Once upon a time, a child was born. Between the different events, that child learned that the end in sight is more important than the beginning. My story is not unique, maybe the sequence happening to one person is. I am every woman, every story behind closed doors, every marriage, and every company.
This is the story of a woman born in Lebanon with an international view on life. After losing her mother at birth, being exiled to the States and experiencing family leaving her life, Badiaa developed an inner strength that has allowed her to cope with events that would have broken someone less strong. Take Badiaa’s journey with her and discover truths about yourself and inspiration to take through your own life.
The journey started with agony, screams and pain; that is all I heard and felt.
Hey, is someone there? I asked. Where is everybody? Where did you all go?
Is that how we receive a newborn? I was told I will be cherished! I was told I will find a group of people around me, ready for me, expecting me! I was told I will be someone’s daughter, brother, sister, cousin! This means lots of people out there! I was told I will be treated like an angel! But instead, this weird reception! Why is everyone looking at me this way? Why are some of you ignoring me and avoiding eye contact? Where is the lady that was supposed to hug me when she first sees me? I was told she will be my mommy, and kids have only one mommy! Hey, Mommy, are you there?
… that was the answer! Silence was the answer!
Can someone tell me what is happening? Well, it’s after a long while that a white coat with glasses came to me. Oh I know, this is the angel that promised me all the beautiful things. The white coat said, Dear Child, I’m sorry to tell you, what a beginning! Fate knocked at the door of your mommy, and she traded places with you. You are now on your own. Stay strong!
But wait, you are not the angel that promised me a beautiful life, where are you, my angel?
My angel was just there, in the corner, looking at me with silence and never left!
That is how my journey started, with agony, screams and pain…
It was day one that I learned that pain is relative to the mind, and if we are not strong enough to stand alone, pain will overpower us! But remember I was only a child back then…
I dedicate this book to inner-strength, to women in general and remember that beauty is inside you; to my mother on the death bed and your thoughts at that moment; to my daughters: because of you I am who I am today; to me and here is what I have learned so far…
I am not looking for empathy, I am not looking for tears, I am not asking you to learn from my mistakes although not all are mistakes, I just wish you get to learn with time about the package that made me the person I am today.
December 6 1964, the day launched with fatal news. The loss of a beautiful 26-year-old woman. Yes, I was the black sheep, at least in my own eyes. I was the newborn that morning, the reason behind the loss of that beautiful young lady, my birth-mother. She was beautiful, with a strong personality, charisma, charm, and mainly she was the mother of two boys; four and two and a half and a six and a half year old girl. It was a tragedy in the family. It is the unfairness of life, we can call it fate, destiny, or a call; I just call it “things happen for a reason,” but till now I did not find the reason.
Living without a mother is tough. A mother is the source of strength, comfort, love; a mother is the guidance to perfection; a mother is the devil’s advocate; a mother is the cover up of mistakes; a mother is the cook, the driver; a mother is the beginning. She gives her child everything, knowing that her child owes nothing in return. That is what I lost, and I’m still trying to know why! But unfortunately, no one wants to discuss it, or there is no one out there to discuss it with.
The loss of my mother was devastating to my father. He truly was lost. He tried his best to take care of the family, but being a man, he dealt with things as a man would. Same with my grandmother, losing the f irst born is a tragedy on its own, in addition to the fact that her child was the mother of four children … I don’t know how I would react; all I know is definitely I cannot judge any of them for whatever happened but as for blame, I will let you and time decide.
People mourn in different ways, regenerate their strength through different means, and some move back in the original direction, while others wander towards the unknown. This is human nature. When we reach the point of fragmentation in life, the only possible way to move on is through accepting the situation, collecting the pieces, connecting them together, and moving on. At times, mourning is not the answer, especially when you have little souls depending on us. I respect everyone’s pain, but life goes on.
At the beginning, we lived side by side by my grandparents’ house, my mother’s side. As I heard, my father had nannies taking care of the house and the four kids. My grandparents were there, but I don’t know how much and I don’t know why slowly they disappeared out of our life. They were a big family, ten kids and my grandparents, till the loss of my mother. With time they all vanished, as many things and people did throughout.
To me and until I became at an age where memories can be stored, things were vague.
I recall the beating by the nanny as a toddler with the wooden washing stick. I do not know the reason but regardless nothing justifies it. I recall my dad following her on the street to beat her up, after he saw the bruises on my face and body. Do I recall that; I don’t know, probably this is a factual story I was told! But I still feel the pain inside me and mainly the scars are still there under my eye and by my eyebrow to this day. Truth is, the pain inside is deeper than the scars. It’s a pain shadowed by fear, that still walks down the road till today without knowing its source.
The fear and pain created a fighter. A fighter that escaped battles and chose different ways to stand alone. I don’t know if I can call myself a fighter, since fighters need back up, a battlefield and strategies. The back up component has never been there, the battlefield is my path while strategies, I don’t know if I had time to create, since all the way from birth till today, my life has been a roller coaster.
We had two houses, my memory tells me. The summer house in the mountains and another one in the city for the fall season. At age eight, my dad remarried. I and my brethren attended the wedding. My father was fifty back then. My step-mother was a divorcee of twenty-two years old whom my father helped through the divorce.
The situation of our family required a radical change, and my father had the right to move on. The mother-to-be was a beautiful woman, young enough to have sufficient energy for the new step-children, experienced as a mother because of a son she had already, ready to take over an open position in a broken home, and eager to build a family. The perfect bride for the perfect situation, but of course, with her own story …
The mountain house, I loved. It was there where I had great memories: tree climbing, bicycle rides and of course my first kiss by age ten. I was the tom boy of the village, growing up among boys played a huge role. I was the only little girl on the tree with a dress. My father really spoiled us in terms of clothing and needs. He did the impossible to make us feel happy. As for being close to him, I always felt there was something standing there. Was it the loss of my mother? Was it the concern of raising four children? Or was it how much he knows about children? Between conf licts of knowhow, sorrow and love, he was always there within distance.
At age ten, my half-sister was born. A beautiful baby with beautiful green eyes, who became the dolly of the house. She became everyone’s focus and center of attention. I had mixed feelings about her. I don’t know if it was related to the fact that finally, once I had a mother, I had to share her again with a newborn. I was the first among my brethren to call my step-mother “mommy”. It was easier to me than to my brethren due to the fact that I never met my mom and mainly I was longing for a motherly love. School has never been easy, kids talking about their mothers, mother’s day, and festivities … my parents’ seats were always empty. I tried with time to build a defensive shield that protected me from pain but emptiness was growing as well.
The first years of honeymoon started fading away, my older sister could not adapt to the presence of the new mother, which created conflicts in the house. One morning I woke up to a set of memories torn, the pictures of my mother and us at young age, pictures belonging to the phase before my dad’s remarriage. It aggravated my sister more than others. After a while she left home and went to my grandparents’ home, where conflicts arose as well. So she moved from one uncle’s house to the other where she finally settled in the house of the priest, a family friend, in the States. My sister was attached to serving the church since I remember. I don’t know if things would have been different if my dad had not remarried, but how would I know. Facts are, he did remarry, and my sister had to leave the house seeking her own happiness. Here goes another family member, from inside my house, and who knows what is best? Her news with time started decreasing, and we went on to a different struggle.
It is sad, still till this day, I wonder why do people fight, why is it that my sister did not adjust and cope with the new family set up? Why is it that members in this unit did not fight to keep the family together? But sadly, no one can give answers. Is it fate? Is it what is best? Who knows! I learned to accept what is happening around me, I learned to strengthen the shield and use it to protect me from my pain.
During this time my grandparents became a distant family, I recall spending a Christmas dinner with them. But distance became deeper and I started feeling like a stranger. My bedroom, in which I shared my sister’s difficulties, had an empty bed. Nightmares shadowed me during the lonely nights, and unanswered questions during the days. All I learned; life goes on.
Adjusting to a family routine was a struggle. A happiness that missed some pure factors was growing as well. Some beautiful moments made me closer to my step-mother. But there was always fear of the upcoming. After a phase of wilderness, we had to follow rules and create new memories. It was easy and hard at the same time. Yet we survived as a family, I started growing; learning to be a mother. My mind was recording all the moments and facts. As for my heart, it was holding back because I learned that what is meant to happen is stronger than all power. Somewhere along the way I lost something precious. Happiness has a price!
In 1974, the thirty years civil war started in Lebanon. By then, we had moved from our house by my grandparents to another house in the city. We were still going to the mountain house, but with the war situation, we had to leave both houses and move to the Christian area of town. Farewell to memories, school friends, and neighborhood. It was a beautiful house, where new memories started building up. But when fate calls, we just respond. After my sister left, the Sunday church visit disappeared. I did not know what to pray for or how to pray, I started losing the habit and sticking to the prayers taught at school.
After a while and because of the war, both my brothers left for Germany. My older brother was less than fourteen. They started visiting. It was tough losing them as well. But life goes on.
With or without them, I lived on my own, surrounded by memories I wanted to erase, others I created. Life was not easy, but the fighter inside me, the fighter without soldiers, emanated with a shield strong enough to survive.
As I was growing, I always saw the same nightmare. A snail swelling and extending its shell to block my way every time I wanted to pass. This dream lived with me for years. I was young, I couldn’t do anything about it, and it just added fear to my heart. Till today, I live with the fear of darkness on top of all other fears. With time I learned to isolate my fears and move on. But I never knew, that through isolating my fears, I started locking loads of emotions that made me the woman I am today. Sometimes I feel I can defeat any situation, sometimes I feel I can change situations, and other times I just want to hide and let go. Truly, I did defeat, change and manage a lot but till today I did not hide; more importantly, till today, I did not face. I believe it is related to the fact that I always felt alone among the group of people surrounding me. It goes back to day one, the day I discovered the power protecting me, NONE!
Women are the ref lection of the home they came from and the society they lived in. I was raised in a way to conquer the picture not the content. Good or not, probably time shall decide! I cannot go back in time and change things, as I cannot decide for others. Although people in general are in charge of their reaction to different situations, age plays a big role. If you ask me today what would you have changed … well, I don’t have an answer yet!
Since I was a teenager, my thoughts about the future were to become an independent and successful business woman who would live abroad, single with thirteen children; while other kids wanted to be a mommy, a ballerina or a teacher. I was a rebel, those were the days of the seventies. My thoughts for the future were to break through. I used all the pain, fear and loneliness I lived to dream about freedom, creating my own world, and mainly away from the people who were in my life. Intentionally or not, new circumstances arose, giving me more determination to break through. And here I was, living my teenage years, with deeper emotions locked. During this phase, more space stood between me and God, with more questions to … why me?!
Despite all, I was the happy go lucky girl! Yes, I was. But what the people around me did not know, was that every day that went by, I had deeper scars instilled in me.
Home during that phase consisted of my father, my step-mother and my step-sister. My sister’s news was almost fully vanished, her mentioning at home had zero existence but in my heart she kept a scar that always had one question, why was she gone? As for my brothers who were visiting during the holidays, it was a time of joy seeing them till …
The war took over most of the areas in our country except where we lived. My father managed to keep us protected and away from all danger. My step-mother’s mother, brother and sisters used to come and stay over for days, view the safety factor where they lived. I bonded with my step-grandmother. Laughs and giggles throughout the nights, more than bonding with the kids. She was a mature and smart lady. During that phase, my step-mother and I started getting really close. Closer than I was to my dad. I cherished those days. But as I learned to keep distance from happiness, I was always hesitant. As for school, during this phase, I still was on top of my class, and was always exempt from the final exams. I believe those were some of the best days.
When you live in home having a father like mine, you will be envied for all you have. My father was a man full of life, a man who had a position in society, well-known, respectable, welldressed and outgoing. His personality filtered down towards his family. I recall the days under his roof, under his wings, we were well-known in the society. He loved life, he embraced it. I still hear his giggles watching TV … I still remember the smell of his perfume … Life with him was full of life … It is said when a daughter has it all under her dad’s wings, she can conquer the world! Indeed it is the only true statement! And again conquer the picture and not the content.
What I did not have, living with a dad like mine, was a boyfriend. My dad was from the old school, and I was in an all-girl school. So the boyfriend issue was a mystery to me till my rebel personality broke through. My brothers at this phase started coming often, and here is the time where things started changing.
Loving our kids is a very important matter, showing them respect is great and it starts at early age because it will give them inner-power to succeed, but giving your child a pair of shoes bigger than his shoe size will make him trip. I might be eight in shoe size, in that case I might be able to wear eight wide, long or eight and a half, and prove myself; but wearing a size nine shoe, given to me by my parents and not to other brethren will affect my steps in addition to abusing my energy. I believe that each child has different potential, parents are in charge of developing them and most importantly keeping the family together as long as possible. If I have a problematic child, I don’t throw him away.
Before punishing him, I should dig deep down to reach the roots of his problems. That is the right thing to do.
But what has happened for people to vanish away from my life? Yes I ask again; I asked yesterday, today and I will ask every day. My human nature will tell you that my sister had difficulty coping with a new mom; my grandparents had difficulty coping with another woman replacing their daughter; my … etc.! I will give excuses to everything, and probably I will tell everyone what they need to hear. One of the survival steps I learned is being a pleaser to avoid problems. The truth is, I knew much more, there were factors that facilitated everyone’s exit from my life; they were factors with a set agenda.