Day 18: Sometimes I Dream in Farsi

June 8, 2018

Now, I'm just angry. I don't cry anymore. I'm just extremely irritable. The slightest thing can set me off. 

Who would have thought that experiencing a racially traumatic event when I was nine years old would have this affect all these years later? My therapist warned that I was going to uncover a lot. When we chatted last week, she saw that the film was providing healing and she encouraged me to keep going. Now, I'm a bit worried. 

 

After that police officer pulled me over, and then getting e-mails from folks that were less than encouraging, I've found myself with certain triggers. Last night, I even yelled at someone. I haven't yelled in years. It was just a neighbor playing music too loud. Afterwards, I apologized and we hugged it out, but I could sense that something feels a bit off. I'm so edgy. And it's been growing on this road trip and through the making of the film.

I spoke to Aaron, Nemanja, and Brad about it. Nemanja says to just wait through it. That there is nothing I can do, but feel it. Brad told me to ask why I was angry. Aaron suggested I read literature and write about it. 

 

I read this article about how children who go through racial trauma have certain triggers that can act like PTSD. It can lead to depression or sudden mood changes. That's definitely me. 

 

I figure there are a few things I can do to cope. I'm going to paint a bit tomorrow. I'm going to watch Coco. That always makes me happy. Then, I'll just meditate 2-3 times a day. I'll also see about talking to my therapist tomorrow. 

Let me tell you, it's so strange to be an adult and have these unresolved feelings from when you were a kid. The news that the Supreme Court voted to allow the discrimination of that gay couple in the bakery didn't help me I'm sure. I'm guessing that was another trigger, since that was exactly my situation in the barber shop. Then, there are all these people on Facebook -- friends of mine -- who are seeing it as a positive thing for the baker and his First Amendment rights to discriminate. 

 

Refusing people the right to service doesn't make the world a better place. It sets up an inequality that's hostile and only leads to further discrimination and trauma. 

 

I just remembered another moment. I was in the East End Cafe. Some guy started throwing all these racial slurs at me for no reason. I was tending the bar. He just went at me. I don't know if he was drunk or whatever. Then, Richie came out and I told him what was going on with the guy. I'll never forget it. Richie just told the guy to get out and that he was banned. 

 

"Come on, Richie!" the guy said. "I was just joking."

 

"Get out!!" Richie yelled. "You're banned for life!"

 

This was why I loved working at the East End. I'd do anything for Richie, because he treated all of us like family. 

 

Sometimes I wish every place was like that. To have a boss who would stand up for you and get your back. I wouldn't even mind working there now at my age. That's how much having a positive work environment can motivate you. 

 

Now, is it okay for Richie to kick out the racist guy attacking me and not for the baker to be homophobic and refuse service to the couple? I'd say what Richie did was totally okay, because the guy was causing trouble. If he wasn't disturbing the peace, then why couldn't he stay? He could stay all he wants if he wasn't going to attack employees. The same goes for the couple. They weren't doing anything to disturb the peace of the establishment. Why can't they stay and get a fucking croissant? 

 

Honestly, what I see is that bigotry is being allowed to flourish in this country, because what's typically kept under covers is now allowed a freer reign to be displayed by Donald Trump's example, but also because there's been more attention brought to diversity and inclusion. As each group raises its voice, the resulting bitterness from both camps becomes louder. 

 

So, what can be done?  

 

Brad just sent me a story about the Buddha and a woman who is unable to accept the death of her baby. The Buddha says he can help provide her medicine if she finds a house that has mustard seeds, where no one has died in the home. As she goes place to place, the owners have mustard seeds, but there is always death that has touched each home. Slowly, she realizes that her baby has died, and it won't be brought back to life. 

 

I suppose this story works for people understanding that death is a natural process of life, and it can also be a way for people to understand that everyone has experienced trauma and be able to let it go as well. I am the mother in this story, carrying this incident from my past and unable to let it go. At least, it could metaphorically be understood that way. At the same time, it's not that I'm holding onto anything. I've just got this pain and suffering that wasn't dealt with and now it's rearing itself later. 

 

I suppose I could just "let it go" when it shows itself. I could decide not to engage the thought. That's one way, but I don't think the human mind works that efficiently. I'm also not actually engaging the narrative. It's just a reservoir of emotions I'm feeling. It's almost like I had forgotten the memory and how I felt, and it's the sound or smell of something -- in this case other moments on the news or in my life that echo that previous incident -- that trigger these feelings, and I have no control. I'm just flooded with emotion without any corresponding story. It's just there like a lump in your throat.

 

Brad says meditation is good. So, I'll try that. I also like Nemanja's ideas of just waiting it out. But, most of all, I think for people who have experienced racial trauma as children or adults, it's probably best to talk about it. To air out these feelings and let the world know you've been affected. Then, maybe, there are those few people who simply listen. They don't need to offer solutions or make everything right. They can just let you know you'll be okay, rub your back, or offer you a hug. 

 

I'd say as our country is going through these various discussions about pain and suffering caused by othering, the best we can do is be there for one another without judgment or blame. Some people just need a chance to talk about what's happened. 

 

This also makes me realize that other people are not as lucky as me to have therapy or good friends and family to talk with, or even a platform such as this one, where they could connect with the rest of the world. And, I also realize that there's a certain amount of what I'm going through that's not expressible in language. Maybe this is why art is so important in how we deal with big feelings. You can play the piano loud or the electric guitar like my neighbor. You can push a brush against a canvas or you could even make a film. 

 

Maybe that's the best thing I can do to heal myself. Just keep making this film and documenting my process through it. There's no way to magically make feelings disappear. I'm not so sure that all the difficulties America is going through can be resolved overnight either. But, maybe, watching someone go through these different big feelings will help others release their sadness and rage. 

I think about Mr. Rogers a lot these days. I saw on my feed this story of him getting a black police officer to put his feet next to his in a kiddie pool -- and then he dried his feet afterwards -- and how healing and powerful it was for the officer, but also for the rest of the world who saw it. 

 

Maybe Sometimes I Dream in Farsi will help everyone feel like they can put their feet in the pool.

 

And, maybe the discussions we have afterwards will help dry them off. 

 

 

 

  

 

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© 2019 by Pirooz Kalayeh