40 Lessons at 40

Lesson #39

By Venus Souls

I’ve lost count of the number of times I had literally and metaphorically died and come back to life.

The first time it happened was in 1987. I was 8 years old. After a long period of mental stress and anxiety, my body gave up.

Before then, I had been a carefree child who found joy in unlikely places. We were living in Manama, Bahrain, where I had spent most of my childhood. I was a young & nimble adventurer, running with and against the wind. My favourite pastime was the swing. I imagined if I kept practicing I would eventually learn to fly or at least levitate. I sought magic and secretly believed that I belonged in a travelling circus. I made wishes and many came true. But they don’t say ‘careful what you wish for’ for nothing.

I remember how I loved to dance. No matter where I was and what kind of music was playing, I just danced like no one was watching. Except eyes were watching and they weren’t watching kindly. I was told that dancers eventually ended up in hell. That dancing was a devilish act and that if I wanted to be a good person, then I must stop immediately.

I so wanted to be a good person. But I also wanted to dance so badly. And so began my secret life; I danced when no one was watching, which growing up in the Middle East, was not very often.

It’s dark because you are trying too hard. 
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. 
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. 

Aldous Huxley, Island

I had been losing weight quite dramatically. Fatigued, unwell, feeling as if I’d been poisoned. My poor parents – both doctors – could not understand what was ailing me. They were watching the petals of their flower wither and fall, dying in slow motion and they had no idea why as the pain was not localised.

I remember asking my mother in my delirious state: where did god come from?

If I was going to meet him soon, I’d like to know a little bit more about him.

My mother was taken by surprise at my question and told me that I should not say such blasphemous things. So I closed my eyes and thought to myself, I’ll be meeting him soon so I could ask him then.

The truth was, I was not afraid of dying. I had been holding on to a secret that was ravaging me inside out long before this illness was. A secret that even as I write today, makes my hands shake. As if uttering the words would unleash the dogs of hell upon me.

But it’s a secret that many, many, many girls carry with them quietly with graceful resignation. And sometimes not so. It’s not a local pain, you see. It’s very much like a tumour except it keeps moving from one place to the other and by the time you’ve got it isolated in a place where you could inspect it, you realise just how ugly it is and just how helpless you are and then it escapes again and starts ravishing through your psychic bloodstream again.

To me, death would be as good as any stop to that pain.

The only things I remember of that night are the elements I observed from my out of body experience. I watched my body collapse in my anguished parents’ arms. It was dawn and my father had gone to pray while my mother got my weak small body out of my pyjamas and into a dress. I watched their quiet panic put them into full action mode. We were in the car driving towards the hospital. I remember looking at my body, the thread attaching me (my soul/consciousness/whatever you want to call it) to it getting weaker and weaker. I remember my father dropping my mother and I off at A&E while he went to park the car. I remember the quiet hustle of a small hospital. Lots of smiling faces that stopped smiling when they saw me…

And then everything was white. White walls, white faces, light hands carrying me away.

And then I was sucked into darkness.

It was a sleep filled with turbulent dreams. Or perhaps the sleep was dreamless but when I opened my eyes briefly every few hours, everything seemed noisy, clamorous, dramatic. Injections were coming in and out of my small body (I had an injection phobia) and tubes were everywhere. An oxygen mask was strapped around my face to help me breathe. I couldn’t scream if I wanted to. So I would close my eyes to shut everything out.

Each time I ventured and awoke from my slumber I would see my mother crying by my side. I remember telling her to stop crying because it’s breaking my heart to see her cry. Such an Artemisian thing to say!

I was diagnosed with type one diabetes that day. My parents were told that my PH level had reached 0 and I was seconds away from death. 

There have been other times when I was not so sure I would make it. Heartbreaks were the worse. Again, both literal and metaphorical.

My youngest son, Ali, who is now 13 years old, was a most beautiful baby when he arrived. Fat and pudgy with slanted blue/grey eyes and velvet black hair that had blond highlights in it! He looked like magic. Not more or less magical than his elder brother but a different kind of magic. And the spell my body had to go through to bring him into the world almost cost me my life.

The doctors didn’t believe me when I told them at 6 months that I was very unwell. I could not sleep without feeling that a brick wall was on my chest. I could not breathe every time I moved a little. For a woman who was heavily pregnant, I rarely passed urine. Preeclampsia was rampaging through my body.

After I delivered Ali, my body collapsed once more. My heart and lungs were filled with water and for some reason, once he had left my body, my body decided to have a heart attack. I was moved to ICU immediately but the only thing I kept saying, begging and pleading was, please don’t remove my baby from me. Wherever you take me bring him with me or take me with him. Just don’t separate us. I think they knew my life depended on it because they let me have my way.

Life is full of mini deaths. Small deaths that are far more painful than the real thing. The real thing doesn’t involve anything on your part. You just surrender and let it happen. But the small deaths that frequently occur in the form of traumas, crises, divorces, losses of any type, are a pain in the arse because you’re expected to resurrect yourself, somehow, and do it all over again. Preferably with a smile on your face.

As I look back at my cemetery of mini deaths & read my tombstones: “Here lies Dani aka Nesreen, she thought boys had all the fun so decided to be one. They didn’t let her.”

And this one: “Here lies Nesreen, she thought life was about finding a man, getting married & having kids. Killed by Disney”

Or this one: “Here lies Nesreen, She had to shed life as it was to live the life she wanted”

Or: “Here lies Nesreen, they told her she was a Nesreen when in fact she was a Venus”

My tombstones lie in a beautiful garden of my design. It grows more beautiful with every death and every resurrection. I look out of my window and stare at it’s blooming jasmines, daffodils, roses and forget-me-nots & wonder what else should I grow… 

Figuring out the ‘somehow’ each time has taught me what it means to be alive, to live life consciously and with clear intentions. Contradictions and paradoxes exist to teach us the values in juxtaposition. You’ll never understand the preciousness of life if you have not revered – not feared – death. You’ll never understand the perfection in things if you’ve not understood the imperfection of perfection. You will never appreciate the magick until you live a life deprived of all things magical. 

Though it is the only truth we know for sure, we still treat death when it comes as if it were a surprise. A devastating shock. It takes a few deaths before one is able to befriend it. The beauty of everything lies in the very fact that it’s all impermanent. It’s the fact that we are here to witness all the fleeting flights and unceremonious landings… Being present and being counted… Those moments are the magical gifts. Deaths, like births, are worthy of celebrating. The act of living out your values and how well you’re able to do that, that’s the genius of it.

When my consciousness takes life too seriously, my subconscious intervenes and reminds me of this poem by Aldous Huxley:

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. 
Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. 
Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. 
Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. 

I was so preposterously serious in those days, such a humorless little prig. 
Lightly, lightly – it’s the best advice ever given me. 
When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. 
No rhetoric, no tremolos, 
no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. 
And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. 
Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. 

So throw away your baggage and go forward. 
There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, 
trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. 
That’s why you must walk so lightly. 
Lightly my darling, 
on tiptoes and no luggage, 
not even a sponge bag, 
completely unencumbered.”

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Posted by thesoulsurgeon

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