Life and writing updates you don’t really need: healing, slowly

Hello hello!

I’ve dipped again, but for once, I think my excuses are valid.

It’s been a long month of having to suddenly fit myself back into the life I hadn’t seen in two years, except now I no longer find my sister waiting for me at lunch, or asking me to go grab a coffee.

Grief is as horrifying as I thought it would be, but I’m so grateful that, instead of a wall tipping and crushing me underneath, grief turned out to be a maze I have to navigate through. Slowly, I think I am making progress— even when setbacks happen, I believe that I’ll find my way out eventually. I went back to work less than a week after my sister passed, and I’ve filled my days up to the brim with pottery classes and painting sessions and working out, not because I’m trying to distract myself from grief, but because I don’t want to miss out on life.

Anyway!! Writing-wise, I’ve only been working on a hades/persephone piece lately. A lot of themes I think were explored in that and I’ll be uploading it soon (in a few hours? in a few days? Who knows). Thrilled to think that someone may be looking forward to it because the worst thought you can get as a writer is, “Is anyone even gonna read this??”

On another note, have you guys been using the Story option at all? What do you feel about it? Maybe these updates will move over to that feature instead of cluttering my dash.

As always, thanks for reading and please stay safe and happy ✨🤍

The day I lost my sister

I burned vividly the sight of the rain as it fell like a singular sheet beyond the window of the taxi I took to the hospital that last time.

My heart was settled in place, surprisingly, as I rushed through the layers of doors towards my sister’s room in the ICU. Mom had just panicked, I thought; she’d exaggerated how bad the meltdown my sister had that morning. She’ll be fine, I know my sister’s going to be fine.

It’s a strange thing what hope does to you. When I looked past the shutters I saw her unconscious, with wires all over her body. She’ll be okay, I thought again. I’d seen all of these wires before, the only new thing is a massive oxygen mask obstructing her pretty little face. I’d seen it before, the bags of platelets by the twos, never seeming to stay in her body, and the bags of blood, and the NG tube inserted far into her perfect nose to drain the pitch black liquid that gushed out of her stomach if it wasn’t pulled out with a syringe.

But then the doctors came in and asked us to follow then for a chat, and my mother kept asking them to take just me. “Take her,” she told the tall doctor who knelt at her feet. “Take Maryam, I can’t go. Maryam will tell me everything.”

But the doctor insisted, and my mother and I, hand in hand, followed a group of them past maze-like entrances into the quiet room. I knew it was bad news, quiet rooms always are, but as much as I’d thought I’d steeled myself for the possibility of my sister passing during the two years she battled leukemia, “We think we should let her go,” still made me want to yell at her doctors and call them stupid liars.

I didn’t do that. I cried, I cried so hard my body shook with it; a whole two years’ worth of tears trying to break out of my chest. I couldn’t support my mother; she supported me as she wept on my lap. I vaguely remember someone handing me a cup of water that I couldn’t really see.

So we went back to her. It was around 11 in the morning by then, and she was stable. My sweet unconscious sister was hunched in her floral pajamas, holding her new unicorn plushy. We’ll just have to make her comfortable until she goes. The meds are too much, you see? They just make her anxious and fill her lungs with even more fluids.

And so started the harrowing journey of sitting in a room with my sister and waiting for her to die.

There’s no other way to put it. For a day and some change, I stayed in a room with my mother and over-sympathetic nurses, watching the screen as my sister’s vitals dropped and increased for a little spark of hope, the leap of a heart anticipating a miracle. But there were no antibiotics nor steroids, just medicines to make sure she’s comfortable.

Her nurses from the cancer ward came to say goodbye. She’d been hospitalized for 8 consecutive months, and they all couldn’t help but consider us family. Even the cleaning lady burst into tears when she saw us packing later that day.

The doctors and nurses weren’t expecting her to make it through the night but she did, fearlessly, responding to our “Do you love me?” in her delirious state, and groaning the names of our other siblings who weren’t there. I love her. I love her so much and I told her a thousand times that night; and I told her that everyone else loves her too, all the siblings whose names she cried.

But her response became slower, and it was time for her to say her shahada. My mom said it again and again until she followed, and there was so much sadness in my heart I didn’t know what to do with it. “Ashadu Alla Illaha Illa Allah,” she said, slowly, deliriously, brilliantly. It meant that she knew that it was her time to go.

Then she stopped responding entirely. No more nods to our “I’m here and I love you,” and no more unconscious “thank you”s to the nurses after they give her more painkillers. The monitors continued showing her pulse and her oxygen dropping, and her heart fighting a futile battle. It was the following morning then, I hadn’t eaten or changed or even slept for twenty four hours; and my sister was still dying before me. Nurses and doctors kept coming in, and there was one thing I couldn’t stop asking, “What do people do in this situation?”

Really, it was unfathomable. I was waiting for her to go, just sitting there and waiting, shivering uncontrollably under three blankets, in my jeans and my thermals. “There’s nothing I can do to prepare you for what will happen,” a nurse told me, and she was right.

Thankfully, a consultant and a doctor were there to bid farewell, both of them women.

And then it happened.

My legs gave in, and I thought, no, no no no not yet, please, not yet. But it was time, and I saw her breathing still, a warrior in her glory, every inhale racking the entire bed it was so laborious, the distance between each and the next becoming longer. The doctors held my hands and asked me to look into their eyes; Sarah had incredibly round ones. I wanted to run away and never come back, how could this be? I wanted to run and run and cry, but I held her hand and kissed her face and told her again how much I love her, and I couldn’t believe how fast the color of the fingertips change.

Today we’re packing to leave London, and every thing I touch reminds me of her. I’ve always been the thief sister who rummages through her closets for pieces to complete my outfits, and she was the only one who could glue my falsies on. I found so many eyeshadow palettes and bronzers, new and unused, and unopened bottles of floral perfume. But I think I’m making peace with it. It was just so peaceful how she went, she took a breath and then not another one after it; and I keep going back to that memory when I think about all the makeup she wouldn’t get to wear, and all the kimchi fried rice she wouldn’t get to eat. But my heart knows that she’s got much better food where she is, and she’s got ambrosial perfume, things beyond our pathetic earthly pleasures. Oh, and good company, with Grandma and our pilot uncle, and her ugly little green bird, Dino.

Fatma, my patient, fearless sister who faced cancer and chemo and a horrible, horrible GvHD. I will always be your big sister, I will think of you every time I have any of your favorite foods, I will pray for your pure soul as long as I can. I’ll miss you, but I know that you’re in a much better place now.

I love you.

إنّا لله وإنا إليه راجعون

my gentle decimation

I fell in love with my sadness

With her primordial existence inside me

With her magic, ancient and devious

and raw

and maddening

Leaving me yearning to be abandoned

in a city of quiet ghosts

in the safety she promised,

where no other soul exists

where the day’s no longer

aglow, and the night’s calm

is no more

where I am stranded in an

eternal forlorn onset of darkness

that drapes forsaken buildings, ruins

I want it, that terrifying quiet

I want the desolate pleasure of

exploring it, scrutinizing its secrets

After the world has ended

and everyone’s gone,

and waiting for me

to follow suit.

(TYIP) Hibiscus

One time I wrote a story about a woman with steadfast eyes, a surgeon whose little island saw pirate flags approaching and closed upon itself, held its breath.

My girl left her little house, though, when she was called to the ship to treat an illness that was eating away at the crew. I wrote her amputating a man’s leg because she saw no other choice, then I wrote her watching, with an enduring heart, her husband slowly dying.

That story sits abandoned in my drafts, an old, dusty thing— descriptions of island plants and thatched roofs, of an unlikely affinity growing between a criminal and a doctor. I went back to it when I meant to write about hibiscus flowers and what they signify, and found that I’d written my doctor as the embodiment of that flower with no inhibitions. I wrote delicate beauty literally; deft hands and a tender appearance, but a roaring heart in her still. It sounds as though it will shatter, that beauty, but I see it as a fleeting thing, something hopelessly alluring but unafraid to leave; and even if it weakens and withers and dies, it remains tethered to you, like a single gentle breeze on a sweltering day.

Anyway, it’s a waste to leave it unread forever, so here’s a relevant little piece of it:

“Nothing about the affair was effortless, but he could see it, the efficiency of a doctor, comparable to the best naval surgeon he’d seen, mapping the joint and finding the last of the broils, and the first motion and the blood, and other than his first mate tying the limb tight and holding its owner up, she had no hands to assist, none to wipe the sweat beading on her brow.”

(Really, will I ever stop writing about women being so fierce, so fearless? I don’t think so.)

Flower prompt: Hibiscus— delicate beauty, glory, immortality.

I C A R U S

 

Speak to me

about the son of Daedalus

who tasted upon his lips

her freedom

and upon his eyelids

her warmth

Speak to me

about his wings that gave in

plunged him, watched his being

shatter as it struck sea

his delirious soul, drunk on innocence

on sin

Speak to me

about my pristine self

as my back meets the harness

and my new wings

as I stand on the edge,

as the Sun beckons

freedom

 

 

 

Life updates you don’t really need: Heroes

Hello hello!

(Contrary to the popular belief, I am actually ALIVE and well, thank you for asking.)

I hope you’re all doing well and staying safe and healthy 💫

The reason I haven’t been active here at all is that I’ve actually been working on a single project for over a month now (can you believe it? ME? not stuck in a writing block??). It is pathetically short for the amount of time I’ve spent working on it so far, but I’m honestly somewhat proud of how meticulous my efforts have been. An excerpt of it can be found on my Instagram page inkofhers .

I don’t know what kind of exceptional feelings I have towards this piece, but I think I will not be posting it publicly. Still unnamed for now, it retells the story of Hector and Andromache from the Iliad. Fleshing out characters ends up making you fall in love with them slowly (or: your version of them). I’ve always liked Hector, found him one of the few (relatively) sensible men in Greek Mythology, but while Andromache had a little role in the Iliad itself, discovering a strong woman while reading more into it is making me want to do her justice. I knew I wanted to retell this specific story since listening to a podcast about the Trojan War last year, so I’m glad I finally managed to pick it up. Little victories deserve celebrations.

On reading: I’ve mainly been listening to audiobooks lately, and happened to find my first 5-star book of the year. It’s an insanely intriguing non-fiction about Henrietta Lacks’s life and her immortal line of cells. Although it was published a decade ago, I’ve only personally heard one person talk about it in real life. Please give it a shot, it’s a story about humanity and science, and the ethics of both. Another audiobook is Heroes by Stephen Fry (you KNOW I’d sneak Greek mythology in here somewhere). Enjoyed listening to it on my way to and from work, and I’m just grateful Achilles wasn’t included as a hero. Let’s discuss: Achilles is a man-child that moped around for 10 years and– I’m honestly trying my best not to go off on a rant about him at this point. Finally, My Name is Why by Lemn Sissay was a poetic and beautifully written account of a child growing up in care, and all the horrors that come with it.

Maybe this is a tiny celebratory section for myself. I’ve been reading and writing more, finding happiness again after I couldn’t see it for a while. Sometimes I dip, but I am healing; I know I am.

Thank you if you’re still reading. Be good!

Return of the life updates you don’t really need: fierce women, dreamy boys, more magic

Hello hello!

(Yes, I’ve abandoned this blog. I have. I’m gonna punch myself in the mouth for it.)

How are you guys? How’s quarantine treating you? I hope you are all staying safe and healthy.

Due to the fact that there practically are cobwebs growing all over this blog, I’ve decided to challenge myself into writing and posting something every single day. I’m thinking starting small, only a week, and seeing where that takes me. The initial purpose of inkofhers was to encourage me to write and post everyday, but I don’t think less than 50 posts in 3 years qualifies as success. (Edit from the future: Something about forcing myself to write just to post destroys the ‘quality’ of my writing. I didn’t want to post pieces I’m not happy with, so I’ll quietly quit the hell out of this. I promise I’m writing a lot more than usual, though!)

Remember how, in my last post, I described a strange need to delve into magic? I did; I watched Ghibli movies, read fantasy (unlike myself) and some more mythology (A LOT like myself), and listened to retellings of fairy tales on podcasts to put me to sleep. A writing project that I ended up prying out of that is a back story/character study of Lady Eboshi’s character (what can I say, I’m just too weak against women being kings). I’m trying to make it so that even people who haven’t watched the movie can enjoy it. It’s turning out much more extensive than I’d thought, so I really hope you guys will give it a shot if when I post it.

On reading: I’ve pushed myself into finishing 2 books in less than a week and discovered that I have, in fact, not lost my ability to read. I just need to relearn how to focus on things that are longer than a single damn tweet. Throughout, I’ve also been savouring the book “Howl’s Moving Castle” by Diana Wynne Jones, the masterpiece behind my favourite movie by the same name. I’ve been enjoying the book tremendously; the characters are so different from the movie it’s just amusing. Movie Howl, the gentle prince of my heart, is a far cry from the insufferable, overdramatic moron in the book (who, in all honesty, still managed to snatch my heart and run with it). Sophie’s steadfastness is the same, and she’s a lovely character. Book Sophie unapologetically slides snarky comments to Howl all the time, and there’s so much bickering it’s had me laughing out loud several times (and I really never laugh while reading).

I’m going to wrap up this babble-turned-book review mess now. Thank you so much for reading if you’re still here. Please stay healthy and safe during these crazy times!

 

freedom in quarantine, and a hunger for magic

Over the past year, I’d been tormented by a single something that had found its way into every one of my thoughts. It had nagged and tugged, begging to be considered, calling out sometimes, and whispering in others. For a long time I ran each of my aspirations and plans through it, and it made it difficult to see what I wanted my future to look like, and what I’m willing to do to get there.

Really, it wasn’t as dreadful as I make it sound, maybe not even at all. But I know that I didn’t really want it, but I had made it an obligation and committed. I’d committed to it initially, when I hadn’t an idea what that year would bring, then it built up with the days and the months until it was unbearable. It was my turn to beg, but I couldn’t possibly pull myself out of it.

But a thought passed by my mind a couple of evenings ago; it was quick and faint and fleeting. What if that thing just undos itself, ends and crumbles before me, while I uphold my perfect, pristine sense of commitment.

I’m a terrible person to myself, so hellbent on fulfilling obligations that are often just excruciating limits I bring upon me. A sane person would at least try to remove themselves from a situation which clearly brings them distress, but me? I couldn’t, it was unthinkable. I’d committed, after all.

But then it did, it ended itself.

And God, I was so overwhelmed with a shower of complex feelings, with profound relief, and happiness twinged with disappointment. I think I was sad at the thought of parting with this thing that I’d tossed about my mind for an entire year, or maybe I was sad at the time I’d spent worrying about it, just for it to eventually vanish into thin air.

Right now I’m still trying to get used to this newfound freedom. I’d once read comparing toxic relationships to a bad toothache. My relationship with that reality was similar: painful, I didn’t want it, but I feel its absence now that it’s gone, and I continue probing that gap with my tongue, trying to make sense of it just being not there any more.

And no, it wasn’t a bad relationship, and it wasn’t something as horrid. It was a huge step into something I’m so unfamiliar with, such uncharted territory, something I was so scared of, and most importantly, something I wasn’t ready for. It’s over now, and I should probably stop giving disclaimers (lol).

Since my metaphorical shackles broke, I’ve been craving all things magical. In fiction I found myself seeking forest sprites and elves under odd mushrooms, old spirits haunting the woods, fairytales. This penchant for fantasy is very unlike me, so stern in the books I read, recently having been stuck in the “if it doesn’t benefit me or add to my knowledge, I don’t want it,” nightmare. I’m just feeling free of the harsh judgement I held towards myself; maybe it’s why I let myself want the childish magic I’d loved as a kid.

In real life I’ve been thinking of what comes next, finding it okay to have dreams and aspirations, unapologetic and unfiltered. I had taught myself to want the bare minimum just from the fear that I’ll want something and never get it. And while I’m still far from perfect, I know that I’m learning to take myself less seriously everyday, to fear rejection less, and to want more. It’s painful and scary, the thought that things I so deeply desire might not be mine. But hey, what if someday, they do?

 

Dystopian mornings in London

I tragically fell into the habit of visiting a certain coffee and tea house every morning.

One of the very few things I know about myself for sure is that I’m a creature of habit. Routine grounds me, prevents my mind from running off into whirlwinds of worry and doom about there not being enough time (time for what? I don’t know, really, but I always feel like I’m about to run out of it.)

So when I realized that my sanity depended on the little chalkboard that said, “Coffee room open,” before the staircase that leads to the basement, I knew I was deep trouble. The fact that this certain coffee shop was a whole 5.5 thousand kilometres away from home wasn’t about to make anything easier.

(For the better part of 2019, I lived in London. I stayed there for another month and a half of 2020, but I didn’t develop this infatuation with that coffee house until the last two weeks.)

But I still went everyday, tormented by the thought that I’ll have to tear this part from my daily life soon. My mother joked that I met a lover there; that would explain why I was so dedicated.

(I didn’t.)

Inside the coffee house is another staircase, steep and a few hundred folds as claustrophobic as one outdoors. It takes you down to the cafe, and it honestly is a magical, magical thing how descending down that narrow set of steps brings about new sounds and noises and light, a little morning tucked in a coffee-scented basement in London.

I would drink my coffee in peace, with myself and everything else. I’m such a conflicted person inside, an anxious, angry mess. But I don’t think about it, or about life and what it may bring. I just have my flat white in such a serenity so foreign to me and the constant grinding in my brain.

This may sound incredibly romanticized, the half-hour I spend in a café being nothing more than daily routine to many. But it’d become a sort of ritual, a cherished and private escape from myself before anything else. I would read a tragic non-fiction book, Midnight in Chernobyl while listening to its audiobook, because I like it that much, and because Russian names are very difficult to keep track of.

In a sense I didn’t become unaware of the madness of the world above that little basement, but I just for a half-hour detached myself from it. There’s no dystopia more vivid than this reality– and I can’t tell if it’s a coping mechanism, our brain’s final attempts at grasping whatever thinning strands of hope it can find, seeking comforts enveloped within this world, hidden in its folds. But if it’ll spare me the torment of all this dread I’ll take it, delusion or not, for a few minutes of my day.