Child death, Culture, death, emotions, grief, parenting, Personal Growth, Relationships, Saudi Arabia, Women

The Club I Never Wanted to Join

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There are those clubs in life that we join with enthusiasm, that is within our control and decision, that we decide to engage because it coincides with our interests, our hobbies, passions, joys, and identity.  Although life’s path indoctrinates us into other clubs or groups that we never sought membership for, but we received a lifetime membership that usually involves emotional fees instead of monetary fees.  Almost one  year ago, I received one of those unsolicited lifetime memberships to the Mother of Dead Children when I delivered my full term 38 week old stillborn son, Mr. Baby (aka Mohammad Hatem Mominah).   A membership card I have tried to burn, to throw away, and return to sender, but the damn gold status membership card keeps finding its way back into my hand of cards.  This unsolicited club membership likes me to invest my emotions, my cognitive energy, my time, my sleep, my lack of sleep, and at times, my sanity.   While the members of this club experience some of the same initiations, each club member also gets specialized individualized treatment dependent on their own story, their personal characteristics of the card member, but most of us get to pay the yearly premium of guilt, blame, and sadness.

There are no rules and regulations of expected behavior of carrying this card from the membership itself, but people that have not gained membership to this club have developed stereotypes of how you should “be” and what is acceptable to say to you or not say to you.  I have perfected the art of listening, and composing a smile, or at least a blank expression, but I also have a ticker tape that silently runs through my mind, that if ever was exposed, could unleash a nasty sarcastic spew of my inner coping.  As a member of this club, I have gathered support and understanding from other gold card carrying members, but those outside that club, that have never experienced what it means to lose a child, will offer their own advice of how you can be a gold star performing card carrying member.  While every parent that has lost a child has a different way of coping, my own inner dialogue, which I long ago nicknamed as my “ticker tape” has at times ran rampant in my mind in response to messages  to what others have said to me in the past year.

  1. You should be grateful that you have other children.  Yes I am selfish and ungrateful…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  2. You need to get over it and move on.   I am weak and sorry I have those days that I secretly wish that I could have crawled into the grave with my child….(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  3. God never gives you more than you can handle.  Really?  Ummmm….because I am about one second away of letting you see on display what falling apart looks like.….(guilt)What  is wrong with me?
  4. Far worse things have happened to other people, you  should be grateful.  Yes far worse things have happened….I did not gain membership to compare my experience with tragedies of the rest of the world.  Yeah I get that far more horrible things have happened in the world, but thank you  for your insight and wisdom, but it still doesn’t change how I feel….(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  5. Say “Thanks God” or “Al Humdallah”. I have never been one to do or say things unless I really feel that way, and  maybe I am an ungrateful,  selfish person, because I am not grateful for carrying a child for 9.5 months to hand that child over to be buried in the desert’s sand.  I am not grateful to get this unsolicited membership card……Sorry if this upsets your world view, and doesn’t coincide with your perceptions….I will not say something that I do not mean, because I do not view this as a will of God…this was because of medical human error,  my own screwed up body, my own inability to deal with stress, and because I was too physically and mentally exhausted to stand up to the voices that said a C-section could wait for a couple more days,  even though I knew it couldn’t.   I am not in the mood to make you feel better…because I feel like shit.   If it makes you feel better, please say it, but do not say it to me, and do not expect me to say it.  Special note to medical professionals….please shut up and do not even have the audacity to mention this to me…. (guilt) What  is wrong with me?
  6. At least you are still alive and here.  Really?  That could be questionable on a moment by moment basis…..(guilt) What is wrong with me?
  7. Maybe it was for the best, maybe there was something wrong with him. A doctor examined him, there was nothing wrong with him visibly, although I would not allow the hospital to dissect his little body.  Even if there was something wrong with him.  I just wanted the chance to look into his eyes…even for just a little bit.  I wanted that baby,  even if there had been issues…. (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  8. You are not the only person to lose a child.  I know that, and do you think that I don’t’ realize already that I am not handling this with grace …Do you really think that if I could I wouldn’t stand up  and be this fortress of strength? (guilt)  What is wrong with me?
  9. At least you never had the chance to get emotionally attached…it is better that he died before you had the chance to know him. Please fuck off because I did know him.  I carried him for 38 weeks… you have no idea…… (guilt) What is wrong with me?
  10. You gave yourself black eyes/ bad luck because you were so happy to have the baby.  Your statements are more of a reflection of your black  heart and how you view others as well as how you view yourself… Please…could you just please shoot me and get your freaking torture over with.  I was happy to be expecting a child…and you stand before me and say that it is my fault that I made other’s jealous……really….this is just too much….while you may think it, and that is your right….really shut the fuck up.  Trust me….I have enough guilt for not standing up to doctors, changing physicians, or dealing with stress effectively…I don’t need your negative energy to add to my black world right now.  Bad things happen in life, and death is one of the inevitable truths of our existence.   (guilt) What is wrong with me?

The only real benefit that I believe I have gained from my membership, is the right to say “Please consider what you say to someone that has lost their child”.  I know the intentions are there to try to comfort the person, but each person deals with loss and grief in their own way.  I apologize in advance to anyone that I have offended by my honesty and language, that is not my intention, but to provide an insight into the grief of one mother on a year long journey of coming to terms with the death of her child.   Entering the private thoughts of another is one way to understand a situation and have some empathy.  I am sure that in the past that I have unintentionally made statement in regards to someone’s life events that were not helpful.  This experience has taught me that sometimes words unspoken are best.  No one can tell a the person what they should feel, or how they should behave when faced with death.   Sometimes the well intentioned comments only add to feelings of guilt, sadness, selfishness, and unfairness experienced by those grieving.  What you can do…sit quietly, listen, and understand that person will never be the same in some ways.  Yes they will learn to smile again, they will learn how to live again, they will learn to breathe….but it is in their time, and in their way.  Grief is a path that each person travels differently and it is not a path that can be magically fixed.

Happy Birthday Mr. Baby.  You earned  your angel wings  before you ever had to  breathe  in the experiences of the harsh realities of life on earth. One of my favorite messages sent was “The angel opened the book of life, and  said “This one is too perfect for this world…and closed the book”.  For this, I can honestly  say “Alhumdallah” or “Thank God”.  Until we meet again my little baby.

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Feminism, Humanistic Psychology, Uncategorized, Violence, Women

I Walk

I walk with you because I am that woman who felt the burning pain of a slap, the punch of oppression, and the embarrassment of being pushed while others laughed, or looked away nervously because” I had it coming” for daring to question the unfairness of patriarchy.

I walk with you because I am that woman who had a gun held to her because I dared to stand up against a controlling man that should have never been allowed to possess a firearm.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows what it is like for others to discount your pain, blame you, and make excuses for a man’s violence.

I walk with you because I am that woman who held my silence of unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment, and sexually being groped because I did not want to be the “bitch that brought it upon “herself”.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows what it is like not to have health insurance and wondering whether to buy food or go to the doctor.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows what it is like to be a young divorced mother raising a child financially and emotionally on her own.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows what it is like to have love for another that is not seen as acceptable by the masses.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows the beauty and love of others that may not look or believe like me.

I walk with you because I am that woman who has been called a “ crazy bitch” for being strong and motivated.

I walk with you because I am that woman who has been paid less than my male counterparts although they had less education and less experience than me.

I walk with you because I am that woman who has dared to empower her daughters to have an opinion, to have a dream, and to not let their gender determine their outcomes in life.

I walk with you because I am that woman who believes that it is better to build other sisters up worldwide than tear them down and scoff at them for breaking socially gendered boundaries.

I walk with you because I am that woman who believes that patriarchy is not only detrimental to women, but it hurts men as well.

I walk with you because I am that woman who believes women should have the choice to make their way through the world with their hair covered or uncovered and not fear for their safety.

I walk with you because I am that woman who supports other women who forge careers into unchartered territories, but also supports the women and men who decide to stay at home with their children.

I walk with you because I am that women who has seen the results of bringing children into the world that were not wanted.

I walk with you because I am that woman who believes in a higher power, but also know I was giving the ability to think, reason, and communicate that serves a purpose beyond myself.

I walk with you because I am that woman who does not see a world that is black and white, right and wrong, but a spectrum in between that tells the story of each individual.

I walk with you because I am that woman who know others may not support my beliefs, but they do not have the right to dictate my choices. My choices are between God and myself.

I walk with you because I am that woman who knows each of us has our personal path, but we can support each other in the walk.

I walk.

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Feminism, Saudi Arabia

Finding a Voice in the Dessert

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We whisper in the desert, afraid that our voices may be heard.  We have been conditioned by the stories of the desert to believe that a voice above a whisper may awaken the harsh desert winds that fill our mouths with searing heat and stinging sands, strangling us into silence.  We close our mouths, we cover our faces to sneak across the desert, cloaked in black silently to avoid awakening the snake and scorpions that are awaiting their easy prey.  The predators of the desert have learned that the winds of the desert have made us easy prey.  We silently fall to the ground without an audible voice believing that our voices have no power of the truths we may speak; we have been conditioned by the desert that our feminine mystique makes our God given gift of voice, is instead an error of our evolution.

There is beauty in the desert, in which silence has its place: a time of reflection, a time of introspection, and a time to nurture ourselves at the oasis.  My journey across the desert has taught me survival skills, in which silence does not always have a place.  The scorpions and snakes, which await their prey, often scurry into the sand when a voice calls out, putting them in their place.  The mirages in the desert can make one lose their way, wasting a voice on illusions, and losing one’s footing as quicksand sucks them into the ground.  Surviving the desert involves learning when to whisper and conserving our energy, and when to raise God’s gift of having a voice.  Thus far I have survived both the beauty and hell of the desert  as the changing winds blow,  the gritty sand may find its way to my mouth; a  price to pay for having a voice, but alas I have survived.

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emotions, Humanistic Psychology, Saudi Arabia, Socialization, Special Needs

Expression of Love from a Special Child

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The innocent and intuition of the young in being able to understand and respond to the needs of their fellow humans has always amazed me.  The young have not yet had their acts of compassion, kindness, and empathy socialized out of their repertoire of how to be human.  They see, they feel, they react, they express.  It is only the world around them that with time teaches them to develop restraint, to numb, to detach, and to become blind to those around them.   Learning to control and restrain our interactions is often described in terms of our emotional development, a process of maturation, cognitive development, or learning to become adults.  I question if we have developed an effective world in socializing out this innate human aspect of a child…the ability to feel and react to another a human being.

I found myself this evening precariously sitting on a small shelf at the check –outs of Hyper Panda Supermarket waiting for the last and longest prayer of the day to end in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.  Saudi Arabia is an Islamic country, in which all stores close during the five prayer times of the day.  It is not uncommon for me to often find myself unsuccessfully trying to organize my shopping expeditions timed in such a way to “miss the prayers”, which I typically fail miserably at timing appropriately.

As I sat on my make-shift chair, trying to focus my attention away from the fact that my back and feet were aching from walking through the grocery store, that had only been exasperated by the fact that I am 43 years old and 7 months pregnant.  I silently cursed myself for not opting for my hated tennis shoes, instead of trying still to maintain some sense of femininity by wearing my black ballet flats that apparently are devoid of any arch support.  That train of thought led me to thinking of my beautiful high heels at home, that just 7 months ago without little thought I would slip on for my outings without giving a second thought.  Somehow, this train of thought led me down the path of questioning my very existence and what I was going to do with myself personally, professionally, and thinking how pathetic I must be sitting in a grocery store lacking any direction or purpose.

My three children kept interrupting my own internal stream of thoughts related to my personal mid-life crisis, which has only been exasperated by pregnancy hormones that had manifested into a full-blown pity party dancing in my head.  “Mommy, can I get a new Pez dispenser?  Mommy, I want gum!  Mommy, Jasmine is getting two candy…it is not fair”.  I found myself saying “No”, “No”, “No”, and finally reverting to “Whatever”.  My last response sent me into initiating an internal dialogue of berating myself on my parenting abilities.  I pulled out my phone in my attempts to drown out their whining, engage in a mindless game of Candy Crush, and escape reality.

Crouching on the little shelf, that was more suitable for a small child than a 43-year-old pregnant woman, I found a small smiling boy running towards me that I thought must be directed towards all the colorful packages of candy that I partially had blocked.  I panicked and thought to myself “How am I going to gracefully stand up from my crouched sitting position, in which I am elevated less than 6 inches above the ground?”

Just as I began my struggle in my fumbling attempts at maintaining some level of grace while standing to let the child reach the candy which I had blocked, I felt his little arms go around my neck and wet little kisses being planted on my cheeks.  The little boy , of about three or four years old, and who was speaking to me excitedly continued to chatter and hug me, while his mother tried to pull him back.  When I looked closely at his little face, I realized that he was a child with special needs, most likely a child that had mosaic Down syndrome.  He continued to hug me and jabbered away in broken Arabic that I struggled to understand, not only because of my own poor Arabic skills, but also because of the effects of his disability.  I looked into his eyes and told him “Shukrin habibi”, which in English roughly translates into “Thank you dear one”.  He grabbed my face and then planted a big kiss on my forehead, which is a sign of respect and love in the Arabic culture.

His mother looked embarrassed and smiled while telling me “Malash” which translated into English is a way of expressing sorry.  I looked at her and in my broken Arabic told her “No need to say sorry, he has a beautiful white heart.”  As she led him away to take their turn in another checkout lane in the growing sea of inpatient customers waiting for the prayer to end, I smiled and the boy and I both waved to each other.  I felt a genuine smile spread across my face, and no not the fake smile that I have meticulously perfected in my years of socialization.  This authentic smile was a spontaneous reaction of being the receiver of an expression of human caring that was not planned, not manipulated, and had no ulterior motive.

My own little girls walked over to me and asked me “Mommy who was that little boy?  Why did he hug you and kiss you?”

Still smiling, I told them “I don’t know, maybe he knew mommy just needed a hug.”

Lulu, my 11-year old, and the most introspective and observant of my 4 daughters, quietly replied with a gentle smile “Maybe so mommy, he picked you of all of the people here.”

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Aggression, Culture, death, Fear, Judgement, Terrorism, Violence, Worldview Differences

Good vs. Evil in War, Violence, and Terrorism: An Ambiguous Perception from the Fishbowl

Humans do not come into the world with a predetermined fixed worldview, but instead their worldview is shaped by their personal experiences, culture, natural environment, and social environment, which constructs their perception of the world (Burr, 2004).  While perhaps many believe that the construction of what constitutes “good vs. evil” is universal, in reality the construction of good versus evil is created through the interaction of the individual with their social environment, cultural indoctrination, as well as individual experiences through time.  In many ways, we are like fish trapped in a fishbowl that have a limited view of what we see, often encapsulated by glass barriers that expose us to a narrow current of the vast resources of water.  In addition, the inner environment of our fishbowl  affects our formation of the world from the amount of space we are allowed freely to explore our own internal world and environment, to the availability of nutrients, clean water,  oxygen, and our  fellow fish determines our level of aggressiveness and perceptions of the world.

As the world continues to struggle with acts of aggression, war, and violence on a collective group scale, the world also continues to struggle how to define legitimate aggression in defending  our own collective group vs. terrorism (Bongar, 2007; & Nacos, 2012).   Acts of aggression and violence in the human species has plagued our entire existence, with the perceptions of who is “good” or “evil” a subjective reality that is often colored by the glass of our own fishbowl existence.   One human’s view of an act of aggression or violence carried out defending a group’s worldview is pious and good, but is viewed by another collective group as pure evil.  This view of “good vs. evil” of the collective group is dependent upon the group’s values, beliefs, and collective group interests regarding resources, safety, and security for themselves and their allies.  Just as many fish species travel together in “schools of fish”, we as human often organize ourselves into little swimming schools that are often determined by social groups as religion, nationality, ethnicity, race, or other ideologies.  We have created a world of competing “schools of fish”, where survival of the fittest is propagated in terms of an “us” vs. “them” paradigm.

Globalization in the last century has created a new type of environment, in which as a species we have failed to master creating waters that  support diversity in terms of acceptance of different worldviews .  Until the last century, humans had limited cultural contact, but with the advent of more efficient and mass modes of transportation, as well as advanced technology such as the internet, our small-contained fishbowls have turned into gigantic aquariums.  We have now been dumped into this giant aquarium where different cultures, societal beliefs, values, and religions have been immersed together,  while trying to establish a food chain of who “eats” who.   While the big fish are trying to establish their power hierarchy, it is often the “shrimps” or innocent civilians, trying to carve out existences that become consumed in the whole process.   Consumed in either fear of others in the world, or consumed as they become the civilian casualties of others jockeying for their own supremacy.

Often in the media and in social conversations, acts of terrorism are often considered to be carried out by “crazed lunatics” that are perpetrated by evil villains (Norris, Kern, & Just, 2003).  Personally, it is often easier to provide explanations in which mental pathology provides some type of explanation for behavior that seeks to annihilate, hurt, or kill another human being.  Focusing on the pathology of the individual is an easy way to rid the collective responsibility of social conditions that foster an environment where acts of violence are fostered.  Research examining individuals who have carried out acts of terrorism suggests that in reality the majority of these individuals do not meet the criteria that has been suggested to indicate psychopathology or a history of being evil in other facets of their lives (Borum, 2004; Cottee & Hayward, 2011; & Kruglanski, & Fishman, 2009).  Research has suggested the life experiences, social influence, cultural influence, and historical context where shame and humiliation have been major themes serve as a catalyst for a “good” individual to go down a path of carrying out acts of evil (Borum, 2004; Waller, 2005; & Zimbardo, 2004).  In understanding the evolution of a path functioning as a “good” person to an “evil” person, the individual’s experiences, societal, and cultural factors must be all examined not in isolation, but as a cumulative experiences, that facilitates a path of violence (Kruglanski & Fishman, 2009).

One explanation of how individuals are influenced from a societal level is Hofstede’s (1984) concept of collective versus individual societies has often been used as a classification system to explain cultural worldviews and the social norms, values, and expected behaviors.  Individualist cultures are described in terms of valuing self-independence, concerns for the individual and their immediate family, as well as having loose social structures in the community.  In contrast, a collectivist society values social connectedness, extended family and communal relations, and an emphasis on the group needs versus the individual needs.  Although nations and cultures have typically been classified as more individualist or collective in nature.  Oyserman, Coon, & Kennelmeier (2002) have proposed that both elements and cultural values run concurrently in a society, but depending on the situation, one cultural orientation may be more prominent, as well as there are individual differences among individuals.  Collective identities of belonging to a group can be fostered in a group by the creation of an external threat.    Kruglanski & Fishman (2006) asserted that collective societies are more likely to use terrorist acts as a form of aggression to initiate social changes that in their perceptions benefit the group.   Both terrorist groups, and recognized governments have monopolized on the collective identities of the masses, rallying individuals using fear to engage in acts of violence, that under normal circumstances these individuals would not most likely engage in.

Just as individual factors alone cannot account for the creation of terrorist, societal and cultural factors cannot fully account for an individual going “good” to “evil”.  If the environment alone accounted for acts of evil, large groups of people would engage in terrorism, and dissenting voices condemning acts of  terrorism, both from within and outside a group of people, would not occur.  Just as different cultural and social factors may spawn an environment that is conducive to the creation of terrorist, individual experiences, individual differences in cognition, perception, and levels of tolerance exist within individuals providing both vulnerabilities and protective factors of who goes down the slippery slope of engaging in terrorism.  The concepts of “good” and “evil” are ambiguous constructs, which are influenced by both societal, cultural, and individual lenses.  Who is the feared shark and those different lenses of subjectivity shape who is perceived as the  shark hunter.

References

Bongar, B. (2007).  The psychology of terrorism:  Defining the need and describing the goals. .  In B.  Bongar, L.  Brown, L Beutler, J. Breckendridge, & P.  Zimbardo (Eds.)  Psychology of terrorism.  New York, NY:  Oxford Press.

Borum, R. (2004). Psychology of terrorism. Tampa, FL: University of South Florida.

Burr, V. (2004). Constructivism. In M. Lewis-Beck, A. Bryman, & T. Liao (Eds.), Encyclopedia of social science research methods. (pp. 186-187). Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781412950589.n165

Cottee, S., & Hayward, K. (2011). Terrorist (e)motives: The existential attractions of terrorism.  Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 34(12), 963–986.   Retrieved from the Walden Library databases.

Hofstede, G. (1984). The cultural relativity of the quality of life concept. The Academy Of Management Review, 9(3), 389-398. doi:10.2307/258280

Kruglanski, A. W., & Fishman, S. (2006). The psychology of terrorism:“Syndrome” versus “tool” perspectives. Terrorism and Political Violence, 18(2), 193-215.

Kruglanski, A. W, & Fishman, S. (2009).  Psychological factors in terrorism and counterterrorism: Individual, group, and organizational levels of analysis.  Social Issues and Policy Review, 3(1), 1–44.

Matsumoto, D.  & Juang, L.  (2008). Culture and psychology (4th ed.).  Belmont, CA:  Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Nacos, B.  (2012).  Terrorism and counterrorsim (4th ed.).  New York, NY:  Pearson Education.

Norris, P., Kern, M., & Just, M. R. (Eds.). (2003). Framing terrorism: The news media, the government, and the public. New York, NY:  Routledge.

Oyserman, D., Coon, H. M., & Kemmelmeier, M. (2002). Rethinking individualism and collectivism: Evaluation of theoretical assumptions and meta-analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 128(1), 3-72. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.128.1.3

Waller J. E. (2005).  Becoming evil: The making of terrorists. International Journal of Contemporary Sociology, 42(2), 167–188. Retrieved from https://www.whitworth.edu/Administration/InstitutionalAdvancement/UniversityCommunications/WhitworthToday/2007_Spring/PDF/BecomingEvil.pdf

Zimbardo, P. G. (2004). A situationist perspective on the psychology of evil: Understanding how good people are transformed into perpetrators. In A. G. Miller (Ed.), The social psychology of good and evil: Understanding our capacity for kindness and cruelty (pp. 21–50). New York, NY: Guilford.

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Uncategorized

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 8,200 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 3 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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My words, but the beautiful image to go along with my words but a talented young man Mounir Kabbara

My words, but the beautiful image to go along with my words but a talented young man Mounir Kabbara

Insights into Materialism.

Uncategorized

Insights into Materialism

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