Quarantine and my old Film: Chained (2010)

It’s no surprise that we are all in self-isolation and the world is in a state of distress. Kuwait has taken some pretty harsh measures to contain the COVID-19 Virus. I am very grateful and glad that we are trying to contain it.

Meanwhile, I ended up searching for memories, old stuff, work I’ve done that I had forgotten about. I found a short film that I had written and directed back in 2010. A whole decade ago. The film was a representation of disability and societal pressures and discrimination in Kuwait. It was screened at various universities and the Kuwait Cinema Club. We were all English majors at the time and had no budget, no real experience in film-making, and pretty much just wanted to do something together we all felt was needed. We wanted to start the conversation about disability, difference, race, sex, etc.

Looking back, I am able to see that my thinking has changed drastically. The film has many problematic issues and there’s a lot that Disability Studies has helped me figure out. I was dealing with internalized fear and hatred of my own disability and that, I feel, is projected on the main character.

The film (Chained) has English Subtitles and is around 23 minutes. I am linking it here:

Book Discussion Event

Last night, January 16th, 2017 was a beautiful night, at least in my journey. I was invited for a book discussion with a wonderful group, ‘Book Therapy Kuwait.’ They also invited two other groups/associations, ‘The Divan’ and ‘Kuwait Poets Society.’ I am still speechless and unable to find the words to describe the vibrant energy and creativity that exploded yesterday! I will simply post the videos to speak for themselves. After the book discussion, Kuwait Poets Society had three of their brilliant members perform/read their poetry in response to my book Forget the Words. I was left awe-struck and my jaw dropped at the way they were able to react to the work, the way they reshaped it, re-envisioned it, and produced their own poetic contributions. The three women poets each responded in a different way, each her own twist, and yet, they all chose words/lines from my work that resonated with them. It was mind-blowing, to say the least.

Nada Faris is a published writer and for copyright issues I won’t be posting her rendition of the work, but her work is accessible on http://www.nadafaris.com. Nada is a performance poet and an avid writer. She had the entire audience awe-struck once she finished reading her poem. I was not surprised with Nada’s creativity and ease with words! I have followed her work closely throughout the years and respect her professionalism and loyalty to poetry and its various outputs.

Farah Al-Wugayan, “xxmantras” on social media, is also in the process of publishing her own book. Farah wrote and shared two poems. She responded to “Presence” and “Belong.”  Farah was brilliant in her ability to feel EXACTLY what I was struggling to express, this idea of belonging/not belonging. I sat there, completely mesmerized. As always, her work is magical and heartfelt, pouring poetic jouissance into her audience.

Rawa Majdi, the founder of Kuwait Poets Society, one of the most productive and supportive women I met, also was on stage. She wrote a heartbreaking poem, a response to “A Room Without Light.” I will post both of her readings, of my work, and then her own depiction of the text. Rawa was able to have us all transfixed on her interpretation of the words. As she spoke, I felt pieces of my heart break, and I was moved by her choice of words, her ability to allude to the “madness” in love.


All in all, there was so much soul, poetry, and magic that night. That is the beauty of words, of language, of connection. Yesterday we were all brought together because of the love for writing, the love for words, and the endless support we have for each other. Strangers, friends, colleagues, students of mine, poets, readers – everyone was radiating. Blessed. Here’s to a wonderful start to 2017!

Below: Farah ​​




​​below: Nada Faris 


Last two videos: Rawa ​​

Finally a quick glimpse from the discussion

On this “Self” 

In a society that continues to dictate to us how to live our lives, what to wear, how to be a “good” wife/mother/daughter, how to be an ideal woman, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of identity, without being swayed and confused by excessive demands. I grew up in an environment that attempted to control, regulate, and tell me how to be “me.”  It was difficult in a mixed American school, where kids tried to blend, mixing a Kuwaiti culture with American ideals and identities. To be considered “cool” was not easy, and to be branded “cool” did not mean that you were to stay “cool” forever, you had to please the majority, follow a certain code of conduct (or misconduct), and of course, the social class you were born in set the stage for all the rest of the demands. 

Even today, it remains difficult to remain true to who you really are. I know so many people who have lost themselves, and to try and recover yourself is the hardest thing you have to do. You may end up in a relationship where you cannot remember who you were before that person, you may end up working at a job where you change your work ethics, or you may end up trying to please the Beast. The Beast comes in all forms: parent, partner, boss, colleague, an illness, age, anything at all that threatens your sense of well-being, your inner peace. To maintain this “self” is important but we also need to know what exactly is this “self” in question. 

At times, I get overwhelmed with it all. I get comments that confuse me sometimes, for example,  I am told that I have perpetually sleepy/tired eyes. Sometimes it gives off a lazy impression, when it is simply a neurological imbalance. It can be frustrating to say the least. I said this a few days ago to my mother, a woman who has taught me to accept the physical body as lacking, to accept society as constantly critical, and to accept myself as an evolving being, but mainly, she taught me that there are no losses in life that should kill me- except, the loss of self. And the biggest struggle, the struggle of fighting to maintain that self, that is the cause. That is the cause- if we talk about feminism, if we talk about disability rights, identity studies, healthy relationships and boundaries, all of it- it’s the same cause. To remain you, at the end of the day. 

This is a random conversation this morning, her reminding me of what it means to embrace myself, even at the age of thirty, one can never do without Mom’s unconditional love and wisdom.   

Now, naturally, the curls are just a metaphor in this post, but as a child it was a pressing issue! 

And that’s all for now. 

Abdulrahman Mohammed sings mostly old Arabic poetry. This one has subtitles in English, too.

Not everyone can appreciate his work. You have to be familiar with the old Arabic poetry, read the poetry itself, compare it to his adaptation, and then enjoy his stunning voice. This is my favorite part, and perhaps it comes as no surprise:

البدر يكمل كل شهرة مرة
وهلال وجهك كل يوم كامل
أنا أرضى فيغضب قاتلي
فتعجبوا يرضى القتيل
وليس يرضى القاتل

Roughly translated: “The full moon appears once every month, but your face, beautiful as the crescent mood, appears every day. People wonder, how can the murdered be pleased, while the murderer isn’t?” (In this case, the speaker is the murdered)..


The past few days have been unusually difficult. Getting out of bed, making it through another day has been sort of a hassle. I don’t mean to dwell on this. But, the point of the post, I was asked to speak about what it feels to love, and to be in love, and to be confined at the same time. To be stuck. To be stuck in a body. To be stuck in space. To be disconnected. This was a very experimental type of performance, no real style, and the audience was very open and receptive. I worked with a wonderful Yoga instructor and dancer, and she felt that the words resonated within her. I did it for fun, mostly. And I chose the words that were mainly about you.

Sometimes, I think the words bring us closer. Sometimes, I think the words can reach you. Do you still believe? I want to know.



Music and Soul

I was invited to Abdulrahman Mohammed’s concert, and as I have always been a fan, I was very excited to see him live. He was spectacular. I am reminded by everything that his music takes me back to. I remember how his words used to make us cry. I remember how the poetics of it all barely captured the intensity of reality. He draws his inspiration and his lyrics from Old Arabic poetry, and he has included Qais’s (the poet) love for Laila. Qais, otherwise known as “Majnoon Laila.” In love, will anything other than madness suffice? I doubt it 🙂 Abdulrahman, like Qais, pours his soul into art. He left all of us completely awe-struck that night, and we left the stage reminiscing and wrapped in a blanket of passion, pain, and possibility. Some of his amazing words: 

قُولواْ لهّا أنني … لا زِلتُ أهواهّا

مَهمّا يطولَ النوىّ … لا أنسىّ ذِكراهَا

هيّ الَتي عَلمَتني … كيفَ اعشَقُها

هيّ الَتي سَقاتني … شَهدَ ريّاها

روحٌ مِن الله … سَوىّ لنا بَشراً

كَسىّ حُسناً … وّجمَلهّا وّحلاّهَا   


So when I turned thirty, it was supposed to be a big deal. You know, the big 30, you’ve left your roaring twenties behind, and are suddenly, supposedly an adult. No longer “young adult” but actually an adult. But I have always felt like an adult, always behaved like one, even when I was only five, explaining to my mother that we were friends, and she shouldn’t boss me around. Responsibility was pretty much part of my character at a very early age. But I digress.

I was very scared of turning 30. When I was eighteen, I thought I’d never make it to 30. Doctors told me that by the age of thirty, things would pretty much be over. But somehow, I made it to 30, semi-functional, and having learned a few lessons along the way. My friends celebrated my 30th, and I realized that having real friends was the greatest blessing. Friends who accept you for who you are, listen to you, hold you up, support you, and tell you when you’re being a douchebag. I was dealing with a loss that I still cannot understand, cannot seem to accept, because there is no sense in it. And yet, I have realized that sometimes you just lose, without explanations, without reasons. Life and loss are just so intertwined. You cannot control the equation, and you cannot control who stays and who leaves. You can only control your choices, how you deal, how you react, but nothing else.

So I wrote myself a letter, and as private as it is, I will share bits of it on this blog. Amongst the things I have learned are:

You cannot ever really prepare for the future. As daunting and scary as it sounds, you really just have to go with the flow. I always tried to plan things in advance, but it was just stressful and exhausting. Things usually surprise you, outcomes are always different.

You have learned to accept you, finally. You have met critical people, people who couldn’t love themselves, let alone love you, people who saw flaws more than anything. You have finally understood that negativity arises from deep within a person, and you can’t change that, no matter how hard you try. You can’t fix a broken person, you can’t love them hard enough to fix them, and you certainly aren’t a superhero. That’s okay.

When you look in the mirror today, you see fatigued eyes, no matter what you do. Your brain works harder than an average person’s, because with MS, the nerve signals are slowed down, and you have to work double as hard to do a simple task. Motor function is difficult, the brain has to adapt to “normal” functioning by trying harder. It can be draining, and yet, people can’t see it. People will make fun of you, they will criticize you, ask you why you look so sleepy and so dead, and there is never an answer you can provide. And that, too, is okay. Accept that people will not understand, and that’s not their fault, or yours. It just is.

There are those around you who have taught you what love is, and even if they are gone, you know that you learned a lot about life and love, trust, friendship, loyalty, and most importantly, human nature. You also learned to accept that when people walk out, it doesn’t mean you haven’t tried enough. You got to let go, and sometimes, you really just aren’t on the same page as the other person. We can be on the same planet, yet on entirely different wavelengths. Love is simply not enough, if respect is not in the equation. Respect, trust, and non-abuse is most important. Love only grows from that equation.

You are blessed that your mother is still alive, and is your best friend. You learned to cherish days that matter, because you never know when time is up. Because of MS, which people have seen as a curse, you are always living in the moment, cherishing it, savoring it, and enjoying being here, today, with your loved ones, able to see them, to touch them, to hear them, to speak with them. This is a beautiful part of life, to enjoy your loved ones’ companionship. People just let life slip by, and as cliché as it sounds, they don’t stop to think about these moments. They always think they have forever and another day to fix things. But if you don’t fix things today, if you don’t make it right, why are you so certain you’ll have tomorrow? I don’t understand this concept at all. It either is, or isn’t. Life is not meant to be put on hold, and neither is love, nor passion, nor doing the right thing.

So every time I feel down, I know I need to think about these things. I need to reconsider where life has taken me. I wish people could see things from a different perspective, that it really is all about today, that you cannot control the future, that security comes from loving yourself and being able to extend that love to those you WANT to love, those that you want to witness their life’s journey. I am still learning, but I know that I have at least solidified who I am by the age of 30. I look back at my eighteen year old self, and I think, you managed to become who you really wanted to be: an academic who struggles daily, but wouldn’t trade it for the world, a simple person who is grateful to be able to read, to drive, to enjoy the companionship of good people, and loves learning about this condition of being human and surviving it every day.


And you were horrified with the mere truth, the truth that I had so desperately longed to hide.  There is a vulnerability in intimacy, in revealing one’s self, in allowing the other to witness a part of your journey, a part of yourself that has remained in the shadows. What do you do upon exposure? Exposure, I have gathered, entails either shame or relief. Both are extreme feelings. Both require a moment to comprehend what had just happened.

It wasn’t a trauma, but it wasn’t an epiphany either. But I do recall the way I felt as only a helpless, crying, sobbing child does, upon first noticing the huge school doors, knowing that it’s time to let go of Mama’s hand, feeling immense fear pull you to the ground, until you’re on your knees, clinging to Mama’s hand for dear life, refusing to let go.

But then once Mama departs, and the child is inside, the teacher smiles kindly, the colors of the classroom come to life, and the possibilities are endless. You can play with clay. You can use markers and scribble whatever you want. You can build something with the blue and red Lego. Whatever you do, it’s like nothing you’ve ever had at home. And the best part is, that’s a feeling you’ve never felt before. The child is now a separate entity. It was worth letting go of Mama’s hand.

“Love is a wonderful feeling, my darling, and I can’t wait to teach you all about it,” you whispered.


Fully Human

What does it mean to be fully human? I have no idea. I am still struggling with that definition. The mind and the body are so intertwined, and then there’s the complicated mess of the heart. Passion, logic, and a failing body – where do we go from there?

There are infinite ways and possibilities of mending a broken body, a broken heart, and even attempts at healing a mind gone mad.

But I am still searching for that “silver lining.” Today I discovered that it seems I must break-up with my body. We are fighting, again, and again. How can I escape it? Meditation, some friends suggest. Find another reality. Leave, disconnect. Find other ways of addressing the pain. And yes, perhaps, this does help. At least there are suggestions. A dear friend drove me around the other day only to keep me company. Fatima is an artist. She told me that she would make sure that I never have to use a boring black cane again – she would make sure it was as rebellious as I was. Fatima re-assured me that there would never be an “end” and that making adjustments, amendments, won’t mean the end of the road. She spoke to me about the importance of colors, colors everywhere. And I guess the “Silver lining” is actually a multitude of colors, you just have to look close enough.

As with gender, race, sexuality,  to understand how able-bodiedness and disability works is to understand what it is to be fully human. Perhaps even partially human. These are all categories that operate to help us label ourselves and others, but mainly, to identify as human (whatever that means).

I have called MS a random disability in the past. I would suggest that the experience of being human is fully random, also. Gender. Sexuality. Love. Lust. Attachment. Commitment. Breakups. Rejections. Nonsense and logic. All of it is random. You simply cannot trust anything around you, and even the closest part of you (that is, your body) can let go. No matter how much we attempt to find order and structure, to instill sense into a mad world, there is nothing consistent but the prevalence of randomness.

And that’s all for now.

On Monsters

I am teaching an Introduction to Literature class, a basic one that covers different genres. We discussed Margaret Atwood’s “Lusus Naturae.” The students had extremely different reactions to Atwood’s style and exploration of monstrosity. For the basic summary of the story, I would suggest just reading it. It’s only 3 pages, and is available online.

The protagonist is an unnamed character, a “lusus naturae” (which really means a freak of nature), and is rejected from society. She is born a healthy girl, but soon becomes monstrous and deformed. She is neither fully human nor animal, we are unsure what exactly she “is.” As readers, we are simply aware of the vagueness of her state of being. Her family eventually gets rid of her, because they are ashamed of her, and are afraid of what the neighbors would say once they notice that she is not a “normal” girl.

At first, the students took this text as a purely fictional, imaginative work. Once I drew their attention to the term “monster” and the permeability of the boundaries between human/animal, healthy/unhealthy, man/woman, they were able to question their assumptions about normalcy and deviancy. The monster, the freak, the outcast, the reject is a symbol, a metaphor for all that is foreign and other to us. As always, we drew on our own experiences of marginalization, as women, as lacking in one way or another. The conversation, of course, drifted to the idea of the “ideal woman” and perfection. I joked about how when wrinkles start appearing on our faces, or when we gain a bit of weight, we are told to quickly hide it, to take care of it, to attempt to look good again, by society’s standards of “looking good” and “normalcy.” Anything else is ugly, deformed, and monstrous. We look away when we see someone deformed or disabled. We claim we don’t judge, but subconsciously at least, we judge. We blame people who are overweight for not going to the gym, for eating too much junk food. We criticize the girl who doesn’t have makeup on to conceal the dark circles under her eyes. We feel superior to those “others” that reconfirm to us our own “goodness” and “normalcy.” They, the others, are the monsters, and we are the “humans.”

The question I posed in class, and the question we kept thinking about: who are the real monsters? The monster figure is so important because of its multi-layered meanings and definitions. Edward Cullen, of Twilight, is yet another “monster”, a vampire that is capable of love, and yet isn’t fully human. The Beast in Beauty and the Beast, typical monster/human boundary, is able to find love once Belle sees through his deformity. Yet does that mean the Beast got lucky? Are there real Belles in the world? How much are we really willing to look past ideas of perfection and normalcy? What is your personal standard and definition? What do you look for? Are you a monster? How many times have you hurt others, harmed them and excused it? I have quoted Mark Twain in the past, and I’ll do it again: “Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it.”

Of course, as always, the board went crazy (or I went crazy) with ideas and keywords.

And that’s all for now.