What’s in a name?

Oh, what’s in a name, sings Timon to Pumbaa. 

Very convincingly too. 

And for the most part, he is right; not much, really. 

But some other times, there is hell in it. Or redemption.

I have known both.

Right now, my name contains my Safe Place. It means freedom. It means healing. It means a chance at being happy. 

I’ve been divorced for more than ten years, yet I still use my married name. Every now and then, someone would ask why. I always say that I hate red tape and it really isn’t worth the hassle of the paperwork and the money and time spent doing it. 

At this point, most people agree and the conversation moves on.

But even more rarely, someone – trying to be useful, I’m sure – will say “oh, it is not as complicated as you think. You just fill out a form and that’s it”.

At this point, I stare blankly at them, at loss for words. 

How do you explain that you simply cannot bring yourself to bear your father’s name again?

How do you say anything when even trying to hint at the fact that the real reason has to do with my father sends me into the amusement-park-house-of-horrors-mushrooms-induced-bad-trip-like experience* that thinking about my father unleashes?

I just can’t. 

All that I have achieved in terms of healing, in accepting myself, in internalizing that my father’s sins are not mine to carry, that I am not a bad seed, that I don’t have to serve time for my father’s transgressions… all of that will be lost if I go back to my maiden name. 

I can’t allow that to happen.

So, what’s in a name?

For some of us, the key to a healthy life.

Footnotes

* I’ve heard and read in the textbooks. I have never been inclined to drown my sorrows in alcohol or drugs despite the difficult, painful circumstances of my childhood and adolescence​.

Men’s Day, Or Stroke-inducing, angry musings  

You know what’s disheartening? Women all over the world fighting the patriarchy hard for our rights, for equality, while women in Colombia are celebrating men today on a bloody made up Men’s day. Doesn’t get any more patriarchal than that. Pickup artists all over the world must be laughing and shaking hands right now.

Anger, despair, face-palming, head-desking doesn’t even begin to cover what I feel right now.

Please, give me some words of wisdom. Anything. I feel so aggravated right now I am on the  verge of saying something I will regret for the rest of my life to each one of them. What a horrible thing to be so blind, so brainwashed.

A telling article in Colombia Reports gives us some disheartening numbers:

According to recently released figures, 38,000 cases of reported domestic violence were reported in 2014 alone.

Colombia’s women: Beaten, tortured and extorted

More than 16,000 Colombian women were sexually abused in Colombia in the same year.

According to the Ombudsman’s Office, 75% of women have suffered psychological abuse, 50% have been victim to physical abuse and 11% have suffered economic violence.

Please take a moment to read it. These facts -while chilling- must be known, acknowledged and acted upon.

Last year, my sister posted something to the extent of happy day to all the men in my life shit, 

I explained to her -as kindly as I could, which took the restrain I have exercised in my life, something I am rarely capable of- what the purpose of International Women’s Day is, why it had been created, how it isn’t a hallmark holiday meant to wish women a happy day for no reason, and how women are still oppressed, abused and murdered in many parts of the world. I explained why it was wrong to have a Men’s Day because every other day of the year is basically men’s day given the patriarchal nature of societies in general and Colombian one in particular.. 

And yet… and yet, there she is again this year, posting how she wishes a happy day to all the men in her life! 

Just like most of my old childhood and school friends.the same friends who were so sympathetic to our classmate who’s niece took her own life a couple of months ago due to domestic abuse. 

My friend posted all sorts of articles and statistics about the prevalence of domestic abuse. She exhorted everybody in our secret group to think about it, to share it with all the women in our lives. They all agree, of course.

And yet, here they are today, so happily posting all sort of hallmark-like thoughts of celebration for all men in their day.

I’m losing it. Seriously. I just can’t

PS: This is another post from my phone therefore formatting will be wonky.

Musings on Grief & Mourning

Recently, I’ve been privy to two close bloggers’ grief. One lost her father, the other her grandfather. The pain they are experiencing is beyond what words could ever express and my heart goes to them.

Thoughts of death always make me go into introspection. I can’t help but examine my own feelings regarding the deaths of my parents. Which are pretty non-existent when I am in survival mode, which is to say, my every day mode.

When my mother died, I didn’t cry. I even wondered at some point why I didn’t feel like crying when everyone else was but I just couldn’t. The answer -at the time, was very simple*. I was glad for my mother. I was glad that she was not going to suffer anymore. There was even the possibility that she had gone to a better place where she could be happy. But even if one takes the approach that there is nothing after death, that was still good news. If there is nothing, there is no suffering, so I was relieved and happy for her.

Needless to say everybody thought it weird I was so composed. I am pretty sure more than a few thought I was a bad daughter for not showing the appropriate mourning signs. A year later, I was really sad because I lost a trinket that I treasured and that brought tears to my eyes. One of my uncles saw me and said to me: “You didn’t cry when your mother died and you cry because of that stupid thing?” How can one explain the nature of one’s trauma when one is merely 15 and doesn’t really have a grasp on one’s own psyche?

When 8 years later my father too died, I didn’t cry either. I only had the feelings of relief for him. He was a tortured man and that is no way to live.

Continue reading

An eulogy 29 years in the making

How do I even start.

Her story ended 29 years ago.

After 29 years, rage still runs rampant in mine.

My mother lived a short, painful life. Being the daughter of a young unmarried woman, she carried the bastard stigma all her life. Her mother, my grandmother did end up marrying a different guy and having four more children which my mother raised while her mother was out washing clothes and cooking for rich women. Even though she called her stepfather dad, he never gave her his name. She had to live with the shame of having her mother’s name only. Of not having the same name as her siblings. It was still a terrible thing when I was growing up. I saw how children my age that only had their mother’s name were treated. I can only imagine it was even worse when she was growing up.

She was denied a name, an education, a future.  She had scars all over her body from the corporal punishment she received from her own mother and from her school teachers the few years she was allowed to attend. Once her half-siblings were born, she was taken out of school to be their nanny.  Once those half-siblings were old enough to go to school, she had to take a job to help support the family. Continue reading

A man once made a promise….

Remember my last post? it was about beautiful people.  Here’s the cheat sheet (in case you don’t feel like reading the actual post.  Although you totally should. I kid. OK, I do not kid, you should seriously read it *wink, wink*):

 

“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.”

Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

Well, here’s an update.  Or an epilogue if you will -even though it was just a blog post and not a book.

This time, it’s about former female child soldiers in Africa.

And in this particular case, we all can help a man keep his promise to a group of very beautiful women caught in a conflict that wasn’t theirs, that went to hell and back and all they want is a chance to live a normal life and help forge a better future for their children.

Abducted as children – as young as 8 or 9, and “forced to become wives, soldiers, cooks and porters” they are now adult women, back in the city with children of their own.  Here’s Ottawa-based photojournalist Marc Ellison’s brief account of their story: A promise kept
Marc will be at the One World Film Festival here in Ottawa on October 13-16, 2011 (yes, that is tomorrow) to raffle a special edition of his upcoming book.  There will also be a silent auction of some of his photographs.
ALL PROCEEDS from the book will go back to these women to help them afford things like school fees and sewing machines, according to Marc Ellison’s website.
Won’t you help keep this promise?

For more about Marc and his work, visit his website