In the Shadows of Men: And we go again



The lines of this story started with words from her, Nawal El Saadawi, a writer I am proud of. And words from him, Youssef Ziedan, a writer I am proud of: “Be you. Destroy all the protective walls of fear.”

It also began with a discussion that took place among the three of us about our lives. The two writers explained that we (all of us, so many of us) are caught up in external realities—what we are told to be, what happens to us, how others influence and dictate our roles as men and women. We turn these into unnecessary conflicts. We put ourselves in the boxing ring and swing at the air for no reason. This results in a double loss—a victory for one side or the other, and the continuation of the battle. We waste our lives on incoherencies that become the core of who we are. We are lost in the hoax of humanity, and leave it to religion, customs, norms, and people of authority, all of which are united in order to distract us. We chase after ridiculous matters, and we find ourselves lost until we can no longer recognize our own souls, or our reasons for living. We hold strongly to stupid affairs until they become our pillars.

In our conversation, these writers said something so enlightening. Our only job is to understand ourselves and what we want, and to live in an authentic way, regardless of the reality that is designed to confine us.

I am still trying to break apart all the gods I worshipped throughout my days and years—the people and the cultural norms—but they still roam around within me. I still don’t know what truth I am searching for.

I am certain, however, that the answers to my lost questions reside within me, and me alone.

I may need a whole new lifetime to reach myself. To flirt with it. To love it genuinely, to reconcile with it, to remove it from the old depths where I both lived and didn’t live.

There is something in our heritage, that undoubtedly shapes our identity. I cannot say I don’t want it, or that I try to rid myself of it. But everything that taints and distorts this heritage should be thrown out if the human inside us wants to find his humanity. The humanity he or she was created to know in order to be creative and build.

This story might be the story of all women. Perhaps the trials I endured are extreme when compared to those of other women, or perhaps my life is no more complicated than anyone else’s. Its simplicity could be ridiculous, and its boldness could be tragic. And it could be and it could be…

But, in the end, this is a human story that, through its revelations, forms me and liberates me from the complexities that liberation alone can dismantle.

I seek the freedom I am certain I was born for…

The creativity that built the world…

The humanity in us is God’s miracle on this earth.

And me…

This uncertain, dreamy person within this universe…

I will not search for a man to be my support…

My words will be my own support and my legacy.

Men will always remain shadows over my obsessions and apprehensions.

In writing these lines, I feel my life passing through me, as if I’m giving birth to something, but I don’t know what it is. I don’t feel the same pain of childbirth, only the belief that something new is coming, and that everything before and after will be different. It’s the same feeling I had when I decided a decade ago to get a divorce.

They say that beginnings are always easier in love and adoration, but not in life. I feel as if I have been hurled from one place to another, toward horizons I didn’t realize existed until now.

It’s as if an invisible power is dredging me, holding me, and delivering me to a future containing a whole new reality.

I am still afraid to dream.

I am still afraid to give up the hope that the universe is just, even though the spread of tyranny, oppression, and brutality prove the opposite. It seems as if there is a system where tyranny wins over justice, but there remains that space for hope, which moves us. We live our lives, if we notice, for the sake of a moment, of countless moments that may shape our happiness and our miseries, our successes and our failures, our beginnings and our ends.

And there remain moments that may come every decade or so and transform you, with life holding you in its arms, moving you somewhere else. Over there… towards new horizons… choosing you, specifically… carrying you, saying: dream!… live within the heart of hope… with hope, space can be created… and within that space is life.


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