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My WordPress site has been difficult to publish to from my phone for over a year. I made some tweaks this weekend so let’s see if that worked! I like to blog from my mobile phone at bedtime. An old habit I guess.

Mom

You always cry when we leave

but I never know why

Singing sincerely with breath as faint

As your hold on this world

Letting the song pull you into one more day

A caretaker

Urine on the bathroom floor

Driver, chef, roof shoveler

Will I ever know you

Will you ever know you

Holding pain close in clumps

HUMAN

A forever response to the environment
Dancing with a partner with a thousand arms
Ignoring or acting on our myriad desires
The need to sleep, eat, exercise, communicate, regulate

Breaking and forming habits
That sustain us through the winds of compulsion

Human:

Taking a bicycle out into the dark, cool night
Safety lights mounted
Blasting Ariana Grande from an iPhone
And racing around a quiet neighborhood in a stiff gear
Waving and smiling at peering residents to reassure them you are just living your best life
Feeling like an apocalypse rebel
So free to breathe and be happy in public

Staying connected
Wanting to be seen
BUT
Precisely in the best way we see ourselves
While hoping to be seen for more than our worst

Human:

Saying ridiculous things or singing stupid songs to free our minds from stress
The need to be rid of stress so strong
We are willing to annoy people around us

To express emotion
To scream in primal terror of grief unprocessed
Alone in a big room after a teleconference

To experience emotion
A sudden urgency
A push of pain, fear, elation, disgust, darkness

Or to repress emotion
And integrate when we are safe
To allow our feeling back into our bodies
Tapping them in, breathing them out, softening them through

As if they were no longer dangerous, or wishful
As if through feeling we give birth to something beautiful
Something that loved us unconditionally
And wanted the best for us

And when we are ready
The touch of another human
Without which our minds question our safety
The comfort of a warm hand on our back
Together being human.

Nascent

Leaping into the unknown
Am I non-essential?
Wasn’t that the plan all along?
That if the world needed me,
I would be in a field somewhere
Twirling and learning how to gather up strength
And speed
For precise release at the right moment,
And let those who dream an American Dream
Run up the ladders to the treetops
That never stop fruiting
Stuffing apples into their overalls
And churning sauce for their young,
I dump a little water at the roots
And say thank you when an apple is tossed down.
“You’re just not needed right now.”
And that’s okay
Because while you were busy not needing me
I found ways to be myself
Deep and pure
Present and available
To nurture a seed
Tender and fragile
Nascent
Buried
The most beautiful thing in the world.

“What would you attempt if you knew you would succeed?”

Oprah Winfrey inspired me with that phrase in high school. And while I have been reaching for my dreams ever since, I have never wanted to succeed at something so much as what you’re about to read below.

Amina reached out to me on Facebook after “loving” a comment I made on a Humans of New York post:
“hi I see that you’re a very kind person. while everyone else was busy wishing him well you made an effort to actually help.”

After becoming friends for a few days and enjoying each other’s posts (something I rarely do with random people who contact me from overseas), she started asking me about my recent community work with homelessness, specifically, “How do you get politicians to be human?” She seemed very interested, ending with: “Godwilling I shall succeed.”

After some discussions, she shared a link to a disturbing BBC documentary  about religious healing centers in Kenya that claim to “rehab” people from drugs and mental illness, but they are little more than profit centers that are used to falsely imprison and abuse people. Beatings, whippings, solitary confinement, drinking poison to cause severe vomiting or “cleansing”, are all tactics used on prisoners to break them down.

Devastatingly, she revealed that she had been sent to one of the rehab centers shown on the BBC documentary in 2018, at the age of 28. There was so much public outcry that prisoners were eventually released; however, she was released back to the family that sent her there. Now the police want her to testify against her abusers, and she fears she will lose her shelter and safety as a result.

Please help me share or donate ASAP to give Amina a chance at a better future.

Here is the story in her own words (I have made some grammatical corrections for easier reading):

“It was the end of April 2018. I finally had all the money I needed for my tonsillectomy. I knew there would be consequences for me, but I had to have the surgery. You see when I was a baby my mother took me to a traditional doctor and he burnt my tonsils inside out. I’ll send you the pic. This caused a lot of health issues for me. My half-sister (who is far better off than I am thanks to her father), after years of begging, gave me the money for the surgery.

I snuck out early morning the next day, it was first of May. Went to the hospital, payed the admission fee, and went to the ward. I had my surgery and went back to that house the next day on the second of May, at noon. I knew they’ll be consequences, so I braved myself.

My mother called the police on me. She first had to play some mind games. She called me and I went over to where she was. She made a phone call to my father. She told him that I had killed myself. I didn’t get alarmed or anything as I was used to it. I went back to what I was doing after a while she called me up again. She said that I should go and open the gate.

There was a young man there called Hussein. He and two police men forced me into their car. I was terrified. I begged but no one listened. My mother got in the front seat and we left for Al Mustaqim, an Islamic centre disguised as a drug rehab center. On arrival they took me to the back where the men are kept and into a dark empty room. I stayed there for a while, but thanks to some of the other captive women I was released and brought to my new prison.

The first room you saw with the many bunk beds in the documentary was where I stayed up until August. They told me I wasn’t going anywhere so I begged to at least have my medicine, but it wasn’t until Friday that I got the medicine the doctor had prescribed for me. I had bought it already, but mother refused to bring it for me. I kept begging until she finally did, three days after she had me locked up in there. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. I hadn’t eaten as all the food was hard and spicy.

The pain was unbearable and inflammation made it difficult to breathe and swallow. I want to say it’s the worst I’ve ever been through but that would be a lie. On top of that I got viciously bullied by the other ladies. Just like you saw the kid, Ali, being treated.

No sanitary pads. We were ten women in one small room 24/7, nowhere to go. After all the horror of living like this for months the police came to our rescue. It was after international condemnation because of this BBC documentary . It was made months before I was brought there, but stayed on the editor’s desk until by the grace of God it was aired. I personally thanked the journalist, Jamal Osman, on fb.

Right now I have the police on my tail and the reason is they want me to testify against the one they called sheikh Hussein, but that’s not his real name. Most of the men there used Hussein as their alias. My case is tight, so they demand that I testify. I explained to the unsympathetic police officers that I won’t have anywhere to go after I tell the court what was done to me, but they don’t care. The courts are back from recess and I will soon be summoned. Failure to appear means I go to jail.”

**********

I asked her: Is this the cause you would like to see changed in your society? These “rehab” centers?

She responded: “Yes this and all other forms of gender-based violence being openly practiced, Godwilling.”

She confessed she has considered suicide, but that she grew up believing that she would end up in hell, “so I didn’t do it, much to my family’s disappointment.” She currently lives in the servants quarters of the family home.

“I just want to break out of these shackles. Like Wonder Woman.”

“Thank you for understanding there are no people here who I can talk to. I carry these burdens alone.” She ventured, “I thought about doing a fundraiser but I don’t know anyone who will trust me enough to give me their money.”

I told her I could start a GoFundMe for her. “omg. My social anxiety is through the roof just the idea scares me but it has to happen.”

I asked how much she would need, and she said that land in Kenya costs up to eight thousand dollars and building a house costs about three to four thousand. She says she can live off the land and do poultry.

“A chance is all I want.”

Please share and/or donate ASAP to give Amina a chance at a better future.

**********

Our first goal is $15,000 to help Amina be self-sufficient. Any funds raised up to $25,000 (after fees & taxes) will be given directly to Amina via Xoom (a PayPal company), as soon as the funds are available.

Any funds raised above that amount will go to non-profit organizations (or toward starting a non-profit organization) that will work to eradicate gender-based violence and give women chances for a better life.

**********
This was not an easy thing to post. Amina has shared all this information privately with me and has approved the language of this fundraiser. She has provided me with her full contact information, identity document, photos, medical receipt and documentation surrounding her tonsillectomy when I asked for them. I will share some of this once I can do so in the right way to properly protect privacy. I have contacted other contacts she has interacted with on Facebook to ensure she is not just simply asking any American she meets for money. I have taken every step I can think of to validate the information she has entrusted me with and put online, and I post this with tears in my eyes, love in my heart, and conscious of the personal and professional risks I am taking to vouch for a stranger halfway across the globe. And I am also acknowledging the risks Amina has taken to reach out to someone for help at this critical time in her life. She will provide us updates on her progress.

Thank you for caring. Let’s show her there are people who care.

If you are not able to give anything perhaps you could leave her an encouraging message or share her story.

#AChanceforAmina

2019

Married, worked the next day. Went to Miami and NYC. Suffered hypothermia. Severely ill for 10 days in February. Realized I had a ton of pent up anger about my job. Wrote it down. Told the boss. The boss confirmed my fears. Worked hard anyway and taught myself high level corporate marketing. Sang a solo in the church choir. Learned to play Mah Jong. Saw Lana Del Rey in concert at a castle in Ireland. Fell in love with Tamino’s voice (an opening act). Spent 9 days in England and Ireland with Ramón. Paid off our trip and wedding. Paid off my car. Fell in love with Billie Eilish’s voice. Laid off in August. Saw Tamino in concert two more times. Learned to scuba dive. Finished some books. A friend died unexpectedly. An uncle of Ramon’s died unexpectedly. Experienced grief up close for the first time. Navigated crisis. Grieved for everything again. Navigated unemployment. Filed for unemployment for the first time. Many Facebook conversations about things that matter to me. Many timeouts from Facebook to recover. Bought Jagger a cat condo and he didn’t bite a cat sitter for the first time. Passed over 50,000 hands of Zynga Texas Hold ‘Em played. Spent Christmas in Idaho with parents and in-laws.

Decide

Exploring all my options

Need some time off the grid

Too much of what you are saying

Can’t hear the voice inside my head

Too many years of listening

Gotta make art now

Art decides

Relieved

One foot in front of the other, slowly
The walking escalator moves me past
So many faces
Hair colors, lengths
Somber expressions
One or two make eye contact
I’m relieved
So many don’t need me

Funeral Notes

St. Francis of Assisi left his wealth behind for a different way of living. This is particularly poignant to me because he established the order of the Franciscans, the namesake of San Francisco. I too left a life that promised wealth and security to move to San Francisco and follow my passions.

Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that have received–only what you have given.

Francis of Assisi

I’ve always loved this passage:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love,
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
And where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

St. Francis of Assisi

And I came across this new one today, which the last two funerals I’ve gone to have been helping me take to heart. It’s been a process coming back to my joy:

It is the devil’s greatest triumph when he can deprive us of the joy of the Spirit. He carries fine dust with him in little boxes and scatters it through the cracks in our conscience in order to dim the soul’s pure impulses and its luster. But the joy that fills the heart of the spiritual person destroys the deadly poison of the serpent. But if any are gloomy and think that they are abandoned in their sorrow, gloominess will continuously tear at them or else they will waste away in empty diversions. When gloominess takes root, evil grows. If it is not dissolved by tears, permanent damage is done.

St. Francis of Assisi