We Fill a New Space

Flowers from our garden

So, I did it. After half a century of life, I finally worked up the nerve to invest in my first home. I gave up thinking it would be purchased for me. I stopped thinking of waiting for the perfect State to live in. Economics prodded me. Our apartment rent increased annually, and, literally, taking on a mortgage was cheaper. So, I did it. I must admit I was scared to death, terrified actually. I still am, but on a smaller scale.

All my life I thought this magic enterprise of purchasing a home was simply too difficult to understand. The mystery of it intimidated me. Fortunately, I found a realtor whom I could trust and he took me step-by-step through the process, pointing out the risks and realities at each turn. He helped me to understand what I was getting into and gave me pointers for how to handle things as they came along. Also, my well-practiced sister, who has purchased properties and businesses left and right, gave me valuable guidance. I felt so supported.

I couldn’t leave this State as my mother’s healthcare and doctors are so established here, I thought it would just be better to stay. I narrowed my search to locations that were central to the places I most often go. It was difficult. I couldn’t afford the cost of nicer homes and those homes within my financial range needed too much work.  One day I looked a bit above what I thought I could afford, just to see what those houses actually looked like. Amazingly, I found the perfect home to meet our needs, in an ideal location.

Lantana in our garden

We walked through the front entrance and the tall ceilings and bright sunshine cascading in captured my heart. The arrangement of rooms was perfect. What more could I hope for? The price was higher than I had hoped to find, but would still place me paying less than what we had been paying for rent for a smaller apartment. Then the long, nail biting process of inspections and offers and counter offers began. At one point, I felt rather hopeless. Who was I kidding? How could I ever have a home? For years, we moved from state to state and even abroad and back several times and it seemed with each shift, we had to start over again. But, God blessed us this time. I am so thankful! I suppose you could say the home and I are still on our honeymoon.

We’ve been here six months, but it feels as though we’ve never lived anywhere else. It’s so odd how that happens. We filled a space, blended into a rhythm of coming and going and interacting. Then, suddenly, we shifted to a new space. At first out of place like liquid falling into a glass, bouncing and splashing, pressing on the sides to snuggle finally into its new confines. Well, we’ve snuggled and I love it here.

Now, I look back and wonder why I felt so intimidated in the first place. It made me realize that the most terrifying things in life are those shrouded in the unknown. Death, for example, terrifies us because we really don’t know what happens after that. Is that it? Or is there something to come, some heaven or hell or reward or retribution? The unknown of it fills our hearts with dread. The secret to leaving fear and gaining confidence is to expand knowledge. Now when I feel afraid or anxious, I take a deep breath. I tell myself, God wouldn’t expect of me what I cannot handle and I start researching till my fears are quelled by what I learn.

It’s been a while…

The self-doubt hole

I’ve been distracted. I’ve been busy. Actually, that’s kind of a fib, or a half truth, or slightly inaccurate and misleading. The real reason it has been a while is I fell into the hole and the key to getting out was convincing myself there was even a purpose to having a blog and putting my thoughts out there for total strangers whom I’m convinced don’t even bother to come and see what I’ve written, much less read what I’ve written. And why should they? Of the gazillions of blogs out there, why in the world would anyone want to read what I have to say. Sure my family might visit my blog out of curiosity. But aside from them, who really cares? What’s my purpose anyway? It just began to feel rather presumptuous of me to expect that thousands of people would even give a shiitake.

That ever present hole of self-doubt which I painstakingly hid under the runner next to my bed, although hidden continued to grow till one evening I simply fell deep within it. I couldn’t for the life of me get out. The rug had fooled me into thinking the hole was contained, out of sight and too small to cause harm. But it had grown there beneath the fibers, laced and intertwined into colorful patterns of harmless and effervescent daisies, so that as I stepped on the edges green and earth-toned, I slid down, runner and all, into an abyss, deep and debilitating. Once there, my every effort to climb upward met resistance, slender, ivory talons clawed and cajoled  sucking me deeper.

Self-doubt is a powerful foe, perhaps the worst foe ever. It feeds itself so that each time I revisit it, I find it more powerful than the time before. It is the kind of foe that can only be conquered head on; and even then, perhaps only confined. Even in the wildly successful, it has a home in a forgotten space, a corner down deep where it lurks and festers, peeking and poking. The only recourse is to confront it and perhaps accept its companionship. It’s there. It will always be there. But I needn’t fall in.

Actually, that is all on the creative front. In my real world, I have been busy, providing ample excuse to forgo using my in between moments to write. I moved into a new home…a first home, actually. I’ll give more detail in another post. I’ve been writing curriculum for high school learning modules, time consuming stuff. Also, my mother has slipped further into her mind and we were forced to start hospice for her, which I will address in still another post. Do you care? You, nebulous imaginary reader? We shall see if you do.

Change the Rubric

Ordinary Cake
young boy listening to teacher
New school, new teachers, new friends

My entire life I’ve felt unsettled. Is there something wrong with me or is that how everyone feels? It didn’t help that we moved seven times before fifth grade. Each move tinged with the excitement and possibilities of new friends, new teachers, new adventures. But the excitement soon wore off, fluffy frosting on top quickly devoured, leaving ordinary cake behind.

At home, whichever home we resided in, my father kept long hours, hiding away at work or in a bottle. My mother slipped off to her ‘office,’ pencil and paper pad in hand, etching stories, graphite on white and dreaming of author fame. One by one my elder sisters bolted. The eldest scarped to illegitimate motherhood, exchanging school and future for hazy ganja plumes. The next with high school diploma in hand went off to college like a good girl; but an unexpected pregnancy sealed her departure. She did eventually snag a husband, forming an instant family with his two children. A glimmer of hope there, but her tireless efforts could not extirpate his escapades, ‘research’ into his field of study, perhaps, being a Psychologist with specialty in sexual addiction.

Free to be You and Me
brightly painted hippie van
Free ride, free thought, free-dom on wheels

The next two girls in line blended into hippie crowds, free to be you and me, peace baby peace, galavanting across the American continent by thumb. That left two of us to fend. Then, the last before me slipped into the cycle. Her reputation preceded me. In my transition to high school, I worked as hard at my studies as I did at eradicating the image she left behind. At every turn unsettled, always scraping to deal with baggage I didn’t earn, but somehow inherited. I looked hopefully to adulthood assuming then I would finally be in control.

woman waves hello to her husband and son
Role Playing Father Knows Best

But, I had been mislead. I had allowed myself to be mislead. As a child, in black and white, I watched old episodes of Father Knows Best, Jim reclining in a chair, newspaper in hand and Margaret standing by his side. How can that be? Was that perfection? My experience couldn’t measure up. Then, there was Leave It to Beaver. Ward and June managed their family with ease, a team, cool, respectful…and so happy.  I watched. I laughed. And deep down, I calculated, measuring my lack. Those relationships appealed to me. They were simple and logical. The characters fit together easily, puzzle pieces snug in their places, confident in their belonging. A nice formulaic approach to life, school, job, marriage, home, kids, and eventually retirement. Bewitched, The Waltons, and Little House on the Prairie further confirmed my musings. The expectations I developed dazzled me. By the time I grasped that these were constructed families, the damage had already been done.

Change the Rubric

Barefoot woman standing in a muddy pit
A Muddy Pit Before Me

No wonder I always felt unsettled. I lived my life comparing it constantly to what I thought it should be. In some ways, I suppose that is not such a bad thing. But the models I had placed in mind were not real. They were fabricated relationships. Someone wrote the plot, another filled the script, and actors played the roles. It’s good to strive, to aspire to something better. But only so long as you can still maintain gratitude for what you have. Rather for me, my lack stood an open, slimy pit before me. A space of deep dejection in which to wallow. A pit of my own creation, where my expectations romanced reality, but found they were incompatible. I needed to change the rubric by which I assessed my life and learn to let go, or…sink.

Letting go meant understanding that there is no control. As social beings, we can affect by tireless effort, but, even then, we are not entirely in control. So long as we live socially, we need to interact, delegate, and rely on family, friends, and community. But, we can’t control any one of them.

Women stands looking down trying to make a decision
I Can Choose

I can only control me.

I can prepare.

I can choose.

I can be satisfied with my life. Expectations are just expectations. They are not reality.

My Daughter

As I place the dishes in their space, and the cups in their space, I think of her. I sort the forks, knives, and two sizes of spoons. I have a system for how I put them away. Designed for efficiency. Why do I need to be efficient about this? Why do I try to be efficient about anything I do? But I order steps in my mind and whiz through them in such a logical fashion, like driving to a place you drive everyday and, at one point, lost in thought, you realize that you’ve arrived and honestly, you don’t remember how you got there. That’s how I put the dishes away.

I send a kiss and a prayer to her. She always replies quickly, but in a few syllables, then finished. Simply, “I love you.” Her response has closed the door. If I initiate with a further question, I imagine her annoyance sizzling through the inactive screen, a groan and an ‘ugh.’ So I conjure what she may or may not be doing. I look at the clock, 8:30 am, and consider what I know of her schedule. I think, ‘She’s at work…behind a desk, her face staring into a computer screen, designing pages for strangers, attending to their wishes.’  Sometimes, I send a kiss, a prayer, and a ‘how are you’ in one swoop hoping to initiate conversation. But her reply, “I love u …fine,” leaves no room for further chat. I close my heart and turn to other things, back to chores, to cleaning dishes, setting the meds, and making cream of wheat for my mother.

She doesn’t miss me like I miss her. I know this because I did pretty much the same. Busy in school and work, I only felt my own immediate world, not my family’s anymore. Although I didn’t have a message system nor a communication device snug in my pocket, I did have a phone. At that time, our conversations  connected by squiggly wires hooked to sockets in the wall, rooted us to one space. Still I couldn’t see beyond the radius of me, myself, and I any more than she does now.  Understanding that doesn’t make it any less painful.

My heart is empty where she resided. I walk through my days and my routines feeling a shadow of an ache, just there, behind today’s chores–a soreness that happiness can’t relieve. In that space, all my hopes of our future together twirl and bow in a frenzied dance of dreams, thousands of scenarios that never came to be…possibilities.

Masi’s Little Girl

Story Background


In the Urdu language, the word “Masi” means “maid.” In Pakistan and India, an entire workforce of Masis come from outer village areas to the larger cities to earn money. Masis are so numerous and inexpensive, that even lower middle class families can afford their services on a daily basis.

For the most part, Masis are uneducated women who have lost their husbands, whose husbands are unemployed, or whose supplemental income is necessary to meet the family’s needs. They carry a load of houses that they visit daily. They perform a number of duties such as sweeping, wiping (mopping), dusting, washing clothes or even sometimes cooking, etc. They sweep using a jharoo, a long brush with a handle. To use it efficiently, Masis squat and sweep with it horizontally across the floor. They wet wipe the floors with a large rag. They often wash clothes by hand.

Most Masis do not have a formal education, but they are capable businesswomen, nonetheless. Although public school is free, school books, supplies, uniforms, and tuition fees can be costly. Consequently, if a Masi has sons, she may try to apprentice them for specific skills of butchery, carpentry, construction labor, baking, or tailoring, etc. If she has daughters, she will likely train them to be Masis, too. When it comes time to marry, being a skilled Masi with an established clientele is a highly valued asset.

Interestingly, most people do not know their Masis’s name. Or, if they are aware of their Masi’s name, they still call her “Masi.” And so, an entire workforce of human beings exists whose personal identity is synonymous with their trade. Of equal notice is that as disinclined as people are to know their Masis’ by name, the Masis also show little interest in revealing their names.

Masi’s Little Girl

She had short black hair and a bright smile. Her clothes were worn and faded. She took her slippers off at the gate and walked about bare-footed.

“Who is she?” I asked my mom.

“That is Masi’s little girl. Why don’t you play with her in the garden?”

“Does she know English?” I asked.

“No, honey,” my mother replied. “She speaks Punjabi like her mom.”


Masi’s little girl ran around in the grass. She picked a rose from our rosebush and smelled it. I took off my slippers and ran over to her.

She smiled.

I smiled.

She giggled.

I giggled.

She gave me the rose. I still have it. I pressed it in my scrapbook.

Each day, Masi brought her daughter so we could play. We followed Masi around and watched her work.

Masi swept the floors with a jharoo. We swept, too.

Masi wiped the floors with a wet cloth and water. We wiped, too.

Masi squatted at the outside faucet and washed our clothes by hand. We kicked about in the soapy water as it flowed from the faucet to a flowerbed.

When she hung the clothes to dry, we stood under them. The drips were raindrops. Cool kisses of relief from the suffocating heat.

One afternoon I asked my mom, “Can we go to Masi’s house?”

“Masi doesn’t have a house, sweetheart. She lives in a hut.” My mom answered.

“But a hut is a house.” I said.

“I suppose you’re right,” said my mom hugging me. “But Masi’s hut is different. She has a home far in the center of Punjab, but she comes here to the city to earn money. While she’s here, she finds an empty space and with branches and clothes makes a temporary home to live in.”

“Oh…I see,” I said; but I didn’t.

“Can we go there?” I asked.

“Maybe…someday…we’ll see…,” my mom mumbled. I knew what that meant. When she mumbled that usually meant, ‘not likely.’

One day I climbed up on the bed and cuddled up to my grandma. Her breathe smelled of sweet anise and betel nut. “Dadi Jan, does Masi’s little girl go to school?”

“I don’t think so.” She answered.

“Why not?” I asked.

Dadi Jan sighed, “Because Masis usually raise their girls to be Masis, too.”

“What is her real name?” I asked.

“Whose real name?”

“Masi’s real name,” I said.

“I don’t know.”

“What is her little girl’s real name?” I asked.

“I don’t know. I never thought to ask her.”

The day we were leaving, I saw Masi’s little girl for the last time. I showed her my suitcase. She liked it. We ran around the garden. This time I picked a rose for her. I clipped it to her hair.

Before she left, she smiled and said, “Bushra.” I did not understand. She pointed to herself and said, “Bushra.”

“Oh,” I said, “Your name is Bushra.”

I pointed to myself and said, “Sara.”

Bushra slipped dusty feet into her slippers and left with her mom.

When I hugged Dadi Jan goodbye, I said, “Dadi Jan, Masi’s little girl’s name is Bushra.”

The next time we went to Pakistan, that Masi and Bushra were gone. They had gone back to Punjab. Another Masi replaced her. But I have never forgotten Bushra. I wrote her name next to the rose I pressed in my scrapbook.


The More I Read, the More I Defined Myself

I Found Me in Books

Young girl sees herself entering the pages of a book
In a book, you can be anything

Until sixth grade, I lived in an unaware haze. When I try to remember me then, all I see is fuzzy and undefined. It was that first year at Rockford Elementary School, that my mind woke up, primarily thanks to an incredibly understanding and inspiring teacher, Mr. Bakke, and a wonderful, fellow student, Linda Nistler.

Linda was the smartest girl in our class. I envied her blonde hair and pretty blue eyes. One day she led me through the wall dividers that separated our three sixth grade classes to an enormous floor to ceiling bookshelf.

tall  library bookshelf full of books
First time I remember seeing so many books

“Do you like to read?” She asked.

“I don’t know,” I replied. “I’ve never thought about it.”

“How can you never think about reading?” She asked. “Reading is so much fun.”

Linda pointed to a shelf, gliding her fingertips across the book spines as though each and every one indeed belonged to her, “This is the Hardy Boys series, if you like mystery.”

She pointed to a row of books on the shelf beneath that, “This is the Babysitter’s Club.” She stuck the tip of her finger onto the top binding and tilted book number seven towards herself. “I’m on book number seven. Why don’t you start at number one? If you read fast, you can catch up with me and we’ll read them together.”

My First Book

Linda pulled book one from the beginning of the row and placed it in my hands.

“But, I warn you. I read pretty fast, so…”

The implication was clear. Linda did not think I would ever catch up to her. Neither did I, frankly.

“There must be hundreds of books on this shelf,” I said, gazing in awe over each row from the bottom to the top.

“Two hundred and fifty-four, to be exact,” Linda confirmed.

As we headed back through the room dividers to our classroom, I asked, “how many have you read?”

Linda’s hair flipped forward over her face as she plopped down onto the brown and black, plaid, reading corner sofa. The same slender finger that had claimed dominance over the Hardy Boys Series, delicately slid silky, blond strands behind her ear. A silver cross dangled from her lobe.

Young child reading a book
I never stopped reading

“I’ve read forty-six, actually.” She tapped the empty cushion next to her, “Come on, join me. You’ll see how much fun reading can be.”

That’s all it took. From that moment forward, reading is all I ever did. Reading was all I ever thought about. I did catch up with Linda. We voraciously completed the entire book shelf. The more I read, the more I defined myself.  The haze cleared, revealing me.

Hazards of Being a Personal Muse

A Word from Melvin Marvin

Work has been pretty intense lately. I’m finding it difficult to keep up with Marlyn’s demands. Being a personal muse is not easy. I’m expected to inspire ideas, give feedback on the plot, aid in the construction of dialogue, listen to innumerable read alouds, and offer productive criticism as regards flow and relevance. I should also mention the job hazards, and there are several.

Devil's Bridge in Sedona, Arizona water carved bridge of red rock
Devil’s Bridge, Sedona, Arizona

One time she took me on a day trip to Sedona. I was touched. She told me it was a vacation and to just relax and enjoy the inspiring views. She took me on a hike to Devil’s Bridge. Breathtaking sites. She treated me to a Mocha Frappuccino at Starbucks. Sipping on the Frappuccino, we gazed out at an incredible landscape. Being a personal muse has perks. Everything was going so well.

Not all Perks, The Job has Hazards

Then Marlyn asked, “So Melvin, what if we write a book about a woman, let’s call her…Amanda. So, Amanda takes a day trip to Sedona and when she reaches the top of Devil’s Bridge, she’s kidnapped by aliens and taken to their lair on the dark side of the moon? What do you think about that? Sound good?”

I just wasn’t thinking clearly. The whole day trip thing and the Frappaccino just loosened my tongue and I replied, “Marlyn, that is the most ridiculous plot I’ve ever heard.”

Marlyn didn’t take it well. She slurped to the end of her drink and abruptly grabbed me up. She stuffed me in the back pocket of her purse and proceeded to shop.

“Marlyn, I’m sorry. Please take me out of here, it’s dark,” I pleaded.

Melvin Marvin behind bars of a display stand in a tourist shop
Officially punished – Marlyn left me in a tourist shop

“Melvin, you twit, I didn’t employ you to ridicule me.” Marlyn took me out of the back pocket and stuck me behind a barred display in the shop, “Enjoy that, you ingrate,” she goaded as she turned on her heel and left the shop. She left me there for three hours. Clearly, if your employer does not appreciate full honesty, being a personal muse can be hazardous.

Sometime after sunset she returned, apologized, and took me home. The entire event initiated within me intense dread over my obvious lack of control. That’s when my visits to Dr. Conrad began. He’s a great psychoanalyst, if you find you ever need one.

On another occasion, I simply wasn’t in the mood to respond. I admit that I have my own issues to wrangle with, and, frankly, any employer worth working for should know when to push and when to be supportive. But Marlyn can be quite narcissistic and selfish. There are times that she even speaks for me when that is not what I was planning to say. I find that quite disturbing.  I already struggle with issues of ‘control.’ Dr. Conrad informed me that this is not unusual for a puppet, particularly an intelligent puppet, like myself.

Time Outs Suck

puppet placed high on a shelf in a time out
From my Time Out perch

So this one time, when I did not have the mood to respond, Marlyn accused me of indignant silence. She constructed a ‘time out’ area just above her work space and left me there as punishment. It was torture. Not only did my best friend (Marlyn is my best friend, sad to say) demonstrate blatant disregard for the psychological turmoil I suffer from, but she committed me to a location that further intensified my area of weakness, ‘a lack of control.’ Confined to this perch, I was forced to observe her as she worked by herself. Every once in a while she would glance at me, angry and vindictive.

Consumed by my own resentment and frustration, I stubbornly refused to give in and earn my release from the ‘time out.’ I knew she wouldn’t be able to hold out. After all, I provide a vital, irreplaceable service. And that is when the unspeakable occurred. Marlyn jumped up from her chair, grabbed her car keys, flipped me the finger and left the office. She returned a few hours later, brimming with self-satisfaction. She reached into her bag and pulled out my replacement. “Hey, Melvin,” she taunted, “look who we have here. Meet Martha, my new personal muse.” I couldn’t believe it. Suddenly, I realized just how expendable I was…again, no control.

Well, as with everything ‘Marlyn,’ it didn’t last forever. She soon realized that Martha was a horrible muse. Martha simply agreed with everything Marlyn said. “Damn, Martha, you suck! Can’t you offer a bit of constructive criticism? How can I get Amanda out of this predicament? I have her trapped in a cloud of alien mucus.”

To which Martha replied, “There’s nothing to criticize, Marlyn. You are a genius.”

Marlyn looked my way, “What’s your take on this, Marvin?”

I said, “Trash the story, Marlyn. It’s awful.”

A Good Muse is Hard to Find

hand holding Melvin, a bird finger puppet, and Martha, a small plastic large eyed finger puppet
Meet Martha – She works for me now!

Marlyn genuinely smiled, “You’re right, Melvin. I’m so sorry. I should have listened to your advice the first time.”

Martha is still with us. Although she doesn’t contribute much as a personal muse, she does make for an interesting companion. Well, I must get back to work. Hazards do exist, hours suck, and Marlyn is a temperamental time bomb, but I’m needed and that makes it all the more worthwhile.

Focused on My Boat

Trapped in the conundrum of daily tasks and chores, its so easy to lose touch with the reality of our world. The burden of guilt hovers over me, a menacing shadow, as I struggle through my life, my face turned aside, using the preoccupation of meeting my needs as an excuse to ignore the vast suffering that exists out there…in the world. Handy phrases come to mind that support my practiced indifference, such as “Put yourself at the top of your to-do list and everything else will fall into place.” “If you can’t fix yourself, you won’t be able to fix anyone else.” “Fix the hole in the boat, before you take on extra loads.” Of course, there’s not much I can offer if I myself am messed up. The least I can do is be aware, be informed, and perhaps, spread the word.

I lived for eight consecutive years in North Karachi, Pakistan. Until then, I had never truly seen or experienced poverty. Sure, I had struggled to put myself through college (Thank you, Pell Grant). In pursuit of my degree, I worked as a phone solicitor for the University Alumni Association and sold my blood plasma twice a month to afford room rent and groceries. I thought I was poor. But to the poor of Pakistan, I was upper middle class. I had the opportunity to attend college and  access to some level of government assistance. I completed my BA with honors, no less. That liberal arts education has served me well, but it has never been easy. It’s constant toil, buoyed by luck and skill, that allows me to skim precariously over the depths of debt. I’ve managed to float my boat so far, but only so long as I remain focused on my boat.

My in-laws were probably middle class, at least until my father-in-law unexpectedly passed away, bequeathing all financial responsibility to my husband, the oldest son. In Pakistan, even the middle class or lower middle class can afford a Masi (a house maid). Coming from America where maids are only for the most wealthy, I at first felt confused and uncomfortable about the Masi culture. I wondered how my in-laws could afford it. I wondered how we would be able to maintain the Masi after my father-in-law’s departure. That’s when I realized how very little these hard working women earned.

Most Masis come from cities further north. They come south to Karachi to earn money to send back to their villages. In Karachi, they set up lodging on empty lots, building makeshift homes of fabric draped over wooden, pole frames. Their husbands take labor jobs, where they can, and their children, often barefoot and threadbare, do not have the privilege of going to school. The children’s contributions to the household income are too important. The girls, young Masis in training, help their mothers clean homes. The boys walk the streets with burlap sacks over their shoulders collecting plastic and cardboard to sell, or they are placed on street corners to take handouts from passing cars. Countless times in my daily commute, I’d pass them, young boys dirty and disheveled on the street corners the same age as my son sitting in uniform beside me, anxious for the day of school ahead. It disturbed me. I felt powerless. I would hand them my spare change in hopes that God would absolve me of guilt, small contributions that, rather than change the situation, allowed it to perpetuate.

The Masi comes into your home for a few hours everyday. She sweeps the floor with a horizontal broom called a Jharoo. Squatting, the Masi methodically shuffles through the home sweeping the dust and daily debris ahead of her. Knowing that the Masi will come every morning, members of the household don’t bother to place wrappers or food crumbs in dustbins, rather they toss them on the floor carelessly. They develop what I have coined as, a Masi Mentality, “Throw it anywhere, someone else will pick it up.” After applying the Jharoo throughout the home, Masi, still squatting, wipes the floor with a used piece of fabric. She dips the fabric in a bucket of water mixed with cleaning fluid, wrings it out, and wipes each patch of the floor meticulously. How many times I wished that I had had the mop and bucket system commonly used by janitors in US. It would have relieved the Masi of this backbreaking labor.

Masi washes all the dishes and pots and pans and every other day she washes clothes, often by hand. Some Masis also cook the rice and the bread that we would use for lunch and dinner. After Masi leaves the house, her daily grind has not come to an end, she would move on to her next paying household to perform the same duties again. Our Masi, with her young girls in tow, cleaned four to five houses in our neighborhood before returning home to clean her own. Now, I sit here in air conditioning, typing on my laptop, wondering how I will pay my mortgage this month or if my latest check will arrive in time to buy groceries. I have worries, enough to bring me to tears. It is at this point that I remember Masi and her family and her daily struggles, that will likely accompany her to the grave, and I thank God for my blessings. I ask Him for strength. And I pause to whisper a prayer for Masi.

Who Would Choose to be Blind?

No Worries

toddler in sunglasses looking at reflection in mirror
No worries -even my reflection looks like a new friend

When I was safest, I didn’t know that I was safe. When I was happiest, I didn’t know that I was happy. I don’t mean safe as in protected from physical danger. I refer to the time before I had to feel responsible for my every action. By safe, I mean I didn’t have any financial worries, no obligations, each day involved a series of interactions defined as happy, sad, good, bad…in retrospect, everything then seemed simple. Although, at the time I didn’t see it that way. Safe meant freedom from awareness of accountability. The promise of ‘tomorrow’ loomed large, mystical, and alluring. Knowing that the sun would rise in the morning was enough to help me bear today. The world revealed itself a farce, but then it didn’t matter. Now, it does.

husband wife child hold hands with the world behind ideal family
The ‘Father Knows Best’ Standard

I see a man. He struggles to earn, to pay the bills, to bring home the food, to feed the mouths that eat and complain in the same breath. I see a woman. She made herself prisoner to the expectations of others, panders her soul to justify her place in this space. I see children. They starve for love and search the ‘Why?,’ while media herds them to conform. It’s a pressured cycle, spinning just fast enough to hold them in orbit, but not fast enough to allow them to break free.  There was a time I yearned for the ‘Father Knows Best’ standard, assessing my own experience as abnormal. I wanted routine schedules, routine goals, shared meals, laughter, love…hindsight reveals precisely how abnormal that expectation was. I’ve learned that I cannot control my surroundings or the people around me. The most I can control is myself, and even that challenges me.

Do you know what’s missing?

I worry for those who wallow there. They have not yet grasped who they are or where they are going. The cycle traps them. Inside they yearn for something they cannot define. They yearn till it aches and take round trip excursions in drug-influenced bliss, imagining that they have escaped, only to return further lost and deeper in spiritual debt. They don’t understand what’s missing. After all, modern scientists claim that they can only believe in that which they see, touch, and measure. They cannot see the pain. A doctor will ask them to rate it on a scale of one to ten. But who’s to prove that his five equals her five. They cannot see the love. Is what I feel the same as what you feel at any given time? How could I ever know? Pain, love, and hate are just a few abstract emotions that we claim to experience but we cannot prove. Does that mean that they do not exist? And what of hope? Is it real, if I cannot catch it between my fingers nor taste it on my tongue?

young child's hand grasped by parents' hands
Can’t quantify love!

Some things can be measured and some things can only be experienced. Can you quantify love, happiness, satisfaction or faith? To quantify it, is subjective. I know love is, because I feel it in my mother’s hug and my child’s trusting smile. I know love is real because I can feel its absence…acutely. I know hate is, because I glimpse it in the leer of the hater and respond in kind. It amazes me that we as intellectual beings are so ready to accept that love, hate, or pain exists because we see the evidence of its existence; but we are unwilling to admit the existence of an Ultimate Creator in spite of all evidence.

That very scientific reasoning that denies an Ultimate Creator, also denies the spirit, the self, the soul…And so, they wallow, unaware that they ache for that which they refuse to see. What they search for has been inside them all along. We are taught to count, to measure, to memorize, but we were never taught to believe. Who would choose to be blind if they could see?

The Cavalry Isn’t Coming

As I mentioned before, I’ve been shopping for a home. I’ve learned a lot over the last few months about interest rates, mortgages, house insurance, HOA fees, double-pane windows, etc. I had no choice. It just wasn’t sufficient anymore to simply nod. I had to understand what was being said to me and grasp exactly how deep of a hole I was digging for myself. I had to actually make these super hard and expensive decisions and justify them to myself. I still don’t know if I’ve made the right ones. I could be in way, way over my head.

I really believed the cavalry would come in and save me. By cavalry, I mean an enormous sum of sudden, unexpected money from book sales. Such a fool. In over a year, I’ve sold a grand total of eight books. Any other books that have entered the book-sphere, I’ve had to offer for free. I have to beg for reviews. I’m so ready to interact with my readers….problem is, they literally do not exist. Still, I dream. I imagine opening my monthly bank statement and surprise, there is an enormous deposit from book sales. All my troubles are solved. I can use this money to pay off the principle on my home. I won’t have to worry about large monthly mortgage payments anymore. I could relax just a bit from the daily tension of making ends meet. It’s not as though I am asking for a handout. I’ve offered a well-written book in exchange for a modest sum.

Love You Mom

Well…the cavalry isn’t coming, but I have made an offer on a home. It nearly consumes my nest egg but it is worth it. It’s a small three bedroom home, two story. My mother will have the master bedroom downstairs. I want her to feel safe and cherished. The window in her new room looks out onto the back yard. In our apartment, she has developed the habit of feeding the pigeons on our patio. I think every pigeon in the city comes to our back porch. Now she can feed them in our backyard and watch them easily from her window. She has this fanatic, little Chihuahua, Prancer. Prancer is literally mean to everyone. But, she loves my mother and I am just her poop and pee servant. Now I won’t have to walk her several times a day, we’ll simply open the back patio doors and Prancer will run around freely without a leash.

My son is fifteen years old and he will finally have his very own room.  There are two bedrooms upstairs, one for him and one for me. We haven’t even gone through inspections yet, but he is already collecting items to decorate his room. I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I am so very excited. I am thankful that I will be able to give my son this experience. I wasn’t able to give it to my daughter. We moved around so much. She got tired of waiting for her own room and finally moved out. And on the other hand, I am terrified. What if I can’t make the payments? I have to be inhome to care for my mom and so my work is freelance and subcontracting. It is irregular and unpredictable. Can I make it?

But here in our apartment the rent keeps going up. Each year it goes up nearly a hundred dollars. Paying a mortgage will actually be less than we pay to rent. But there are other fees. What if the washing machine stops working or the air conditioner? What if the electricity is too high? And now that I have sunk my nest egg into the house, I won’t have it to help me when the unforeseen occurs. Hence, terror nips at the edges of my happiness. Now, I don’t have the liberty to feel tired. I will have to keep moving whether I’m in the mood or not…like the hamster in the wheel…round and round. Happy yes…but not going anywhere.