Thursday, 19 March 2009

A-Z FACT FILE: I... J...

Dear reader, I’ve decided to intersperse my fiction writing (short stories, snapshot narratives and poetry) posts with some facts about myself... my way of inviting you to get to know me better ‘up close and personal’ (lol). My remit... three key words for each letter of the alphabet... which lead to three brief facts about myself... and, I hope to cover two letters of the alphabet per post (whenever I do post). Hmmmmm - this should be an interesting journey. It’s so easy to hide behind the liquid interface of cyberspace however in these A-Z Fact Files about yours truly I do intend to keep it ‘real and honest’! Please feel free to simply read, share your thoughts/comments, or ask any questions. [For earlier A-Z facts please scroll down... Thank you!]

I: Identity. India. Interests.
Identity... the discordance in my sense of ‘identity’ and indeed ‘belonging’ has been a root cause of the feelings of worthlessness that has blighted my life. I am not unique in this struggle as many third-culture or trans-culture kids, who in turn become third-culture or trans-culture adults, often struggle with issues around identity and belonging for most of their lives. This desire to have an identity and to belong to something or someone led me to indulge in a self-destructive lifestyle in my teens and twenties. I pursued excessive and reckless life choices and behaviour patterns to fill a ‘gnawing void’ in my life, and each proved to be less than fulfilling or satisfying. Not surprisingly, many of these choices had disastrous results (both in the short and long term) and significantly eroded my self-esteem in the process until I became numb and invisible. I searched for a semblance of identity and belonging in all sorts of strange and unhealthy places... such as, the deadness of the clubbing/drinking scene; in the arms of questionable choices of boyfriends; I even joined a sorority (Zeta Phi Beta) when I was studying at VCU wanting to be a part of the popularity scene of the campus at the time; and then in my twenties, I turned to church and God. As I reflect on this now, it’s interesting that these ‘bed-mates’ – the booze, the boys, the nightclubs, the sorority, and the church... all failed to bring any enlightened ‘sense’ to the brokenness arising from my quest for ‘identity and belonging’. In fact, rather than help me, each in turn has hurt me... well, to be honest – I have hurt myself by loving myself so little in my irresponsible pursuits. I have now stopped trying to find/fix something that was lost/broken a long time ago. The truth is that I will never have a singular identity... I am a sum consisting of many parts... I am many broken pieces... I am all my experiences (good, bad, ugly & unforgiveable) and journeys... I am 2+2=nothing & everything... I am a nomad (spiritually, emotionally and physically). Yes – I have stopped trying to qualify or define ‘who I am and what I am’. I just am. I guess the biggest regret is that it’s taken a lifetime of mistakes and wrong turns to come this point of realisation! India... I have always been fascinated by this country – its textures, its sounds, its colours. It never ceases to amaze me the diversity of peoples and culture contained in that vast and densely populated landscape. When I was very young I was enraptured by Indian movies such as ‘Mother India’ and ‘Sholay’. Going on a working holiday for 3-6 months in India remains on my ‘top 10 things I would like to do before I die’ list (lol).... Interests... in a previous A-Z fact file I mentioned some of my creative crafting interests... other interests of mine include the study of the Arabic language which I’ve pursued through short courses over a period of two years... at one time, I had mastered the alphabet and its script... and I knew a good bank of basic vocabulary, however in the last few years I’ve not been able to continue with my learning of this language and so a lot of it has gone but I do hope to pick it up again later at some point in the future... I have always been fascinated with the Arab language and culture...

J: Jerusalem. Journeys. Jogging.
Jerusalem... my happiest memories can be found in my Jerusalem childhood. We lived on the Arab side in Beit Hanina (about half an hour away from Ramallah). My sister, brother and I went to the Anglican school in the city – a schooling experience I thoroughly enjoyed and will always remember fondly. Even at that age, I fell in love with the mesmerizingly beautiful stony landscape. I loved our weekly expeditions to the Old City which always culminated in my parents buying us a bag of almond sweets from Saladdin Street to share. Lots of memories... of giving milk to stray cats, climbing trees, picking ladybirds from their perch on a stem and allowing them to crawl up my arm, playing in fields of anemones with friends, etc. After many years away from Jerusalem, it’s been great to stumble upon Dina’s wonderful blog and reconnect with the wonderful images of my childhood home - do check out her blog space and have a look! Journeys... I love travelling to places for short visits. I especially enjoy train journeys and I sometimes book weekends to spend some ‘me time’ at a B&B. At those times, I eagerly look forward to the train journey involved travelling to and from the B&B. On those journeys, I tend to watch the undulating green landscape float by. Or I’ll read a book, or I'll simply spend time jotting down ideas for a short story or a poem. Places I’ve journeyed to that stand out for me are: Wales, The Malverns, The Lake District, The Cotswolds (e.g. Cheltenham, Cirencester, Tewkesbury) and also Devon – each region beautiful in its own way. Places I’d like to travel to: Edinburgh, Cornwall, Bath and York. Jogging... after an extensive phase of illness and slowly becoming ‘right’ health-wise towards the end of 2007... I am finally resolved (this year) to get my fitness level back on track with a jogging routine – 3 or 4 times weekly (20-25 minutes). In the past, I have always been addicted to fitness and the gym but for the last 3+ years it’s been so frustrating not being able to do much because of poor health. It’s so nice to be getting things back on track – exercise wise... and especially, with the arrival of Spring... it’s lovely to hit the streets early in the morning and breathe in the life-giving freshness of each new day...

18 comments:

Dina said...

Bittersweet memories you have. I'm glad Jerusalem gives you some sweet thoughts.

Michelle said...

It's funny how we search and search only to find in the end that it was just us we were looking for all along, and here we were just waiting and being perfectly ok in all that too :)

Lilly said...

I love your fact file posts. I find your honesty so refreshing and I am glad you are on the right path for you now. Many of us struggle in the same ways - I think it comes down to our self esteem and our identity for sure. Often we look for the answers in all the wrong places and suffer a bit until the answer finally dawns on us. I also find it interesting that those with poorer self esteem sometimes are the most beautiful talented people around. Namely you. You are unique my friend. so many experiences and so much wisdom and talent all wrapped up into you. Wow!

Lilly Jones said...

Hey Cath,
Your fact file reminds me of 2007 when I declared myself on a journey of self discovery... emotional, psychological, spiritual and so on. It is an ongoing, painful yet refreshing experience and I wish you well my sister. You're a great inspiration to me - Lil

Khaled KEM said...

Hi Cat,

You always start talking honesty then shifting to other related topics. I still like the use of alphabet to define yourself and what you think of your life, past and present, and then share your thoughts, hopes and dreams.

I speak Arabic and I am glad that you find it an interesting language to learn even its grammar is a difficult one to learn even for people speaking the native language. What I like about the language is its richness in words,nouns, adjectives, adverbs,
etc..Great literature is written in Arabic. I can recommend few authors to read their translated work if you are interested.

Thanks
Khaled

CathM said...

@Dina: Hmmmmm... the fabric of life is indeed ‘bitter sweet’!

@Michelle: Indeed. Indeed. Indeed.

@Lilly: Thank you so much!

@Lilly J: Yes, we’re all on that journey...

@Khaled: YES, please – I’d love to have those author recommendations! Thank you...

Strawberry Girl said...

How familiar your words are to me about trying to find yourself. I guess we all go through a bit of that. I think that this is one of the most interesting posts that you have given us because it is so open and honest... you are an amazing person and I am glad that you have decided to BE who you are and to not continue with the things that tear you down.
Love ya, Strawberry Girl

Dina said...

Catherine, I finally posted my pics of your school. And a link to your post here. Come see!

booklady said...

I'm with you in finding India fascinating. After having countless people recommend it to me, I'm finally reading Eat, Pray, Love and am really looking forward to reading about her travels in India.

Bee Bee said...

Thanks for stopping by Catherine :)
I hopped into your space and what do I see? A post which has a mention of my country! I take this as a wonderful coincidence/chance to connect with another writer!

My real interests lie in short story writing and the moment I saw that you too write, I felt very happy. May be we can compare notes, share our frustrations, tips on writing and things that real writers do!

Now, let me go ahead and read other posts.

judith ellis said...

I love your memories. They reminded me of times of uncertainty and the beautiful photos I recently viewed of my mother in Israel. She is no longer with us. Thank you for the memories. They are often shared, though different, aren't they?

CathM said...

@Strawberry Girl: Thanks for your lovely words of encouragement!

@Dina: Hoorah! As you know, I've had a look and the photos bring back wonderful memories. Thank you.

@Caryn (Booklady): I’m going to have to check out that book ‘Eat, Pray, Love’! Thanks for dropping by and leaving a comment!

@Bee Bee: Great to have you visit my blog space. And, many thanks for reading and leaving such generous comments on my short story ‘Blessing’! Hope you stop by again soon.

@Judith: Have you ever visited Israel? It’s a ‘must visit’ place... stunning and spiritual in so many ways. It’s great sharing memories and friendships with other bloggers... thanks for popping by!

rebecca said...

Oh, Catherine, how I relate to your struggle with identity. Mine had to do more with being biracial and always feeling like I neither belonged to maternal or paternal country. Was I English or Spanish? Was I, like my father, Protestant or like my mother, Catholic? And did I prefer my father's English language to that of my Spanish mother? All I know is that when I was little I didn't know I was different. It wasn't until I grew up and was in school that I began to be identified. And, I found, that that carried all throughout life. What I find strange is that people have this need to categorize a person into one category. Well, I fit into many. I neither look white nor spanish; I speak both languages fluently and feel at ease with both cultures; and, I belong to no particular religion, embracing all. The struggles that I had, interestingly enough, had nothing to do with me, but with others. I struggled with the way people tried to pigeonhole me when I didn't want to be pigeonholed. I struggled with the way people viewed me when it was not the way I viewed myself. Me - the ME that I know - is not what anyone else believes me to be or wants me to be. We are all unique products of our lineage, nature, nurture, experiences, etc. No, you cannot pigeonhole a person because we are, ultimately, much more complex creatures than that one particular thing - we are all children of this very, diverse world.

CathM said...

@Rebecca: Thank you for sharing so honestly about your experiences on identity. I could relate totally to everything you communicated. I guess it is when we hear other people’s stories/struggles we find the courage to keep pressing on in our individual struggles because we are not alone!

Printemps said...

I am new to your blog...and I found this Post interesting and intriguing....

I met David C Pollock, author of 'Third culture kid' in Paris and he said something very interesting...Third culture kids are very creative and they are very good at reconciling differences...

Happy Easter and I am happy to know you read Anne Frank, my favorite and of course Bible!

CathM said...

@Printemps: Welcome to my blog! Re Pollock comment – I s’ppose on a superficial level there is some truth to it... TCK’s are very good at creating a semblance of ‘coping and reconciling’... although underneath it all I think there is a lot of ‘struggle’ that leads to a whole host of unresolved issues which rear their ugly head in various facets of our lives e.g. in relationships. Anyway, that's my experience, that of my siblings and many of my TCK friends :) Happy Easter to you too!

Printemps said...

Good that you pointed out about relationship problems in TCKs and I know that is really painful...life on the move for most TCKs...relationship can't be on the move?

CathM said...

@Printemps: Indeed – the nomadic spirit of TCKs is often not conducive to healthy relationships with self and others... I think because a huge schism occurs in self and psyche as TCKs try to make sense of a continually shifting worldviews. Of course, some TCKs do have an overall positive experience – so I’m not speaking for all TCKs. Thanks for your thoughts!