Long, long ago, the mountains were rich with lush vegetation. The rains fell regularly, and they ran through the mountains, creating rivers that carved their way into the landscape offering nourishing water and refreshing joy for the villagers. There were herds of goats and sheep and camels, and there were plenty of fruits and vegetables. The sea was full of fish and pearls. The villagers were saturated with satisfaction.
Then, the rains no longer came. The land dried up. Vegetation turned brittle. Colors faded away. The villagers were weary; life was very difficult for a very long time.
In the middle of the 20th Century, the villagers found oil. Oil filled their pockets and turned to gold! The villagers gave up their efforts at pearl diving and animal husbandry because they no longer needed to toil for their livelihood. They brought workers from impoverished lands into their villages and gave the foreign laborers tiny drops of oil in exchange for their work. The villagers hastily abandoned their farms and directed the laborers to build big stone mansions. The villagers brought more workers from more impoverished lands to cook their meals and clean their castles and even to raise their children. The villagers made the laborers transform their villages into cities and to fill their cities with tall, marvelous buildings. The villagers commanded the laborers to build long highways that connected their new cities. As they grew fat from their oil and the oil continued to grow, the villagers traded in their dhow boats for petrol-guzzling SUVs that they could race on the roads that hug the coastline where big ships arrive with more oil that turns to more gold in their pockets.
And when no one was looking, the desert sands blew silently over the land, burying their memories. When no one was looking, the mountains turned ashy gray and the rivers morphed into gashes in the rock.
Today, as the villagers speed with careless disregard on the ribbon of highway at the base of the mountain range, no one sees the land as it once was. No one remembers the colors. No one remembers the flowing waters of the rivers. No one sees the mountains. Today, no one even looks.
And this is where I enter the story.
They didn’t recognize me when I came. They had no recollection. They had no reference. At first, there was a curiosity, then, there were battles. My presence made them work, like trying to tread over the rugged mountain range as opposed to speeding on the highway as they had come to know so well.
Then, they suddenly stopped the interactions. Curiosity was gone, and my presence was an inconvenience, so they simply returned to life as it had been before I came. To do this, they ignored me. By ignoring me, they didn’t have to change. And when no one was looking, I too, dried up and became a gash in the rock.
I have been in the UAE now for one year. The first 11 months was more difficult than I fully understood at the time, but summer break has offered me insight that I need to share here.
In this past year, I wasn’t’ brave enough to speak the full truth in this blog. There are many reasons: I didn’t want to be another of the expat complainers; I didn’t’ want to appear offensive; I was afraid that by revealing my hurt and confusion, I would only attract more pain and isolation. In addition, I couldn’t figure out how to articulate the “river” and “desert” stories without the details, and the details are ultimately, irrelevant. Perhaps most of all, I was afraid of who might find my blog and what reprimands I might suffer from my words. The bottom line is that I just wasn’t brave enough, and so I didn’t really find my voice.
Instead, I fell into a downward spiral: suppressed voice led to misunderstanding that led to insulation that led to self-forced silence that led to ….. you get the point. I’m not proud of this, but I tripped, and then couldn’t get back on my feet, and the cyclical movement of my downfall was a head-spinning confusion that tormented me in growing increments.
And then, it was time for summer break.
I spent the month of July in Dubai doing a 200-hour yoga teacher training course,
and while it was mentally and physically challenging,
there was enough space to connect with spirit – that place where nourishment and well-being embrace the soul.
Spirit, a gentle presence.
Spirit, a mighty force.
Spirit, a hand that appeared deep into the desert
to the place where I got lost
and lifted me out of the gritty fog.
After the yoga teacher training, I came to Sri Lanka where I am now.
Again, I find the gentle presence of Spirit. The hand that lifted me out of the desert now raises me to the winds where am being nourished in body, mind and soul.
Spirit, a gentle presence.
Spirit, a mighty force.
Spirit, a hand that sends me out to the world
with freedom to explore, discover, and BE myself.
During this break time, I have been processing my experiences in the desert and returning to the truth of who I am. I hope I am gaining enough soul-fuel to get me through the next year with new insights and a stronger resolve to not just endure, but to be a full-flowing river in the desert.
And as I do so, I believe I am ready to get real and be brave enough to speak the full truth in this blog.