starts cleaning like a tornado, vacuuming and mopping while she puts a load in the washing machine.

Homemakers know, where you have carpet, there are areas of “high traffic”. My husband would have loved to have Martha Stewart or someone like her as his partner in life. He loves a clean and organized home. He chose a light beige carpet for our home. It was beautiful at first. However, a light color shows dirt immediately.

On Saturday, the day before my birthday, our daughter and son-in-law were coming over to go to a concert at Verizon amphitheater; an outdoor concert hall.

We were going to picnic on the lawn and lay down to hear Beethoven and Rimsky Korsakof’s Sheherzad under the sky.

I was cleaning all day. I made a special effort to clean the carpet with a heavy industrial foam. The instruction suggested to let the foam dry, then vacuum. Our vacuum is old. When they arrived I shared about my attempt in cleaning the carpet that needed professional cleaning with high power vacuum cleaner.

Now, seeing this vacuum cleaner, I thought our precious daughter was responding to my domestic need. She knows shopping is the last thing I wish to do.

I was laughing hilariously trying to express my appreciation for a well thought, much needed, practical gift of a vacuum cleaner.

“Why don’t you open it?” our daughter suggested.

I started opening the box thinking she would like to teach me all the features of the vacuum. I am also IT impaired, enjoying items with only on/off button.

I opened the box, there was no vacuum inside!

There was another wrapped box inside. Oh, the actual gift was put in the vacuum box. How clever!

Now, I was really curious about this gift and all the effort they had put in this gift. I tore the wrapping paper. There was a big box that was mailed to them, taped, something they had ordered. What could it be?

I was now like a child filled with joy and curiosity opening the box. The tape was hard. The package was well wrapped. Was it a china? A fragile item?

I opened the box. There were protective plastic bubbles on top. Then I saw a book with a photo of me from the blog. A photo, our oldest son had taken on my 60th birthday.

Then I knew what the gift was and tears of joy came down. My heart was pounding. I was in a state of bliss. I went to our daughter, hugged her tightly for a long – long time, crying with the most joyful feelings of gratitude. I felt that was without a doubt one of the most beautiful moments in my life. A lifetime dream had manifested for me by them.

I couldn’t let go of her. Yet I needed to express my endless appreciation to our son-in-law who was still taping me. I hugged him tightly. I felt no words could express my inner feelings. My hope was perhaps, he would feel my deepest love for him in my hug. In that moment, my life felt to be the most meaningful.

My life dream has been to put the stories of my life into small books. I love reading and I love holding a book in my hand to read. In the time and era of advanced technology, I feel old fashioned when it comes to reading a book. Writing my life stories started long ago. For several years, I talked about my longing to put them in a book, self-publish, even if it was only one copy. However, I did not act on it.

“How many hours did you spend on creating these three books?” I asked after a couple of hours of processing my high emotions.

“We needed to download each story. The first twenty went pretty fast and then it slowed down.” Our son-in-law, an Aerospace Engineer, was explaining the long process in a simple way for me.

“For the past few weeks, he has been working on this project every night and way into early mornings on the weekends.” Our daughter shared.

“Many nights, I went to bed at midnight and he stayed awake for hours to be able to complete the project on time.”

I was speechless. I am well aware of the daily challenges they both face at work. For the past month, every time we invited them to come and have dinner with us after work to save them some time to rest; they declined. They said they had so much to do at home. Our son-in-law works for a private firm and we were told he had to bring work to do at home.

“There has been185 posts on the blog during the past three years. How long did it take to download them?” I knew it must have been over hundreds of hours.

Creating a table of content and pages was time consuming.” She explained.

They had made three beautiful, custom made books of all the stories, each about 250 pages. Each book had a cover of photos related to some of the stories. The photos were exactly what I would have chosen. How did they know?

The young loving couple had been paying attention to the longing of my soul, knowing I did not have the IT ability to do the job.

Thank you for manifesting my lifetime dream.

I have the three beautiful books next to my bed.

The intention is to read a story every night as if I am reading them for the first time.”

Farewell to my Uncle

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It was Sunday August 7, 2011. I called my mother in Tehran as I usually do on the weekends and heard my uncle, her oldest brother passed away the night before. I had a strong urge to write and have closure today thinking another day I may not have the energy, courage, passion  or be in the mood to write the story. My memories of him is limited. They are mostly from my mother.

My mother who is in her late 80’s was sharing about him.  She had mixed feelings, remembering how hurt she was by her brother all her life, yet feeling sorry for him passing all alone in the hospital knowing that nobody wanted to do anything with him. Her most  immediate concern was the burial and funeral, feeling responsible and wanting him to be buried with honor, in style, keeping “face” among the family members.

After I hung up the phone, a river of mixed feelings and emotions went through my mind. I had difficulty identifying my feelings and part of me felt a deep compassion for someone who lived to his late 90’s and passed on alone with no one feeling any sorrow or feeling of loss for him. Part of me remembered how much I was afraid of him growing up and how I did not like him for hunting deers. I recalled the stories I had heard from him that made me feel hated him at some point. I have two different stories about the same person, as a manifestation of duality we we all experience.

The story I heard growing up was that he was a tough, active boy who did as he pleased.  A challenging boy for his parents. He was the second child and the first son. They lost their father when he was 11 years old. He became the “man” of the family at a young age. I guess, his mother unable to manage him placed him in a military school. He dropped out and started working to support the family. They said he did well financially as an adult. He bought a few trucks with a partner and started a business in transportation. During World War II, he imported sugar and was financially well off. I heard from my grandmother she lost her health because of this son. My understanding was she had no power to be a parent to him. She felt powerless and helpless trying to please him and prevent the “volcano” from erupting. He had a temper. She said when he came home from work; they immediately brought him his lunch in a tray. If everything were not perfect, even something insignificant, he would throw the whole tray in the yard, frightening everyone. He was described as a “tyrant,” a punitive king at home intimidating others.

Some of the stories I heard from my mother, the youngest in the family, perhaps 10-11 years younger than this brother, are heart wrenching. She shared he intentionally scared her as a little child, sending her into a dark basement to bring drinking water. Then he would frighten her in the dark by creating scary noises and making her believe a ghost like entity was going to get her. My mother, was extremely traumatized and to this day she is afraid of the dark. She has many severe phobias and is unable to be alone. She shared  as soon as the sun is going down, her heart starts racing and pounding as if it is coming out of her chest, a reaction to an unresolved trauma.

She said when she was in school; she needed a small amount of money for school supplies and asked her brother for money, he teased her to the point of making her cry. When she was in 6th grade she had a final test in her home economic class. She was to bring a piece of fabric and demonstrate making stitches and a few other things. She needed a few coins like a nickel or dime to get the fabric. Her friend came to pick her up and go buy the fabric before taking the final exam. My mother went to her brother and pleaded with him to give her a coin before too late for the test. The brother started teasing her and her friend in a manner that sounded sadistic to me, making fun of them and laughing as my mother was crying her heart out. She was hoping she would still have a chance to make it to her class and be able to graduate from elementary school. I wondered when and how he lost his conscious.

She said one time; she was in front of a mirror, age 13 after finishing 6th grade putting a ribbon in her hair. The brother saw her and decided it was time for her to get married!! It seemed he wanted to be in charge of his sisters’ lives and give them away before they could possibly develop a voice or interest of their own. My mother married at 14 and became a mother at 15, a child bride.

I remember I was afraid of this uncle without knowing why. He acted like a king and spoke with high authority, expecting his orders to be carried out immediately.  When I was 2 ½ years old; my parents went to Sweden and left me with my maternal grandmother who lived with this uncle . I have no memory of this stage of my life.

When he was coming back from his hunting trips, he proudly showed the lifeless bodies of deers in the back of his truck. To me, as a child, the deer was my beloved Bambi. He talked about how at night they aim the headlights into the eyes of the deer  to mesmerize them, unable to run away, an easy target.  I remember feeling a deep sense of pain within me, seeing the bodies of the beautiful deers and somehow emotionally, I could relate to them or see myself in them.

My middle aunt is a courageous woman.   He put a gun to her chest and ordered her to marry a man. My brave aunt said “you can kill me if you want. I will not marry that man!” She described him as an “empty tyrant” acting and roaring like a tiger, bluffing like a bully. Yes, I had wondered if he felt powerless as a child and became a bully. Perhaps,he did have a heart.

He did not marry until he was an old man. He lived well and there were always parties at his home with women who were described as prostitutes, alcohol, music, and dancing every night. He loved to drink vodka, yet seemed to control his drinking. I wonder if he was an alcoholic. My younger uncle drank himself to death, a true alcoholic. This uncle entertained friends his whole life and wanted all his guests to have a grand time.

When he was older, he married a woman for the first time, expecting her to take care of him. He treated her like a servant. I was happy he finally had a partner in life. They did not have children. He worked in the tobacco industry, was a smoker and when retired bought a nice place with land and a creek going through it. I remember having many gatherings at his home making kabob in the yard. We were frequent guests at his home on the weekends. He seemed to know how to enjoy life. He had a great sense of humor. When the birds were singing in his backyard, he would say he had hired them all day to sing and entertain his friends. He also brought me snacks, mixed nuts and fruits when he visited our home.

When his wife passed away, my mother invited him to spend a few weeks at their home. She thought he would have a tough time being alone at home. I think they saw him crying for the first time. I wrote him a few letters, he never responded. I wonder about his ability to write. He stayed for seven years, was demanding, expected her to serve him like a king, demanding a fresh meal three times per day, never considering the left over. He wanted to invite his buddies over to drink and expected my mother to serve as a woman should serve the man of the household. I remember my mother being frustrated and angry, wishing he would leave respectfully. She could not ask him to leave. She was serving him and my father, two kings in the same household.

She helped him by renting an apartment for him since he did not want to go back to his home. He was asked to leave the place because of many female visitors and frequent parties. He rented another apartment and broke all ties with the family. As he aged all of his friends passed on or left him. Only a few women, who were interested in his savings, visited him.

My mother at times visited him and took him homemade meals. I got his phone number and called him a few times. Amazingly, he was alert, with good hearing and great memory. He was pleased I had called him from America. He shared no one calls him. I made an attempt to ask him some meaningful questions and getting to really know him. It was difficult on the phone. I wish I could ask him many questions about his life and our family. I was not hopeful to have a meaningful conversation, yet I thought there is always a possibility of healing for everyone.

The most difficult issue about this uncle for me was that I heard that he might have had sexual contacts with children. The issue of sexual abuse of children has been a challenging issue for me as a clinician and a human being. I guess I will never know for sure. I do suspect he may have violated the children within the family. I do not have any memory. He had access to me when I was two years old.

I had a psychic reading at a health fair. I was informed an uncle crossed my boundaries and it is time to release, forgive, and set myself free. She used the word “evil” describing this uncle, who had caused pain to many. I thought to myself, this woman knows nothing about me, meeting me for the first time and is giving me specific information I had suspected by the symptoms I have observed in my life. Her reading was not an intelligent guess or a general statement. This was not the first time  I was hearing about the possibility of this uncle having violated children.

I remembered I started writing this story immediately after he passed on. I asked myself how come I never finished the story? What was the barrier? Am I in denial? Am I not accepting of a painful experience? Am I hopeful that it may not have happened to me?  How and what can I write in the absence of any clear memory?I am aware of the symptoms within the family. Most of my family members are chemically dependent, experience anxiety and depression, and are on medication. They are numbing inner pain using substances. The symptoms are evident, although, the secrets may never be revealed.

It is time to release and let go. He has been gone for four years now. The past no longer has any hold on me. I release this uncle with love and pray for his soul to be in peace. He repeated the cycle of violence and most likely did to others what had been done to him as a child. I do remember one time he said he was placed in military school at age 12. He said he hated it and escaped when the orphan boys were brought there. I wonder what had happened to that young child in an all boys’ military boarding school. I wonder if he was damaged beyond repair and lost his conscious as sometimes happens with severe trauma early in life. About ten years ago, I asked him about his father and he used the foulest language to describe his father. He seemed full of anger, hate, and rage.

It is time for closure and release. I am aware of my compassion for the young innocent boy who was most likely abused. May his spirit rest in peace.

An invitation to anyone who may have been neglected, mistreated, shamed, or abused as a child, to be gentle, mindful, kind and patient with the recovery process. The possibility of release, letting go and freedom becomes a reality when we are ready to acknowledge our inner pain to a trusted person, express our feelings to open the soul for recovery and consider forgiveness as a step to personal freedom. It has taken me over six decades as a psychologist who actively work on myself daily.

No one can touch your spirit.