An Eye For An Eye

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Ever since I saw this story in 2009, I cannot help but think about it and the ramifications. The story is here:http://www.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/02/19/acid.attack.victim/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

The story is about a young woman named Ameneh who lives in Iran. She was unfortunate enough to have a young man sit next to her in college. He purposely brushed up against her and she was outraged. It was then that he began a two year pursuit of her. He harassed her and threatened her and even asked her to marry him. She however refused his advances.
One day after work she was approaching the bus stop when she heard someone behind her as she turned around she saw him and the next thing she felt was intense pain. He had thrown acid on her face. It immediately burned her entire face, her eyes, her arms and hands. Her mother kept the clothes she was wearing which shriveled and burned too. She was left permanently scarred and blind.

She has asked her government to blind her attacker with acid in the Islamic law tradition of “an eye for an eye” known as qisas. My understanding of qisas is that when used the punishment cannot not exceed that done by the perpetrator. Recently the courts in Iran have denied her attackers appeal and he could at any time be blinded. It is my understanding that he would have acid dropped into his eyes not sprayed on him in keeping with what qisas demands. She says her request is not one of vengeance but so that he can never do the same to another person and basically to show men that they cannot get away with this type of behavior. Human rights activists are outraged. I for one have been sitting on the fence quietly digesting the facts of this case and trying to come to some conclusion, none of which appear very satisfactory to me.

In researching this issue I was stunned to find out that in Bangladesh alone there have been over 2,600 acid attacks since 1999 against woman and young girls. According to IRIN, The UN Office for the Coordination of Human Affairs most of these were a result of land disputes, refusals of love declarations/proposals or problems with dowries. According to human rights groups these sorts of attacks are common in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Cambodia, Iraq and India. Often times women who take their cases to the courts find that they are met with disdain in which they are told that if they had only agreed to what the man had wanted they never would have had this problem.

In many countries women who have failed to dress modestly, meaning that their legs or heads may not have been covered or improperly so according to an arbitrary set of standards; have also been victims of acid attack.

Especially chilling is the story of the 11 girls and 4 teachers attending the Mirwais School for Girls in Afghanistan. On November 14, 2008 three men on motorcycles sprayed them with acid. The act was meant to intimidate the girls of the valley to remain uneducated and to stay away from school. In an incredible show of bravery almost all have returned to school refusing to be intimidated.

In 2002, parliament enacted two laws against acid violence: Under the Acid Control Act of 2002, the unlicensed production, import, transport, storage, sale, and use of acid can result in a prison term of 3-10 years. Those who possess chemicals and equipment for the unlicensed production of acid can get the same prison term.

One doctor sounded an optimistic note: “Since then, acid violence has been showing a rapid decline,” said Shamanta Lal Sen of the burns and plastic surgery unit at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).

According to ASF, 221 and 192 people were subjected to acid violence in 2006 and 2007 respectively. In 2000 and 2001 their number was 234 and 349 respectively.

Combating the crime of acid throwing is not easy as it appears to be a fairly common occurance in some countries. And little is done to the perpetrators except for them being ordered to make a minimal financial payment as a form of restitution. Two thousand dollars hardly begins to compensate for the intense medical care required when skin is melted and burned to the bone. Further, in a country in which beauty means so much and disability renders one invisable and obsolete, permenant disfigurement is tantamount to sentencing one to death because eventually there will be no one or no system to take care of the victim. First the victim is victimized by the attacker, then often by the courts and finally shunned by society as a whole. And the offender knows all of this and delights in it.

If it is true that prison terms have reduced the number of acid attacks then perhaps it is possible that even tougher mandatory sentences would help to decrease the number of incidences. But then again,perhaps, if Ameneh Bahrami is right, the blinding of her perpetrator may have more of an effect on stopping acid attacks than any laws presently on the books. Furthermore,if she does nothing and he attacks again her refusal to take action will make her accountable to the next victim for their injury.Lest we try to forget the man who is to be blinded is not an innocent man being used to advance a cause but he is the man who knowingly plotted and planned to disfigure and rob an innocent young woman of the life she knew and loved. He succeeded.

According to a story in the Washington Post… More than two weeks ago, Movahedi was led into court by two policemen. He showed no remorse when the court ruled on the case. When the judge asked whether he was ready for his punishment, Movahedi said that he still loved Bahrami but that if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said. “The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

Ameneh Bahrami has the right to ask for an eye for an eye and has sound reasons for doing so. First and foremost her attacker STILL doesn’t believe he has done anything bad as quoted in the article by the Washington Post.

Preventing harm to others is Bahrami’s goal and it is a noble one in a country where there is no justice for women. May her goal of eliminating acid attacks be the outcome of her quest and may women everywhere never have to fear such a barbaric act being perpetrated on them or their loved ones.

As John Stuart Mill has expressed, “The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not sufficient warrant.”

 

 

Trust

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T – Truthful

R- Reliable

U- Uphold

S- Steadfast

T- Take For Granted

 

This has been a week where I have been put in the position of feet to the flames in regards to trust.  I have been in a situation where I have had to CHOOSE to believe or not. A test for my soul, my heart, and my head.

You would think that trusting would be easy. After all, we enter this world as trusting human beings and if we are lucky we maintain that trust in ourselves and humanity at least until we get into school and we find out what “mean girls” are. But then, as we age, life begins to teach us that trust is not as easy or forthright as we once imagined it to be. It no longer is blind or innocent and often for many of us it becomes something that has to be earned rather than something that is freely given.

This week as I contemplated the issue of trust I decided I needed to understand just what that word meant to me. I discovered there were some essential ingredients that I feel must be evident if trust is to be maintained.  These are:

Truth- For me trusting means that your words and actions must be truthful. NO games, no secrecy, and no purposeful omissions. I want to know that what you say and do is based in truth.

Reliable- I must know that I can count on your words and actions to mean what you say they will mean and that those words will be acted upon and be done.

Uphold-In the old English sense of the word it means to maintain in good condition;to take care of.  It means that you will be constantly doing things to take care of our marriage. To me this fundamental if a relationship is to grow and thrive.

Steadfast- Unwavering in purpose, faith and attachment. Firmly fixed in place or position. You are not going anywhere.

Take for Granted- To accept without question and being able to believe what is said or done is true.

I suspect there is a whole lot more to trust than the things I have written and I know that trust is not just a one way street. Trust also involves making yourself vulnerable by believing in your partner when circumstances appear that it would be in your best interest to protect yourself. It means opening up your own heart, taking off the armor, and allowing possibilities to drift into your life when it makes you uncomfortable. It means looking for the best in the person or situation rather than the worst.

In theory, I believe that trusting with all your heart and soul is the best thing you can do for yourself and your relationships.  I would rather have my heart broken than to never have tried to trust.  But in practice, trust takes two, and you have to know that your partner is trustworthy in all realms of your relationship in order for it to survive.

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Rabbit Holes

Today we walked the cliffs

I saw Stan the Great Blue Herron

The Spout of a Whale

Several waterfalls

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Wildflowers growing everywhere

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A double rainbow

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Five Wet Horses

100 Sheep and One Goat

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My Kids Playing On The Waters Edge

We Held Hands Like A Old Married Couple

We kissed passionately

Both felt good

We went to dinner

By ourselves

I felt content

We played family games

I had a glass of wine

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And I felt incredibly blessed and grateful…

So how come I still question

If this is real

This new “you and I”

And wonder if this relationship

Is really true

That what I think we have

Is what we really have

Or only what I wish it to be

Will I ever trust?

That we are together forever again?

How does one learn to do that?

Is it time?

A “feeling”?

Words?

A vacation together?

Just enjoying one another’s company?

Or is it a monthly visit to the doctor

For a prescription of xanax?

When do you know it is real again?

Or do you never really know?

So you just sit quietly

Huddled within your own mind

Unable to tell truth from fiction

Anymore….never knowing for sure…

If this what I have to look forward to

For the rest of my life?

This uncertainty at its finest?

And yet…

It feels good

This truce

But how will I ever know

If I can come out from behind

The firing lines

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Safe and secure

That my body will not be riddled

With bullet holes made up of delusions

Of what I think is true

Instead of what really is

Will I ever feel safe in this relationship again?

Or will I always wonder

If I should just jump down the rabbit hole

Instead.

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A Little Nudge

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He was a pound puppy just looking for a home. Part Boxer and part Great White Pyrenees he was tan with white socks and once he took hold of our heart, he never let go.

Of course, there were the usual puppy shenanigans … chewed up socks, garbage dragged throughout the house, plants dug up only to be re-planted and dug up again. But as he grew he settled into the role of “Good Dog” and wore it with ease. Now at six years of age he protects us like he would protect a flock of sheep by herding, nudging, and prodding us along the paths that we are destined to follow.

Lately, I have been watching Roo as he trots through life and I have realized he is onto something important. It is an example for us human folks to adopt and to follow. It’s a way of getting your immediate needs known and then met. I realized the power Roo had while watching him interact with each of us “sheep” as he herded us this way and that throughout the day. His power looks like this: Everyday, we can count on Roo to disrupt our typing, our yoga, and our conversations with a sharp nudge of his long pointy nose. A nudge that is often so powerful it will make your hands fly off the keyboard or unbalance you to the point that you go crashing to the floor while in a yoga pose. For Roo, a nudge means “See me. I am here. I want/demand your attention.” And therein lies the lesson.Instead of waiting for something or someone to give us what we want/need perhaps we should be  doing a little nudging of our own. A type of nudging that spells out our needs and desires in a way that allows the important people in our lives to give us the chance to respond in surprising and magical ways. By letting his needs be known, Roo, usually gets what he wants. Perhaps it is time that we all learn to do the same.

So today try a new way of living.  Seize the day by the horn and get out there and nudge. Nudge hard, nudge soft but let your needs be known in an obvious nudgy sort of way. From a dogs perspective it works and from a human perspective I think the rewards are well worth the risk.

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Right Speech, Better Communication

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Throughout my life I have been a person who is expressive. A person who uses lots of words and used them well. Too well it seems. I used words to let everyone know exactly what was on my mind at all times. I let words leave my mouth like flying monkeys swooping up people without thinking about the true meaning of my words. I didn’t care how I said IT just as long as IT was said.

Recently, it has occurred to me that my words were hurting others and as a result they were hurting me too. I realized that I was not connecting my heart to my tongue and had no idea how to do so. Even though I knew I wanted to change how I communicated I had idea of how to go about it. But then I chanced upon the Daily OM and the course How to Communicate Like a Buddhist : Lesson 1: The Elements of Right Speech by Cynthia Kane.

Kane’s way of approaching communication is different from anything I had ever seen. She states that the real purpose of communication is to help ourselves and others suffer less. And when communication is looked at through this lens it tosses convention aside and it makes it crystal clear that if we wish to change our relationships then the words we use, the intention behind them, and the way that we speak through them must be radically changed into talk that is kinder, more honest and most importantly… helpful… to those receiving our words.

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The thing I love about this course is that you pay for it based on what you think it is worth to you. Kane’s talks are detailed, thoughtful and in short…amazing. In addition, there is nightly homework to help firm up the ideas you are learning and put them into practice.

So here’s to better communication everyone! May your words be true, kind and helpful and may your well-chosen words spur you on to better and more rewarding relationships!

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Re-Cycle

 

Today you leave on a “business” trip

To give us space and time

And next week I’ll do the same

While our children

With all their special needs

Watch the slow

Splintering of our lives

Not seeing the whole picture yet

But getting a glimpse of what is to come

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Next week I will walk the cliffs

Gather my thoughts

And sit in silence as waves of emotions

Threaten like a gale force wind

To toss me off the path

Down to the jagged rocks below

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Wanting to make the decision that must be made

And hiding from it like a field mouse

Scampering everywhere just to avoid

Going THERE

Decisions that are far-reaching

Into children’s minds not yet formed

Which when released

Might set off an explosion

One from which this family may never recover.

I’m a freedom fighter

Setting a charge on a dark and gloomy bridge

As the flame slithers along towards it final detonation

But as you look up you see… it is your own loved one

Making their way slowly down the cobblestones

Their last seconds burned into your mind

As you try to squash the flame that you intentionally set

Not knowing at the time

Who the victims would really be

I know what is coming

More heartbreak, despair, second-guessing,

More anger, blaming and worry

Until at last

My soul will be left hollowed away

Into something completely unrecognizable to me

Something vast, flattened, and empty

Something I can abandon or recycle into something new

A vessel that only I can begin to fill again

And it’s my choice what to fill it with….

I think I’ll start with wine.

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Ch-ch-ch Changes

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We are in a restaurant discussing the fate of our marriage. The cards are on the table and the chips fall as they may. We spend the next hour talking about finances, what our lives would look like sans one another, and what this rupture would do to our innocent children.

He says: ” If we were to stay together there would be a lot of changes and I am not sure you would like them.”

“What changes might those be?” I ask.

“Well, I’ve never told you this before  but I am pro-life like they house I was raised in. I might want ours to be a pro-life household too. I would want our children to be raised this way.”

Whiplash has slapped me hard because I have shaken my head so violently trying to make this man come into focus again. You mean after 30 years of togetherness you felt like you couldn’t say something about this? WTH.

“And I want to be treated like the man of the house.”

Somewhere I hear the words obey mentioned.

I stare at this man I’ve saved and who has saved me numerous times over the past 30 years. He looks the same on the outside but obviously there is a lot changing on the inside. I’m not sure I like it. Actually, as a feminist I know I dislike it…a lot.

“What does this mean to you? Man of the house?” I ask… while I am thinking to myself…so you are finding your voice and now you want to roar. Roar out all the misunderstandings. Roar out all your “unheard” convictions. Roar out life as you imagine it should be while you figure out who you want to be. You want to be heard after feeling unheard all of your life. A hurt that started with your mother and one that you feel continued on with me.

My eyes stare back, unblinking, both locked into a battle of silent conviction.

“At the end of the day I want to know that my word is the final word.”

And in the end the only thing I can say is nothing. Because talking to this man before me is like talking to a stranger who speaks a different language, has different values, and wants different things than I do.  Things I never knew about. Things I never guessed. They are not the things that delight me. They are sharp and they sting the inside of my heart and of my head.

So I look down at my feet and stare at my crooked big toe observing how it leans to the left, as does my philosophy, and the tears start to glide silently down my face as my awareness of how deep this situation dwells in a land of which I know not; and it seeps from the very center of my pores.

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Understanding

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If you have read this blog before you know that I have been struggling with B’s decision to take a “business” trip to Asia without me. For the past several years we had gone together to try to build closeness in our fragile relationship. I appreciated those times together, the shared experiences and, of course, time away from the kids. So I was hurt when he said he was going alone. Then when I asked about something that seemed odd he admitted he was going somewhere else too. I fretted and wondered if he would have even told me about this new itinerary and I felt betrayed because it brought back past business travels in which odd things had happened. But it was more than that, this anxiety I was feeling, anxiety that felt all consuming and I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from. Until one night I realized it was rooted in fear from the past. Fear because the last time we were apart for 10 days, when I arrived home he wanted a divorce and it brought me back to two years ago when I lost my rudder. I can only imagine this is what PTSD feels like. Bleak, scary and uncertain.  And while I knew that our relationship wasn’t in the same place it was back then my raw emotions couldn’t process that fact for emotions are funny things and whether accurate or not they pull at the soul and can stretch you out of shape.

So now he is away on “business”and not a “vacation” as I insist it is. And B didn’t bother to tell me that even though he would arrive in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday, he wouldn’t actually be engaging in any sort of business activity until Tuesday. I’m sorry, in my mind that is a vacation. Now I could be really upset about this. Not that he wasn’t really doing the business that he insisted he was but upset because once again the pattern of 1/2 truths has appeared to prevail. But this time I am working on really trying to see this in a different light…I hope I can succeed.

It has taken me a while to realize that not everyone loves us in the way we think we need or in the way we would like. Often, they just love us in the way that they are capable of loving us often to our disappointment or dismay. If life were ideal I would have complete and utter honesty but that is uncomfortable for B because he grew up not being allowed to express his feelings and he doesn’t feel he can express his feelings to me.This hurts though I have brought some of it on myself. B feels that to express his needs is shameful or selfish and as a result he hides them to himself and from others. So while I would have loved for him to be honest and say “I don’t have any meetings until Tuesday but I have decided that I need a few days to relax and have a few days of ME time,” he couldn’t allow himself to do that even though I asked him to just be honest and admit he wanted time alone.

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So instead of being upset about the fact that he was a little less than honest I am trying to see his actions as those of a man who cannot ask for what he needs. A man who does not believe he deserves time alone. A man who believes anything he wants that does not involve his family is selfish on his part. Sure, I wish he had just been 100% honest but if I look through into his soul I know he is incapable of focusing on himself. And so I am trying to let go of the fact that he cannot love me as I wish but instead loves me as he can. It is flawed and sometimes it hurts but at this point in life this is how he loves. So I can choose to be angry or I can choose to accept knowing he is doing the best he can at this point in time. Today I choose acceptance…I hope I will choose it tomorrow too! For I deserve it and so does he.

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The Truth About Ourselves

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During the past 18 months I have learned that sometimes navigating the truth about myself takes me through deep, muddy waters that leaves my soul chilled to the bone. But the wonderful thing is that I can change, if I so choose; all the while knowing that meaningful change takes time. For change is a process, we cannot rush it, and it will happen in its own time.

There is a beautiful prayer I once heard written by a Benedictine nun which goes something like this: “Dear God, show me the truth about myself no matter how beautiful it is.”

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And it is really true that there is beauty in who we are and what we do even if we fail to recognize it. Sometimes it is buried deep and you need a bulldozer to dig it out. Sometimes that beauty sits on the surface of our souls. And sometimes we just have to let a little bit of light in to let it reflect all the amazing facets of our personalities that are like a diamond which shines and dances across the room. Most importantly, we don’t need someone else to validate this beauty in us. It is there for us to enjoy alone if that is what we please.

We can see ourselves as even more beautiful through our own eyes when we view our own truths about ourselves and acknowledge those truths.  Some of those truths will be transitory while others occupy a more permanent place on our journey but the most important thing is to grant ourselves grace while moving forward with eyes and heart wide open and refusing to punish ourselves any further for those times in life when we just didn’t know or do better. We are all imperfect and it is a waste of time to cling to “what was” instead of trying to make “what is” even better.

So with this in mind, today, as I go about these minutes that are granted to me; I will try to be kind to myself because if I can’t even grant that simple thing to myself how can I expect to be kind to others?  I will also try to bring myself into, and be mindful of the present moments that I am witness to, knowing that things are the way they are suppose to be right at this moment in time. And I will bask in these moments of newfound acceptance knowing all the while that change takes time and I am doing the best I can right now to find greater peace and understanding through the transformation that it occurring deep in my soul.

I will be patient.

Busan

Today we took the bullet train south. I love the train system here and wish that in the States we had a great train system like they do all over Asia.  In 2 1/2 hours we were down at the opposite end of the country and it was a great ride. Smooth, fast and comfy and in a blink of an eye we were there.

I love Busan, South Korea. It is a very special town to me because one of my children was born here. I first visited it about 15 years ago and I have to say it has changed. No longer the sleepy port city it once was, it is now a vibrant, racy place with a touch of its past tucked within its alleys.

Busan is a town that reminds me of another…San Francisco. Hilly, temperate and scenic this city is a place I could spend a lot of time at. One of my favorite things about it is the food. I love Changseondong Meokja Golmok food alley. Here you will find live eels, octopi and other sea creatures ready for the grill…or not. One of the delicacies here are live octopi swallowed whole which I am told tickles when it slides down your throat. I do not think I will be that brave but I wish I was.

But rather than tell you about Busan, here are some pictures to show you what a great food town this is. Bon Appetite!

 

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