A new month, a new tattoo, and that movie LION

It never seemed quite right…

Life.

I felt like an outsider.  The skin was dark, my anger was big, and a family fused together through adoption seemed mysterious and inaccurate to me.

They wanted something for me–my adoptive parents. They also wanted something from me. And they took it.  They rounded out their family the way they wanted and paid the price not only for the adoption, but for a frustrated kid who knew trauma and brought discord.  It could be painted as a glory story, but I found it to be unsettling and convinced throughout much of life that there was noplace on earth okay for me to be.

Adoption has beauty; it also has a hellish hurt. For multiple people and sides of the reality, it can hurt in the actualization or in the decades to come.

Is that okay to write?

Isn’t easier and more safe to watch the turmoil of adoption from theater seats, cry our tears from limited view, and smile with the hopeful spirit of Lion on the big screen around our nation?

I recommend the movie, truly.

I just also know it is easier to watch from the fifth row up than to be okay with someone in our own lives who is seemingly lost when she should feel found.

I have been recommended to read the A Long Way Home memoir the movie was based on a few times, but I always wonder why when I live with my own taunt and displacement.

Suicidal thoughts kept at bay for most of life.

Finding connections in certain seasons with family and friends allows me to believe I can attach to others.

Depression was chased by exercise at-large and medication a time or two.

Vows and covenants keep bonds that might otherwise be broken.

Jobs held, success had, lives touched, strengths found–and yet none of these fill the hollow or empty the overhwelm.

Life will always have a heaviness.

I have found peace in my faith journey and chaos in my existence.

It is a both/and.  Always.

But I rise to face three little ones and hundreds of teens.  In this, I own my grief just as I declare my hope.

I will find a way through the resurfacing of memories. I will manage the angst of not having white skin as a child and even now as an adult.  I will breathe on despite those who have passed away before me.

And maybe, just maybe, home is growing from within instead of out there somewhere.

Fight for hope with me.

Acknowledge grief with me.

They are not enemies, they are people-shapers.  They comprise our stories and make us who we are.

Hope and grief… welcome to February, we got some life to live.

Join me? Where ever you are, whatever your story… breathe again and live life.


I only tattoo upon my body that which has been etched upon my heart for a lifetime.  

gravis: Latin word for heavy, weighted, grief. 

Semicolon replacement for the i: semicolons are used when a sentence could end, but the author chooses to continue the sentence.  It has become the one of the symbols for breaking the stigma of mental illnesses.  It allows people like myself to take a visible stance to claim life when suicide could have ended it. 

(My previous wrist tattto is the Bangla word for hope. I have the same tattoo on my ankle.  Wherever I go, whatever I do, I am marked by Hope.) 

Another day, suicide and life

It dropped lower and lower.  The weight of my forehead nearly rested upon the cushion as my body caved in around the tender air. I was sitting no more and found all of me in a curled cower.

The pressure pushed against my chest and both fatigue and failure inhaled without respite for exhale.

I was choking on life.

This is what it meant to finish another day. He opened the hours before me, so timidly unpacking a minute at a time,  I parceled out my energy to see others, to meet requirements, to do right by a career and family, friends and a future.

After all, in breathing came life, in doing I proved I was alive.

But depression clung to my every step.  It seeped into my pores and criss-crossed my face leaving hollow eyes and an unrelenting somber sheen.  Life did not wait for me; no, it created a tide of expectations and a current of must dos.

The formula for joy alluded me and the season of sadness seared itself to my shoulders.  My smile real enough to some and the shallow clear to others.

Earlier that day I shifted from flourescent lights to the crisp cold of the outdoors. I beheld a new ceiling, a canopy of heaven stretched over the snowy floor. I witnessed the creator kneel to kiss the earth. The sky wrenched itself into showing the sun. Colors and splays of nature beautiful enveloped me. Gasping in the frigid air, I stored life in my veins and could reflect hope for another moment in time.


Yet what about the time suicide asked me to play? When time took these three decades and reduced them to a single story of unworth which wrecked me as a kid and could dismantle me as an adult.  Why did it look so alluring and okay? Why couldn’t I stop the lie it offered?

What about the time abuse took what was not to be detached from me? Each grievance never looking back and I was left to make sense of fighting my way to health and whole.  Could I ever be healed from the shredding?

What about those who removed their love or favor when my presence clouded with something other than ease and light-hearted life? Why don’t  I make sense to others and why does it always matter so much to me?

This week could not outdistance memories.

This week could not unhinge from the present.

This week a colleague laid his beloved wife to rest after a torment of days and a life journey with the demon of mental illness.  This week a student could not stay where bridges were built and allies found.  This week my husband had to carry the home and  children grow up faster than innocence would ask. This week my friend could not conjour words from myself, a writer, when my own death attempt danced as memory and marker.

Yes, it dropped lower and lower. The weight of my forehead nearly rested upon the cushion as my body caved in around the tender air. I was sitting no more and found all of me in a curledcower.

In the choke of life, I felt removed from all I offer the community around me.  Depression robs me.  It thieves from many. Yet this I know, when strangle felt close, my lungs still filled.  One more breath, one more day.

I can not do all of life the way I wish or take away others’ pain. I can not belong in all the ways an orphan girl is supposed to once adopted. I can not change the color of my skin or how I fit into people’s constructs. I can not unlearn my trauma or forget my twisting of perception.

But as sorrow lies near–I live

To love.

To teach.

To lead.

To write.

To whisper.

I do not know who will follow or who will listen, but my steady foundation of faith and the formation of friends and family remind me: be me to the world.

Who I am, whether small and in a ball, tired from the day or I am strong and tall knowing my purpose, I am alive.

LIVE with me.

One more day, friends. To tasks and talents, give what you can.  Allow others to lend you hope when yours is low and depression is real.

Another day, yes, the light still shines.

——

With respect and deep sorrow for those near and far, recent and years gone by, who have lost a loved one to the grips of mental illness’ lying voice.  

—–

A song by VERIDIA shared to me by a friend–raw art https://youtu.be/hymuOXYAuwk 

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Find someone to text or talk to if you need it. If you feel alone:

CRISIS TEXT LINE: 741741, text GO any time, for free, and trained professionals will interact with you during your rough hours. 

CRISIS PHONE LINE: Call 1-800-273-8255.

January hurts to the core.

How could a month that holds both the fortunous reputation of a clean slate and a month that holds my beautiful wedding anniversary be the toughest one of the year?


Simple stories include that I often get sick.  This week, case and point.  I missed the first two days of work post an extended change of pace during winter break due to illness.

Another is I am not one for the holiday busy, it clutters my mind and whaps my center of gravity out a bit.  I have theories as to why, but this torch has burned for decades and so it rarely surprises me that I start the year with a disheveled heart.

A deeper layer reveals that it is also my birthday month.  However, in hearing stories and recallings of my youth, it is suspected I am a December birthday. This unanchors me.  To know one’s birthday seems woven into being human, being known, being worth celebration.

I do not know mine.

I have an assigned birthday by dear catholic sisters and a gracious adoption paperwork system, but it is false and that has always mattered to me.  I used to loathe the phrase and mention of the day.  I have grown to appreciate the sentiment and the reality that I have a day, like others–inaccurate, but still mine. I look forward to intentional extensions of love in January due to my “birthday” now as a grown adult, but the little girl in me will always falter a bit when the month rolls around.

Foundational imprints of the month have history and hurt.  Statements said, recovery from pain gone ary, and cloudiness of memories and moments that have both shaped and stripped from me–they edge the month with grief.

Stark streaks also invade the month.  Life lived through that I now have to coach my mind in. My mind must believe these wounds can connect to my call to others for their courage despite trauma.

But how I wish the cavernous  wounds away.  The loss of our first child in our first miscarriage in 2007 was anguish.  Standing amid 70,000 mourners and respect-givers as the late President Gerald R. Ford was driven through my hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan, I stood there when I could not stand in front of my classroom of 10th graders. My body reeling from the physiolocigal  truth of the miscarriage–I stood there wondering what the little life could have done in the world as this hometown boy gone President was laid to rest.  My heart asunder in lies that I was a failure in yet another way.

Not even a decade later from that life lost, I found my mind hurtled into the chaos of depression from re-exposure to abandonment and trauma.

The dark felt insurmountable and I became a shell of myself. A suicide attempt tore through my own story and consequentially the lives of those close to me. I may never like the month because of this unforgiving blemish on my action record.  I beg many, each week, to know their worth and turn towards help… It does not lessen my shame, but it is what I can offer their hurting place.

January has fallen to a place of remembering and always questioning if my rise from the grips of ugliness is true and trustworthy.

But hope wins.

Not as a strategy.

Not as a method.

Not as a privilege or a luxury.

But as a Truth.

Students need to know this. Grieving parents need to know this. Trauma victims, homeless, and struggling people need to know this.  It is not swift and it is not mess free, but life — whether gone too soon or grappling for another day, it is comprised of hope and breath.

For all of us still standing, breathedeep, this month and every month.  If you have extra air, lend it in your service, your faith, your extra hand, your benevolent spirit, your career, your neighborhood, your people. Lend hope to those who need to be fought for.

I will.

Join me.

Today I die: The Love Strong Chronicles Part VI

Sweat poured from my forehead.  I felt my shirt stick to my back. The chill inside and the heat of the body slammed in anger toward one another.  I was awake now.  Surely I wouldn’t sleep again for hours.  Not with that startle of my body getting rifled through. Somehow the words, the actions, the abandonment, the hate, the ugly of life that had shamed me found metal.  Metal formed into bullets and they seared through me. My last thought before waking. “Today I die.”

A movie.

A mixing of reality.

A mind wandering from sacred space I nto the pits of human dysfunction and injustice.  Both the fictitious cinematic tale and unspoken truths found residence in my dream in the same stream of thought.  Not a dream to be had once, but one that stomped through my years.

There was no tortured soul in it, but starkly a deep trauma finding escape in picturesque form in my subconscious and then likened in my nightmares.

But not there.  Not at the convent.  The nightmare had no air in the home of peace, the place of joy.

The nun who told me to come soon, she said the same words.  She told me she took little babies, took forgotten women, took her extra time and loved.  Simply loved with all her life so that none would have to say “Today I die.” 

Some did die though. 

As I spoke of the circles hanging from a chain around my neck, as I spoke of the little ones who never breathed this side of heaven after hours of smiling as she asked of my three little boys who romp and race around my days, she remembered.  She remembered in that moment, a conversation chased away by the ding of the elevator and the turn of the hall.  The moment where she started to tell us of the babies who did not make it, whose life could not be secured by human love alone.  I would ask her again later, I would ask of death and what she saw. 

The nun. The Catholic Sister who held those who lived and those who died.

The mother. Her child gone too soon.

The widow. The tears and trials that will not let up.

The son. No manual of how to grieve and yet gripped by the tragedy.

The afflicted.  Feeling alone with life, but a chore and curse.

Our love, no matter how strong.

The hate, no matter how sordid.

Is human.

Human.

Today I die.  Not from nightmares or famine.  Not by choice or by calamity.

I die to that which defeats. 

Love will win.

It already has.

Save not the victory for Heaven alone, but for the now, the today, the present.

For the all that you endure, the ways your body has been rifled by pain and for all that you enjoy, as the light of Heaven shimmers through the gaping wounds, chase hope, chose to die to darkness and live where Love wins.

Life abundant.

Heal. Breathe. Live. Invest. Stay.

Easter is coming.

nasreen

I Should Have Died: The Love Strong Chronicles Part III

Survivor’s guilt.

It was first coined around the Holocaust and has become an observed reality for military who suffer with PTSD.

It encapsulates a range of emotions stemming in the guilt of being alive when others near oneself did not survive the same environment. Be it a catastrophe, a tragedy, a battle, or a great social injustice.

People are often thrust into circumstances beyond their control and when death plays into it all, to come out the other side with life when others are stripped is an intense grip.

Survivors can gain a renewed sense of gratefulness, but can also be burdened, even debilitated at the life in front of them.

The nun.

The one who gasped for air with me.

She told me to come soon to the convent. She has also told me not to go to Bangladesh. She doesn’t want me plagued with Survivor’s Guilt.

She has spoken of the good life here in the United States. Of the relative wealth of the American families that adopted little ones from a 3rd world country.

She has spoken of her home, a land I do not know, that is filled with a people who share my skin tone, my deep brown eyes, my ethnic traits and culture that could have been mine.

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Her recollection was painting pictures in her own mind of that which I was rescued from.

I still see her eyes light with a fervent fire when she said that if we babies went looking for ourselves, we would surely be disappointed.

She begged that the present life would be the only reality our hearts would know.

So I resigned myself to only visit Bangladesh if there was a greater purpose than myself.

I often thought as a child that I should have just died, left to the jungle or the road side and never scooped up by nuns and an adoption agency.

I have apologized in the dark corners of my childhood bedroom for being alive.

I have come a long way from agony of surviving when others did not, from believing the world would be better off without me. I have laid claim to the fact that I was adopted for reason.

This confidence does not undo the stark truth that I am likely not strong enough to see death and poverty in Bangladesh on my own. To visit a country that did not hold my years without people who will catch my falling heart, without an organization, or without a purpose that keeps my eyes peeled–peeled to a bigger world than solely my story of grace and grit, abandonment and rescue, love and hate–going there without perspective would surely wreck me.

The Sister’s words.
Some healed.
Some opened fragile wounds.

But this I know, she could not trumpet loud enough her conviction that my life has purpose.

I did not speak of my fears and guilt that had riddled my mind for years. I took her love, soaked it up, and stay in the air of life.

———————-

Will you too? Will you soak up life?

Not a one of us can say the world would be better off without us. Not even myself.

We are precious.
We survived, all of us, and in this our call to life abundant. The demand on our spirits to chase hope.

We all have stories.

For those gone too soon and the years and places of the past, our hearts slow to cherish and process, celebrate and grieve.

We live.
We breathe.
We hope.

My energy low for the ugliness a post like this can dance in my mind. I will continue the chronicles here again next Friday.

These are more than blog posts or details about a country, these are fragments of my exploded heart. Hold it gently, please.

I didn’t die.
I am alive.

And for all that you enjoy and for that which you endure, I am convinced you belong and have purpose too.

nasreen

Before Collapse: Bangladeshi Lessons for My Heart

Don’t mute the music now

Music is moving. It winds it’s way through the twists of life, rising with us to the peaks and plummeting to the valleys with us. It can connect us across the centuries and bind people standing together in new, profound ways. It takes practice to get it right and dedication to learn it well. It is beat, melody, harmony, and symphony all in one. Art claims it, humanity touched by it, and our souls the holder of it.

Silence has its place and for those moments, be still.

But if it is a time like this, for the music to play, let it.

If someone loved you, love forward.
If someone mentored you, bless on.
If someone taught you, teach others.
If someone gifted you, pay it forward.

For tragedy and joy are some of the greatest complexities in life, we are intertwined with both daily.

When tragedy shatters the stained glass window around you and the piercing sun blinds your eyes, keep breathing, keep living. Let the notes of courage and providence carry you just to the next measure. Weep to the slow, riveting sound of the low tones and know this too is music. Heart-break is still worship, in the wrestle and the raw, faith laid bare, do not mute the music now.

When joy gives pacing to your heart’s arrhythmia and the care from others brings your quality of life to notable goodness, keep living. Let the notes of confidence and community carry you to the next song of beauty. Sway to the rhythm, the momentous pulse of the strong tones and know this too is music. Hope is worship, not for you alone but also for those you can bless, do not mute the music now.

for all you enjoy and for that which calls you to endure, know I play music for each of you,
nasreen fynewever

“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” -Jesus words as written in John 16:33

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written in loving honor of Jeff Looman, fellow teacher, man of God.

written by commissioning of Holley Gerth, leader of a joyful dreaming community that grows in the “pay it forward” lives of college students in Michigan, Jumping Tandem Retreat goers, and myself.

For tragedy and joy are some of the greatest complexities in life, we are intertwined with both daily. For both, I stay on my knees; join me.

And…

don’t mute the music now.

#PFTL

(Photo retrieved from J. Looman’s facebook photos, used under public domain rights)