31 Dec 2016 – Notes written at the boarding gate at Doha Airport:
Qatar airlines messed up majorly and I spent the night in a strangely scary hotel. I don’t think Doha is unique even compared to UK or Western countries, but the way men move in groups and treat women was a reminder/shock. Each time I was in the lift or public space, there were men looking and commenting. It was intimidating. A British lady on her own who lives in Abu Dhabi was initially perky and said, hey, you should explore Doha in the morning (I had 24 hours to my new flight). By the time she’d been in the hotel 30 mins she told me to stay in my room. I agreed. (Obviously, this wasn’t ALL the men, but it was the majority.)
I was thinking how, and this is not a negative thing (and not reserved to folks in this part of the world), that people seemed more like creatures, animals. Moving in herds, checking out members of the opposite sex. Asserting power. Perfumed and costumed in the right way. I thought of the veneer of culture and civilisation and how we like to think we have manners, we have rights and are entitled to being treated in this or that way. I remember how I am shocked how, in London, people litter in their neighbourhood, their street, their front gardens, how people on the tube ignore the fact that their bag is taking up space or bumping into someone continuously. I wonder what systems we put in place to ignore the people around us, to protect ourselves. I wonder again and again, what are we afraid of? What resources are we fighting for? What poor benefits do we gain from being blind and pushing away fellow human beings, compared to the immense joys and delights we get from connecting? Yes, yes, there are those who adhere to the “low expectations lead to low disappointment levels” startegy – who actively wants to experience betrayal or heartbreak? – but a simple cost-benefit exercise would show that the unknown, unimaginable joys in life don’t come from blinding ourselves.
It has been a difficult year. A chewy one. I lay in bed thinking about the word “trauma” and I am not afraid to use it. I won’t apologise for holding it to myself and owning the experiences I have had this year. I have learned so much and though my body and spirit carry trauma, I am extremely glad that I have had more compassion, understanding, wisdom, and love, beaten into me.
Not to be morbid but following the very sad loss of a friend recently, it does seem helpful to me to think, what if X died now and I didn’t get to see them again? So much is clearer in terms of who and what I have time for (and who I’m ok to let go of or lose, not in any malicious sense, but we can’t have everything and everyone in life, that would be overload, no?) It has been wonderful, absolutely wonderful meeting some new friends this year, and getting to know old ones better. Sitting in front of a fire and playing a board game and laughing freely and uncontrollably with friends has got to be one of the best experiences of my life. What if the world blew up tomorrow? What if civil war begins and my neighbour stood against me with a machete? These are things which happen, have happened, and are happening world over.
Death, loss, life, beauty, laughter. How strange and wonderful it is to be alive. We have more freedom than we use. Always. Courage, connect, courage. Wishing you sight and strength.