“We killed a rooster for you”

I don’t write everyday. Some days it’s hard to know what to say. Some days it’s hard to know what to do other than sit and stare and wait for energy, or motivation, or some kind of return to who I was or who I see myself as. Some days I spend the whole day doing things, things that I see as belonging to a previous life. Then I come home around 3 pm, beat up from the day, and I sleep. I don’t write every day because I am not sure how I would seem.

We spend so much time worried about how we seem to others. Is there something on my face? Is my hair doing something weird? Will people see that pimple? Is my right eye blinking with my left?

Or more truly, will people see anxiety, fear, exhaustion, sickness, pride, honor, ambition, hubris, depression, ambivalence when they see me?

These are not my anxieties alone, we’re all worried about how we seem. What will people read into? Will I be normal? Will I be different? Is that good? Is that bad?

We live in a world of appearances and so often we scoff at what we don’t understand.

My aunt called one night while I was at my parents house and somehow through my medication induced sleep and the inability of any of us to smoothly use the telephone intercoms, I somehow got the impression that my family was killing a rooster in the back yard. I sat up on the couch in shock and thought, “oh god did the dogs do it?” Then I realized no, they said it clearly in Farsi, a rooster was dead, and we were responsible. “Oh shit,” I thought to myself, “that was too many surgeries, mom and dad have officially lost it.” I tried not to think of how they did it, I shouted at my mom in the next room, “Mom! Did dad kill a chicken? Or was it a rooster?!” She just smiled as she brought me the phone.

How does that seem to you?

Finally I realized my aunt was on the phone and when I spoke to her she cleared up my confusion. “We had a rooster sacrificed for you, he was given to the poor.” I told her how confused I was, I thought my dad was in a back yard in suburbia slaying poultry. She laughed and then apologized for not getting me a lamb. “It was too expensive” she told me. Well obviously. Lamb is of course the classiest of all the meat sacrifices!

So how does that seem?

To me it seems like love. In Iran when a loved one struggles with something bad, the helplessness is replaced with an act of charity, buying and butchering meat for the poor brings luck, the blood of an animal not squandered somehow cleansing us of any sins, bringing us hope and drawing us out of the darkness and into the light. I may not be explaining it super well, but it’s a nice thing to do. They paid alms and in return asked those affected and helped by their act to pray for my health, to bless me. I am not a religious person but I do feel like a spiritual being in a human body and so in their effort to regain control of a senseless situation, I see love. I also see that maybe a family that didn’t have much, had something to eat, and that’s pretty great too.

Though I’m super glad no one was killing anything in the back yard.

So many of us look across the world and before questioning and understanding, we criticize. It’s an anxiety I’ve internalized in my life, the anxiety that you will somehow be less than normal, too weird, an oddball. As a scholar I know without fail that normality is a construct, a way to regulate society and for powerful forces to cause us to regulate ourselves. So I don’t pay much attention to it usually, and it really doesn’t matter.

I’ve veered far off the path of “normal” and for the most part I am proud of who I am on this side of the construct. I am no longer in a fully able body, and I see my disability as my gift to understanding others. I can’t do many things I used to love, and sometimes the sadness creeps in, where will I fit in when I don’t fit where I used to? My puzzle piece has changed so I too must find a new puzzle. So I focus on cobbling together what I know of all the pieces and where blanks arise I try to find new pieces to fill them. I am no longer able to withstand surgeries without slowing me down. I am slow when I walk, measured in my steps. But where others see a snails pace and a nerdy wheely bag, I see what I may have missed before. What I learned from the prayers and efforts of my family across the world is whoever you are, even if you’re not entirely sure who that is all the time, be that person. Be true to that, without shame. Be present with yourself. You wanna kill a damn rooster for your family? Then kill the damn rooster!!! (Sorry to any vegetarians, no offense intended!)

Where I am at now doesn’t seem like much. I am back at work and easing slowly back into my dissertation. With my pain pills I thought I was some kind of super hero because my skull didn’t hurt that bad and now as I have weened down to almost no pain killers (even OTC ones) I can feel the sharp pain of each of the last 3 cuts into my skull. I feel the tender skin around my scalp. I feel an ear that seems foreign in my body. I feel what was taken. I feel what was put back. I feel pressure. It makes you feel empty, like an object, a project. It makes you engage your body differently. It brings fear. It’s palpable. It is all excruciating, it is all real, and it is all – at least for now – a part of my normal.

So how does that seem?

Seems alright to me. Not perfect, but not all bad. Each day I get through makes me feel tougher, stronger, more capable. And I am an oddball, and the more my physical body becomes as quirky as my personality, the more I realize that oddball, it just seems perfect to me.

So when you look at me, I hope you see all of it, the anxiety, the fear, the determination, the pride, the will to live. I hope you see someone different, but hopefully someone worth knowing. And I promise, I will do my best, to see all of that and love, in you.

Peace and love,

Samira

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