Embracing Pain and Wearing your Battle Scars


“You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers ”  The Fault in our Stars

I came across an old poem of mine about my scars / pain that I was going through at the time and realized how stupendously self absorbed I was. Ah… the beauty of youth when you think you have it all figured it out. But it got me think of the subject of tests…

A friend of mine once told me that some tests are ones that we choose for it to happen, and there are those that happen because we need to grow. I wonder how he feells about this now, when he has such tests that he is in a wheelchair and half paralyzed with AIDS even though he is still relatively young.

Some sadness never leaves us. Some scars we will never truly recover from, and lay a heavy burden on our hearts.   There are cuts too deep to ever fully heal from. At times, like tonight they feel anew, and at others you feel saddened from a distance like watching a scene unfold that you wish went differently.

” Pain is like fabric. The stronger it is. The more it’s worth”. The Fault in our Stars

But sometimes we can get so caught up in our own version of sadness that we do not realize that out there, millions of people are suffering similar things.  We are not unique in our scars. Everybody hurts, even if it doesn’t feel that way. Instead, we put on a brave face to the world,  put on our masks to be accepted into society. We say, we’re o.k. and no one bothers to find out if it’s true because they too are wrapped up in their own pain.

And that pain, because a thing in of itself  a festering cancer which eats us up for awhile.  Or it can simply be buried so deep that you will only let it out on random occasions and it cuts so deep that people get scared by the ferocity of it’s pain.

No, we choose not to learn from the test. We become bitter, entrenched in our own case of sadness. We lock in ourselves and mistrust anything that comes along. We choose to believe in darkness . We can see darkness, we can taste it. But light? That require faith. That requires a will to get up and be brave.

It requires looking beyond yourself, and trying to serve others. Because if we did, if we got of our own head space we realized we weren’t that alone and we weren’t that different. And then we would channel that pain into learning, we would try to make and create an experience. If we are brave, we could realize that those scars , those scars are swords to make us who we are today. If we took it on ourselves to shine bright, to dream big to find beauty.  We wouldn’t let it win. Because our worst enemies? It isn’t those around us, it’s ourselves. 


i can see her clearly now
her voice echoed in cobwebs
A distant figure
blurred within time
a silhouette in a moon tinted beach
she comes to me in dreams
her eyes swallowed by goblins
There is something skitterish in her eyes
as her mouth overflows with snakes
Her chestnut brown hair ensared
Like children caught in cobwebs
her smile is pasted on carefully
Pieces that don't seem to fit quite right
She echoes softly to the moonlight
Making sure the rivers don't see her tears
Her eyes caress
Moon tinted beaches

She does not live in this world
But lives in glass and crystal

she echoes softly to the moonlight
so the rivers dont see her tears
her vest is open exposing her white lacy bra
but she is unaware of any sexuality
i see her eyes
carresss blue tinted skies
she does not live in this world
but one of glass and crystal
walking midnight gardens of jasmine
while black silhouettes wait for the darkness to 
descend quietly on circles i her eyes
her venus body creeping those horizons she is beautiful  lips
and bright smiles
but she doesn’t see it
her voice overflowing with rainbow

her arms cover from the storms of insults

ugly fat stupid clumsy...
she hovers in corners
and doesnt see the swords poking her back pocket
or the steel breast stitched to her side
 Blinded to  the light pouring out at her fingertips
she has no concept of evil
she lets the bruises descend on her once untouched ski
as they become scars
 she lets the words swallow her beauty
she lets them take away her rainbow words
and stow away her magic in ugly tinted jars
as she decides to die in gray twilight
 dear child
didnt u believe in the pumpkin?
she looks at me now
trying for me to forgive
the ghost i see before me
the rolls of fat that spill out
vanished beauty
but i am stronger now
i wouldnt want to take her back
there is a strange beauty
in imperfection
( poem written at age 18.... not sure if I have the same perspective now :) 
I love this quote from Abdul Baha about suffering :

 “The mind and spirit of man advance when he is tried by suffering. The more the ground is ploughed the better the seed will grow, the better the harvest will be. Just as the plough furrows the earth deeply, purifying it of weeds and thistles, so suffering and tribulation free man from the petty affairs of this worldly life until he arrives at a state of complete detachment. His attitude in this world will be that of divine happiness. Man is, so to speak, unripe: the heat of the fire of suffering will mature him. Look back to the times past and you will find that the greatest men have suffered most.”




The Caterpillar and the Deer

My friendship with Lissell started , as with most things in life , by accident. Her cousin cut in line when we were awaiting the school bus, and we both started to fight about it. That was it. We were neighbors, and friends and it feels so strange that she is so far away from me now.
We have been friends since we were seven. In many ways , we were very different. She was always peppy and happy and everyone could not help but love her. Her nickname was Solar, which meant Sun Ray. Even though there was cute bantering, no one could truly be cruel to Lissell. Her father was a kind older man who once took me to the hospital when I decided to throw myself off the jungle gym. She had two boisterous younger brothers whom she hated and loved at the same time. Lissell was energetic, even her hair was bouncy and she seemed a little like those overly wired puppies who can chase their tails for hours. But she was deeply intelligent and usually got good grades without ever really trying.
We would spend our days racing on bicycles and pretending to make pizzas. She was not the type to play with Barbie dolls but the one who would climb up the highest tree to see if you would catch up with her. Strangely , life in our childhood in the middle of the war was almost peaceful. As long as you avoided tall grass ( which supposedly had homemade bombs) we were almost oblivous of living in the middle of the civil war. We were remarkably creative in the ways in which we spent our time. Lissell was quite attached to all her pets but there was one in particular which had to be hands down the oddest.

Her garden is not particularly big but you would find yourself with the oddest surprise imaginable.
In the middle of the garden was a deer. A deer which by the way was just as antsy as if you were to encounter it in the wild . I remember her because she had tawny fur and white spots just like Bambi… and literally that was her name. Since the deer did not let me go anywhere near her I would set to scare her by shaking my hands and making odd noises. The deer would run in circles non stop all over the house over and over . Lissell, a future animal activist was NOT amused.
I am pretty sure that is why she took her revenge. She was already tiny and her curls would bounce when she walked with manic energy.

Somehow, we decided to climb the wall of my garden the next day. I am not sure why we did it but on the wall were these disgusting green caterpillars. They had big fat bodies and left a trail of green all over. Lissell whispered to me ” Be careful , if a caterpillar gets on you and spits out that green slime you are going to DIE. It burns through your skin like acid.”
Well.. I didn’t really listen and I kept climbing. All of a sudden Lissell screamed at me : You have a caterpillar on you! ” Sure enough I had about three caterpillars on me. I jumped into the garden and started writhing in agony.
I was going to die. This was it. My death by caterpillar slime. I saw my funeral… pretty good attendance for a girl who got teased on, my bullies wailing in regret over ever having bothered me.

It sure was taking a long time to die.
” For goodness sake Maryam you are NOT going to die ” I heard my mother telling me in an exasperated clipped no nonsense tone. I looked up from my writhing agony to see her tower over me with lissell gleefully giggling in the background. When my mother left she told me ” That’s for scaring my deer”.

It’s funny, but twenty years later and she is the one friend that survived childhood. But I will always remember the deer, even if she did die tragically when she bolted from the house unto the street . Sometimes I dream that I see her , and she actually lets me pet her this time.