I grew up living on 5 continents, and then 5 years ago returned to live in my homeland of Jordan.
I enjoyed HUGE gifts during this return, including getting to know this beautiful land which I love and feel I belong to. I also met my soul tribe, awakened my soul herself, and found my soul’s mate.
During this return, I also faced disturbing truths about being a woman in this land and culture, and the status quo and BOX that women have accepted to live in, in the Arab world and particularly here in Jordan.
From full freedom, suddenly I found myself living inside this uncomfortable box. Living in the same house with parents who had VERY different values and priorities in life.
Living as a grown woman in her twenties, treated like a 10 year old girl.
Most of the friends I grew up with, on these 5 continents, moved out of their homes by the age of 18. They became independent, rented their own homes, cultivated their passions and identities, and allowed life to take them on their crazy journeys.
Some pursued unconventional careers. Some lived in with their boyfriends in Paris or New York, others eventually married them. Some had babies before marriage. Some married their same-gender lovers.
They made the decisions that unapologetically aligned with their truth, love, and passions. That was the timeline they inhabited.
I remember when my friend Alexia from college, who came from a conservative Italian family, decided to marry her long-term girlfriend before moving back to California to get a law degree, and everything moved forward smoothly with that. I was so delighted at the freedom that continued to breathe through all their lives. These were the kind of events that became a norm in my life. And I celebrated that.
I celebrated that the progression of my friends’ lives through their twenties offered freedom, independence, and choice to every decision in their path.
Which seemed like the natural unfolding of life… Or so I thought.
During my college years, studying Philosophy and other things, I never considered the option of eventually living in a place where FREEDOM was not… free.
And yet, here I was. Back in Jordan after a quarter of a century abroad, back in the arms of the patriarchy. By choice.
Returning to Jordan at the age of 25, cultural limitations began to reveal their face and (unwelcome) place in my life. To start it all, I had a full-time and prestigious job, and yet I was not “allowed” to rent or live in my own apartment.
An independent woman? It seems that was unheard of…
To add to this, I was friends with beautiful free souls and musicians, whom my family did not approve of, which made it hard to have them over, feel at home, or enjoy the lifestyle I wanted to.
Eventually, I started dating a man, and was “told” when, and how, and what I could and could not do in this regard. Somehow, culture and my family felt entitled to my body, my relationship, and every decision related to these two.
Eventually ready to marry, it turned out we weren’t of the “right” religions to make this a smooth transition, and even this miraculous soul reunion became a battle, or even a war, to wage.
That’s why when, this morning, at the age of 30, my mom came to tell me she was “sad” that I’m leaving home soon, all I could really feel is:
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
FINALLY, I’m leaving.
Finally, I’m stepping into my independent self, and space, and wholeness. And still, this wholeness is compromised, as I leave my parent’s house to join my husband’s home. Which is fucked up.
I see and recognize the depth of my mother’s own feelings, and I am compassionate she is on her own journey, and yet I find it hard to accept such selfishness, and the feeling that our parents would rather we remain children forever.
That is what colonizers did in their colonies for centuries: kept populations disempowered like children, incapable of their own independence.
Clearly, this dynamic lives way beyond what we are willing to see, and it relies on deeply rooted and systemic disempowerment.
It is true, we all need to “choose” our battles, and perhaps this is one I’ve let slip, unwilling to pay the price FULL freedom entails in this land, and instead starting with the “smaller” freedom battles, like the freedom to choose my own lifestyle, career, travels, and day-to-day choices, meanwhile building my financial freedom so that no outer party, not even culture, can claim that power.
But some freedoms, not even money can buy.
My parents never liked my choices. Like when I decided to do my study abroad semester in India, my mom almost went crazy. I told her the tuition was paid, and the decision was done. I stood my ground. But there was a distinguishing factor here: Arab parents seem very okay with us living our freedom ABROAD.
“Just don’t do it here,” I’m sure you’ve heard this too.
Or “What will people say?”
It’s when the questions lean towards living freely HERE, in this land, that the sirens awaken.
You can’t even SPEAK of wanting to be free. Of wanting to live with your lovers, or getting to know them before signing up for a life contract, or marrying the person whom you choose. Of chopping off all your hair , and claiming yourself to be an artist by soul calling.
Suddenly the things your parents used to pride themselves with, including your job, your degrees, your successes, would vanish, and you would be made to feel like your whole being is wrongness itself.
One thing is clear to me: this injustice lives out loud. And yet, it lives in the silence, and in the shaming. It lives within our homes and the unspoken corridors of our subconscious minds.
And every one of us who is silent in the face of this system, is complicit. And every one of us who points the finger outside to blame the government, or another nation, or the world at large for the suffering and injustice women face in this land, is complicit.
Our silence is the enemy. Our willingness to embrace comfort at the expense of our freedom is the root to blame.
And I am complicit. Because I am scared. What would true freedom demand of me? I often find myself pondering.
To what extent would COMPLETE independence be a gift, or a weight, I could carry?
Every day, I live a bit more of my freedoms, and every day, also, I observe the places where I am yet to feel fully liberated.
I had a dream last night I was making my way to the airport only to realize I had lost my passport. Everyone was leaving, and being responsible for my own journey and the loss of my passport, I was stuck. In a way, that was the “heavy” feeling of independence. I was in India or something like that, and I had to figure it all out on my own. The feeling was…shite.
Perhaps that is the biggest fear lurking behind our inability to claim our full freedom. Or mine at least.
Could I really do it? All on my own? This voice shows up as the inner child inside me, wanting to feel held — by the universe and by a community through that process of defying, and upgrading, the culture.
And yes, for me, the support of a community has been essential in that journey — so that I never felt alone in this liberation process.
And as with any theme that comes up in our path, it is in bringing it from the darkness onto the light, to be seen, revealed, and processed, that the transformation begins.
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