An Attempt to Process #1

The beginning of the end

I don’t know where to begin. I don’t know what to say, or what I am supposed to say. But I think I will start with “I cannot process my father’s death”, and I still have no time to do so. The idea of someone ceasing to exist is just bizarre! I remember very well how he laughed, talked, scolded, and joked around! Then one day all that stops existing is just incomprehensible! I know he deteriorated gradually. But I wasn’t there for it. It also doesn’t hit you when you were hopeful that things were going to get better, especially when he told you so, that no matter what happened, things always happened for the best. I want to share my experience because I have this constant need to just tell you over and over what exactly happened when I was there in that hospital room number 69 on the first floor!

My dad was diagnosed with invasive antral (gastric) cancer in the summer of 2017. It fell like a shock on us because we have no family history on both sides of any kind of cancer. My father was the first case in the extended family. He was later on scheduled for an operation to remove the tumors in August. I had to leave back to the States before his scheduled operation. It was really difficult to make that decision. But with a lot of support and readings on the internet, things looked a little bit brighter than they actually were. See, my mom told us that he was on Stage II, hiding the fact that he was actually on Stage III. To this day, I still don’t know what her reasoning was behind this misinformation! And whoever knows cancer or experienced it, knows that from stage II to stage III things are very different. When you’re hit with the reality of cancer, you start reading a lot of respectable and not very trustable sources and statistics. Generally in the stomach cancer cases, the rate of surviving the 5-year mark is very low. And from stage II to III the percentage plummets by %10! 

When he was in the operation room, they discovered once they opened his stomach that cancer had spread outside of the stomach to the near lymph nodes, a total of about 12 nodes were removed plus the margins. They discovered from the biopsies that he had two different types of cancers (adenocarcinoma and GIST), which according to his oncologist is very rare to have both at the same time. He then recovered well and took the time to be convinced to start chemotherapy. If you are familiar with stomach cancer, you know there isn’t one known treatment for it. It was a very invasive aggressive type of cancer that the oncologist had to decide which treatment was best. My dad was scheduled for 8 sessions over 8 months. He was given the “most gentle” kind of chemotherapy as the doctor described, due to his age, diabetes, and blood work results.

On his last two treatments, he took half a dose, then none, respectively, because of low blood platelets count. All that happened over the course of 2017 / 2018. I wasn’t there. I didn’t see him going through chemo. I didn’t witness all the fatigue and tiresome nights. I didn’t see him in pain. He still kept an active lifestyle as much as he could. He still went to the mosque for prayers, visited family, and tinkered around the house. Don’t get me wrong, he was weak! But my dad never liked showing weakness, it embarrassed him. And I think we inherited that from him. He got better! He traveled with the family for three weeks to the U.K. to visit my sister. He was happy. He had hope, but most importantly faith. He was regaining his lost weight. He had an MRI followup appointment when he got back. They found an enlarged node behind his lung. They said it was too small to do anything and that we shouldn’t worry, they will keep monitoring it every 3 months. I can tell you now that then he was under the delusion that he was fine. No symptoms, no pain, anyone would think they’re fine. He was fine. 

Now I want to tell you how I felt throughout the past year. I felt distressed. I was in constant worry. My family called every week. I’d talk to dad for a couple of minutes, nothing deep, no major stories, just your typical how-are-yous. He seemed fine. He was always comforting me not to worry. But I couldn’t help it. Every time I expressed my desire to go back, he would tell me not to. My relationship with my husband suffered. David offered all the support he could. He is compassionate by nature. But I am very difficult to deal with during times of hardship. I don’t like to be comforted, hugged, or reminded of my distress. I’ve always believed it’s a sign of weakness. I battled the decision of leaving everything behind daily. I always wanted to leave everything behind. But then I kept telling myself everything was fine and my father was fine.

During the beginning of 2019, my grandmother and my father both fell ill. And her illness progressed very fast consisting of heart failure due to old age. She had always suffered from high blood pressure and diabetes. My dad, who was so close to her, took it hard. It took a toll on his health, his worry and stress manifested in physical symptoms. He started turning yellow. He was jaundiced! He was admitted to the hospital and discharged the next day due to the normality of his jaundice! It was part of the cancer progression. His cancer by then has metastasized, and enlarged lymph nodes are now blocking his bile duct, hence jaundice. He was put on IV fluids to flush out the built-up bilirubin. His condition calmed down. He didn’t suffer from anything else but turning yellow every now and then, and he got his fluids and drank lots of water, he was back to normal. Then one day, after Ramadan of that year had ended, everything went down the drain!

“عانقيني، قبّلي عينيّ وامضي”

The title is a line from a poem by نزار قباني

I can’t get over how ready we are to receive the events around us on a very personal level. It would ruin our day, friendships and sometimes relationships! When are we going to say “enough” with the culture of snowflakes. Enough with being so self absorbed, we can’t even see beyond the reach of our noses. Not every thing happening around us is about us; somehow triggering some kinds of emotional reaction. It is not necessary to react in situations we’re not involved in. It’s okay to walk away and tell ourselves “hey maybe I don’t have to take everything around me so personally, especially when it’s obviously isn’t about me whatso-goddamn-ever”!

“ولأدعونّ عليك في غسق الدجى، يبليك ربي مثلما أبليتني”

The title is a line from a poem by سعيد بن أحمد البوسعيدي

In the beginning of his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis defines a human natural characteristic: our drive to be good, just and moral. He calls it the Natural Moral Law. He illustrates a comparison between what the ancient scholars, and what modern science say about natural laws. The ancient focused on the metaphysics, while today’s scientists explored the visible world and its physics. But unlike the laws of science, the natural moral law, though wired into our beings, it can be broken, abandoned and manipulated. However, we cannot escape the “desire” within ourselves to recognize and follow it. He gives an example of how we are constantly trying to justify all the instances when we strayed. We never just say “yes we should’ve lied or cheated to begin with”. We always try to justify why we lied or cheated within those moral law frames. We try so hard to stretch the laws to make our wrongdoings fit somehow. He highlights two important aspects of human behavior regarding the moral law. We know it. But we never follow it!

ألقاه في اليم مكتوفًا وقال له “إياك إياك أن تبتل بالماء”

The title is a quote by the Sufi Mansour Alhallaj

My true friend, is not the who does not judge me. They are not the one who don’t care what I am, or what I think or I believe. They’re not the ones who encourage me no matter what I choose to do, regardless of right and wrong. No! My true friends are those who judge me. They are the ones that know I judge them in return. Both they and I know there’s no truth or affection behind the “no judgement” bullshit. They and I will create the safe place for us while judging. We are harmonious and in peace with the fact that we judge. Because only then our true caring for one another shows.

“أخفي الهوى ومدامعي تبديه”

“أُخفي الهوى ومدامعي تبديه

‏ وأُميتُهُ وصبابتي تحييه

‏ فكأنَّهُ بالحُسنِ صورةُ يوسفٍ

‏ وكأنَّني بالحُزنِ مثل أبيه”

‏⁧‫#ابن_الفارض‬⁩

The title is a stanza from a poem by ابن الفارض

Showcasing with Chocolate & Art

The feature image is the flyer of the event.

Early November of this year, I was contacted to showcase my art by the organizers of Chocolate & Art, an underground show based in Los Angeles. The organization raises awareness for the nonprofit Artists for Trauma. They found me on Instagram, and asked me to be part of their two-day event in San Francisco. They encouraged me to contribute to covering the charges of the event and the rent. So I happily paid my dues. I participated with eight paintings. The event took place at the SomArts Cultural Center on Brannan St on Thursday Dec 12, and Friday Dec 13. The venue was huge, with a high ceiling. It was well-lit. Although the crowd was expected to be 1500+, it never felt too crowded. The art was spaced and presented well. There were free chocolate fondus with strawberries, marshmallows and Oreos, hence the name. Many artists did their art live, including body painting. Local musicians & bands played a mix of surf and psychedelic music.

Two days before the event I asked my Instagram & Twitter followers to vote on whether or not pink heels suit a solid plain black dress. Most of them voted yes! I was so stressed out on what to wear. David bought me a little cute classy black dress. But I didn’t want to wear black heels with it! It felt too formal for an underground event, and wearing sneakers would feel like I am at school teaching! So I decided to buy new pink heels!

On Thursday, I worked at school. I really wanted to dress up for my event, but I woke up feeling exhausted already! I was stressed out. So I decided to give myself break and dress up only on Friday! After school, I curled my hair at the Drybar. But then my hair was too overdressed for my pink prison jumpsuit! So, I went shopping for a dress & heels, headed to David’s Holiday party, then off to the venue. I was exhausted. So, I only labelled my art, spent an hour and headed back home. I didn’t expect anyone from my side to show up on Thursday! The big night was the day after.

Friday the 13th is the night I expected my people to show up, and they did! I took the day off. I went to Salon Nine to get my hair done. I wore my newly bought Ted Baker heels, I went to my work’s holiday party later on. At 8:00 PM, my coworkers and I headed to the cultural center. This time, I spent the whole night surrounded by my people. I appreciate the fact they took time and came for me. They got to see my art and praised it. I eventually sold two paintings! I had fun, they had fun which was the most important! My husband was by my side, and my family were in the heart. I met many local artists. I listened to them talking about their work passionately, heard their stories and learned about their inspirations. Overall, it was a successful event. Many of us just wanted to enjoy good art and chocolate! 

P.S. Always bring a pair of sneakers to wherever you’re wearing heels! They’ll come in handy! 


 

This event wouldn’t have happened without the help & support of the following:

My family, especially, Dina Sofi

My husband, David M. Sosebee Jr.

Chocolate & Art, especially, Danilo Santos

Anna Schmidt & her boyfriend Danny

Chloe Donnelley

Abigail Curtiz & her husband, Tristin

Samah Damanhoori

Nahla Khogeer

Jacqueline Arreola

Those who do not thank people, do not thank the Lord.

“أنت الذي حلّفتني وحلفت لي”

RESERVED

وحلفت أنك لا تخون، وحلفت أنك لا تخون فخنتني!

The title is a line from a poem by سعد بن أحمد بن سعيد البوسعيدي

RESERVED

“أحبك، إن قلتِ لا أو بلى”

يا بيادر عمري وصبر الدوالي

The title is a line from song ساكنتي by شربيل روحانا

We don’t want what we theoretically seek. Progress is not as clean and clear as we might like to imagine. We think we know ourselves better than we actually do. We need to disentangle ourselves from what we think we’re like, in order to discover our true selves. We are constantly surrounded by things that would delight us if only we saw them in the right light.