It’s morning. I wake up easily, rub my eyes like any person, and prepare to face a new day. Maybe I yawn and wonder, while I make myself a cup of coffee, what should I wear today? The rain clothes or autumn ones?
Maybe I’ll also enjoy the symphony of rustling leaves, my footsteps mixed with the sound of crunching under my feet, on my way to my office in the library.
It’s hard to imagine that hidden beneath this nice image of this simple, happy person are hundreds of crises of pain and horrible memories.
A couple of months ago, I was surrounded by my fear. Like a huge galaxy of poison gases encircling me and my family, it had no end. I have heard that “the pen is mightier than the sword”, but at the same time, the mighty pen can’t protect my kids on their way to school under such dangerous circumstances.
At the same time, it was easy to think that giving up my writing would be the best solution to give my kids a safe life in a homeland that has never lived in peace before. But then what?
I thought nothing was going to change. If everybody thought that way, our homelands would continue living in the darkness of ignorance and the tyranny of unjust customs and traditions protected by law. It’s an unimaginable moment that repeats ceaselessly when I send my children to school. I do not know if they will come back. Is this the last time I will see them?
The strangest thing: When I was in Gaza, I kept going, every day, for them. I was driven only by maternal instinct – without feeling, without awareness.
But after arriving in Norway, I fell back. I couldn’t handle everyday life in a peaceful, safe and calm city. I’m still dragging a big package of pain inside me. A package that turns me into the vulnerable person I have never been before. A bundle of memories and every pain I ever felt before continues attacking me without reason.
These haunting memories and PTSD are two of the most critical problems for those of us in this situation, and no one can deny that we need time to heal. In that moment, it didn’t surprise me to discover that it’s hard to write about our feelings, to participate in literary events, or to meet new people, which makes the host city feel a little bit disappointed or challenged sometimes.
I don’t exaggerate when I say that the coordinators here have a great role in providing assistance to writers, but sometimes, unfortunately, that responsibility can be frustrating and can affect them deeply personally. Nonetheless, they persist in their work, supporting and standing up for us, so we will always be grateful to them. We learn from each other and that puts us on an amazing journey together.
By the time you start to stand up, retrieve your pen and try to get back to writing, then you face new hard questions, such as who are you writing for, now? Who is your audience? Which language will you use?
I think that finding the answers will not be a problem. At some point, everyone will find their own answer. Actually it’s a way to discover and build a new relationship with yourself.
In my opinion, this experience may have positive effects on many of us and on our writing too.
It may improve our literary quality through new topics to write about, new words to use, and new ways this host culture reflects onto us and vice-versa. It may bring goodness to both societies – our old society and the new one – by helping the first to stand up and recognize their problems with a clear vision and by providing this one with a fresh new artistic product.
It’s a long journey for the host and the guest, full of joy and challenges. Sometimes we will fall down and give up for a little while. But then we will reclaim our sadness and pain to stand again, and that’s life as it used to be.
I keep repeating to myself what Grace Coddington said: Always keep your eyes open. Keep watching. Because whatever you see can inspire you.
Wesam Nabil Almadani is from Palestine. She is a poet, novelist, and writer of short stories, many of which have been published. She is an ICORN writer in Larvik, Norway, member of Norsk PEN, and member of General Union for Palestinian Writers.