Trying to Get Pregnant

I am trying to get pregnant; one way or another, I have wanted to get pregnant for a long time. After my last relationship ended, I had plenty of solitude in which to get pregnant with inspiration for a novel. I had privacy, candles, and bathtub sessions on a regular basis.

–call me a click-whore: trying to boost my views–

JD GoreI thought leaving the country was sure to do the job: bless me with the inspiration. Somehow, it did not occur to me that I already had the inspiration to write several books. I have motivational problems. On a subconscious level all of my stories inhabit a chilly place, a padlocked freezer of creativity sitting atop the refrigerator of my blogging-life. As anyone can see, the fridge is virtually empty. I have not posted as much as one entry since March. Unexpectedly, I find myself at a different kind of rock-bottom.

It was one kind of rock-bottom, post-college, when deaths and divorces wracked my family and I entered a state of unemployment: time, time everywhere but not a word to write. It was quite another rock-bottom when I reached the final months of my service in Palestine and none of us could go to the office without the threat of being tear-gassed, then still another when I returned to the United States and started living in a giant take-out box on North Capitol Street with no windows and reduced ceilings. All the while, I kept insisting “this is not as bad as other things that have happened.” Last year, I was still quaking from traumas past.

Now, I am accepted to American University’s MA in International Training and Education Program (ITEP). The news came to me while I was at West Michigan Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, the same event at which I took the floor in 2011 and called for divestment from companies that profit from apartheid infrastructure in Palestine. Unable to reach the floor for this year’s debate, I dropped to my knees with my al-khalili prayer beads and begged God that the conference would just consider divestment. With no input from me, they promised to do so. Since then, the entire Presbyterian Church (USA) has divested and the UMC seems not far behind. I’ve enrolled for 9 graduate credits with the abundant help of staff at AU. The path toward peace-of-mind is still not complete nor success assured but I have reasons to pat myself on the back. My supervisor said that my greatest accomplishment was realizing “—that failure is okay—”

Lindsey StirlingA different relationship with failure would have changed the course of my life significantly; I might be a musician or actor instead of drifting toward being an educator. I recently attended a Lindsey Stirling concert (I’ll keep my gushing to a minimum); looking back on the course of her career, it seems that even her rise to “America’s Got Talent” didn’t cement her place in that industry. She needed the help of some other gifted friends, especially a videographer and other musicians and vloggers with whom she collaborated, before the art she believed in from the beginning reached fertile ground. Sometimes I say things to myself like…
“…if I had been the same way about trumpet, maybe I wouldn’t be just a sometimes hack… I would have reached the promised-land…”
“…it’s too bad I was from a small-town and didn’t know I needed more connections. I guess I just bloomed too late…”
“…I’m probably just psychologically incapable…”
John Green—like everyone else? I also follow author John Green from time to time. Just once, I heard him talk about the period of soul-sucking depression that preceded his first book. He needed help far beyond what I have been willing to seek and yet, somehow, he became best-selling author John Green. I haven’t read his books yet but he’s known for writing accessible, teen-beloved fiction that is also meaningfully realistic.

I am indicting myself just a little, here. I didn’t grow-up to be the next Freddie Hubbard; I feared being a failure and so failed to love the music more than I loved my need to feel significant. I have often thought about writing an entry on my struggle with “significance.” Despite being single, indebted, and PTSD-ridden, I still find significance in having accepted my mission to Palestine. The quest for significance may not ever be enhanced by fame, after all.

Also, I cannot ignore that the reason I flunked first-year math was not that I was under the bridge playing my trumpet. I was writing: journaling. As much as I want to kick myself for not writing more fiction or poetry, I was always writing something — and afterward felt better. Now that I have ‘significant things’, I seem to be faltering in the most basic way: I am not even pontificating on WordPress!

Can I make the transition to loving my art more than my significance, even as I pursue the call to international education?

The answer has to be “YES” because of the literature that always resonated the most with me, which is the kind of writing I want to do. I have an interesting handicap in that I ADORE anti-colonial storylines that subvert domination… but I’m from a historically dominant group. More accurately, we were subsumed by that group (whites) as German & Irish immigrants in order to win the ethnic politics of North America. As I’m writing this, I’m processing these thoughts — I sometimes think about my one indigenous ancestor, of how distant I feel from her (I don’t know her name, nor for sure to what tribe she belongs). Perhaps I am not so far from her heart, after all.

When I started writing today, I decided two things: one was that I would not get much above 1000 words and the other was that I would just share my thoughts as they come out without a great deal of outlining and other kinds of ‘engineering’ — meticulous editing. I need to get my engine started again; regardless of my ‘marketability’, writing is my native language.

Epilogue: Reverend James Ritchie called-out “Brother Gore! When are you going to write that book?” For the next fifteen minutes, we talked about the possibilities of the book and how my education was going to make me so SO busy. He kept playfully batting me with a rolled-up conference bulletin:
“You’re the only one who can write YOUR story; it won’t happen in a week or even a month but if you let God work in your heart… it’s going to happen.”


A Hot Idea in the Cold Air

cropped-mi_bethlehem_coffee1.jpgA person becomes an idea as soon as they disappear into the ground; I mean down the escalator of the DC Metro, in this case. If I could get out of my own head long enough, I might be able to see myself as an idea too — getting smaller and smaller as I stroll into the darkness of a cold January night on Capitol Hill, letting go of a moment in faith there will be at least one more like it. Let go. The boiling-point of a hug is low. The gesture sublimated into the air and joined the fog pouring from me. I imagined I was one of those suspiciously conical ‘hills’ in Belize, seeping ghosts from a doorway long-overgrown with vines — temple? Gradually, I am absorbing that something happened Saturday — exactly one year after I visited the site of Christ’s baptism.

The cold wind tried to drink me with every pass, sipping the flush from my still-blushing cheeks. Something caught my attention on the sidewalk by the Library of Congress… I should have been less surprised when I saw it: a finjaan, turned lip-down on the sidewalk. The walls between my realities are Capitol Citythinning, as I grow accustomed to allowing myself to pass through them. I was not noticeably shocked. Another pedestrian waddled past without acknowledging my perplexed pause. Those tiny cups are everywhere, in Palestine and Jordan, because the rituals in which they play a part are ubiquitous. There was at least one dirty finjaan (or perhaps “finjaantyn”, 2) on my desk at Wi’am at any given time, a halo of Arabic coffee grounds nestled in the bottom. They were common in Bethlehem, usually bore the same designs in either red or green, and it was normal to see the shards of muddled conversations, perhaps even fumbled mediations, lying on the ground in the form of broken finjaneen (multiple, tiny coffee cups). Yet I had not seen one since Jericho, a year ago on the exact same date: the Orthodox Epiphany. I was a little surprised.

Of course I wanted to touch it! Immediately, I picked it up in my bare hands and flipped it, looking for the tell-tale rings and streaks. It was clean. I was baffled. In fact, I was a little bit sad to see that the finjaan was laying empty on the ground forgotten — as if it had never been used. Bonds forged over coffee can change lives. Insha’allah. I started to walk away with the cold, tiny cup clutched in my left-hand. My veins felt strangely warmed, which I wrote-off as having more to do with where I had just been than where I was going. Then again, where I had just been was exactly where I wanted to be going: to coffee. With someone. The finjaan heated quickly, and soon felt almost as if it had just been filled. Glancing down, I startled. It’s creamy bottom seemed etched with the remains of coffee. Tower

Then I was in Bethlehem again, on the patio at the Wi’am Center staring at the West Bank Separation Barrier. There was no one there with me but I realized, by the scorch marks still on the guard turret, that three of them were with me — with me in Jericho, drinking that last finjaan a year ago! The power of coffee opened a link to the last day of work I never had, the day we went down to the Jordan River instead of into the office. The wind was also blowing in the West Bank, yet slightly faster, wetter, but (mercifully) less cold: filling me with the scent of growing sage and mint. The coffee tray sat on the picnic table beside the herb garden, epitome of hospitality. The pot at its center was hot to the touch. I ran to the door of the center but it was locked. From whence came that hot java, I’ll never know.

CRACK. A stone hit the scuffed pane of the turret. When the stones hit the turret, we used to evacuate before the soldiers retaliated. My colleagues were not eager to be tear-gassed. The protests, as much as the detentions, inhered my PTSD; it was never a severe case …but mild infections sometimes go unnamed longer. In Bethlehem, I absorbed every impact without so much as a chip but the reverberations were inescapable — they haunted me upon return, made me angry and sullen last spring, demanded I undergo therapy. I learned to stop turning the strain inward, in good time.

They battered it down to the wire...

They battered it down to the wire…

That awful November it was Israel that bombed Gaza, the US which blocked Palestinian Statehood in the UN security council, and shabaab in the West Bank who made the protests blazing hot, really and figuratively — during all of that, I went to work to write grants and reports. That was my statement. Hollowed, I returned to the snows of Michigan with no more fuel to push myself out of bed each day: a wraith. Mission accomplished: I lasted. I was done. six months passed in D.C. and I decided to return to an old dream — to this dream: to write creatively! To finally do all the ‘bad writing’ that my perfectionism would not allow. In a sense, I evacuated from the new sense of purpose I was given in Bethlehem and all of what I had learned about myself before ‘Operation Pillar of Cloud’. I spent the Autumn reacclimating instead of preparing for the next battle. Now, I’m kicking myself because I wasted time: I’ll never be happy in the shadows, now. The writer I would have been will never exist and I am at peace with that because… …because I evolved. Peace & Justice work became part of me and broke me from my cycles of dysfunction. Saturday, the coffee brought me back to crisis again — in the best way.

Rhinoceros crushes annexation wall

Sometimes I wish I were just a little bit bigger…

Alone, I stepped closer to that wall. The crack of another stone erupted, faintly, from the next turret. I looked again at the tray of finjaaneen. Once, in a moment of creative clarity, I sat next to Adnan drinking coffee on the bench and imagined that all the tiny finjaan in Bethlehem floated to ‘our’ section of the separation barrier and, like a swarm of locusts, pelted the wall by the thousands. Each finjaan bit a chunk of concrete out of the wall until the section was obliterated. I had imagined raising my arms in the air like Moses, cleaving the wall with a plague of quaint coffee cups. Yet I knew, as the frostiness left my breath at last, that the ‘medicine-touch’ rarely works in such a way. I poured myself a cup of rich, cardamom laced Arabic coffee and savored it to the last drop.

A Hebraic voice ripped the air. A teenager met eyes with me from his perch in the tower. Pouring another cup, I raised it in honor of him and said “someday, my cousin, your blindness will pass. What should work, by the name of God, will work but what should not be will eventually be laid to waste: one cup at a time.” Shaking a little, I sauntered to the base of the wall with my full cup of coffee and stood there while the Israeli soldier yelled, sipping my coffee and ignoring the boy quite intentionally. He calmed, after a while, and the sound of stones faded even further into the distance. Taking the empty cup in my right hand, I dug it hard into the graffiti stained concrete. Though it was solid to the touch of my finger, with the finjaan I could scoop a piece of the wall as if it were all made of ice-cream. One chunk fell from my cup and, shocked, I exclaimed: “You really can destroy Apartheid with coffee! Praise Jesus!”

The cup went frigid again: I stared at the awkwardly nude figures in front of the Library, a stone’s throw from the US Capitol Building. I could still feel the coffee in me but it was American coffee. Just a half hour before, I had enjoyed some coffee in the capitol hill area, though not alone. “Praise Jesus,” I said with a contented sigh, “you really can destroy PTSD with coffee — but not just any coffee…”

I have more to say but this particular piece is done. There is a danger in saying too much. Sometimes, something or someone needs to disappear for a period of time to be recovered fully later. Insha’allah: God brings me closer every day. I’ve decided to keep my ideas and let people be whomever they need to be. If I am mindful of myself, perhaps I will be invited to linger… to catch the same sentiments as they condense again…

Borderlands: The Tabernacle Police

These scenes have to ferment for at least a week before the bouquet of poetic humor can mature. Last week I left the sanctuary of the Wi’am office at 4 PM and walked around an amoeboid scab of dividing barrier. I went to and through the Bethlehem check-point so I could attend a meeting at Tantur Ecumenical Institute; I nearly sent the meeting organizers an excuse, instead. As I went through the check-point and absorbed its routine again, gaining my grip, I located the source of my dread. On an unconscious level, I expected the lazing draftee-soldiers to transform into airport or bridge guards who would detain and search me. Instead, I felt like I was in a dystopian mosque: removing my shoes and placing my black, white, green, and red prayer-bead string on the x-ray’s conveyor belt.

I passed Bethlehem check-point easily, as ever, but walked directly into the sites of a Jerusalem PD squad-car, prowling for trouble on Sukkot. They accused me of coming through a nearby orchard, though I explained I had just left the check-point. They searched my bag and demanded I empty my pockets. The cop shoved my passport in his butt-pocket while he spat interrogatives in sub-par English. When I emptied my left pocket, I placed my prayer-beads in his hand with some relish. He handed them back, apathetically. Asked where I was staying, I showed him on my passport: “Haifa”.

I found myself distilling my resentments as I ascended the hill to Tantur. My mood was low, so I started to load my proverbial quiver with more darts, explaining to imaginary co-workers why I stay in Bethlehem. Now I know how many black people feel, traveling certain white neighborhoods. For no salient reason, one feels like they are being watched, profiled; just because my visa gives me the privilege of passing does not mean I feel comfortable. The next night, I found a place of refuge as I gazed from the patio of the Scottish church. Lacquered generously in night’s coolness, Jerusalem looked and felt like a convergence zone in time – the uncanny modernity of its West side juxtaposed against the giant, stone chest that is the old city: filled with secret places, with people who were once nearly one and the same with Bethlehemites. The dividing wall has impeded, has annexed, and has fractured — in the name of security — but has yet to engender anything like peace. To the contrary, it has done so many more, disgusting things than those who built it will live long enough to comprehend.

I now have walls inside my soul. I cannot properly have PTSD but I feel confident coining a new acronym for the world: OASD – Ongoing Ambient Stress Disorder. The stress is ubiquitous and subtle. None can live here without feeling muted trauma seeping from person to person, direct victims diffusing their tensions into us despite their good intentions. Added to that are everyone’s experiences with Israel’s matrix of control. It is girded with power and sophistication but filled with ambivalence, blindness, and insanity. The same is true of Zionism’s tentacles in the media, conflating everything Jewish with this horrifying apartheid regime.

So, I have reached the point where I know that it is alright to appreciate and admire things that are Jewish but in my guts I want to find reasons to complicate them or push them away. It’s as if I could not be happy with this metaphorical ‘house’ of Judaism unless I smeared all of its sewage onto the front picture window for everyone to see. I want to see a level of contrition from public Jewish figures that, quite frankly, is not only improbable but is askew of the many other issues in life. A friend sent me an article about self-forgiveness, written by a Jewish author, and instead of tapping into her words of self-healing I found myself tripping over the words “Yom Kippur”. There was no atonement for me; I have OASD and it makes me sick. I am unhappy to have these feelings because, according to my reasoning, Israel is simply conflated with Judaism, not synonymous with it. There is still a choice. I am being unfair, never expecting Buddhists to account for Myanmar or every Muslim to account for Jihad yet, still, expecting the Nakba to be on the end of everyone’s tongue.

Yet, sitting at my computer after writing all this, I have the sense that we all deserve better than what we are entitled to because, really, we are entitled to nothing but we deserve to make a better life with our neighbors because that is the only Way. At some point, in some way, with some help, the wall erected in my attitude must come down or else I will thwart my own goals for peace. The first step for me is not to alter my beliefs, or to reframe them in ways that make sense to the world I left behind in the United States. That is self-deceit. What I want to do is uncover a different deceit: the attitudes that attach to my beliefs and the deep sense that, because I believe a certain thing, I have to feel a certain way and then behave the way my feeling dictates. That is fundamentally untrue, though I know disentangling my attitudes will not happen so quickly because I have allowed my attitudes to drive me without questioning their necessity or even if they are helping me in my mission of awareness.

That must change…