Saturday, May 14, 2005

Five Year Plans

What is it about five years? Perhaps it's the coincidence of our having five fingers and toes, but have you ever noticed how many five year plans there are? Five is one of those numbers of importance for whatever reason and the significance of five years is central to me right now, whether I like it or not. I was 25 years old when I went off to graduate school, having said good bye to a floundering marriage on the west coast, and I told myself that I would give myself five years to do whatever it was that I was going to do there. I decided (and I don't know why) that at 30 it was time to be something other than a student. It didn't matter what that was at all. What was important was the fact that 30 marked the end of a period of my life as I saw it. It's only just now that I remembered this fact, so five-year plans are obviously a part of my internal clock.

June 10, 2005, will mark the fifth anniversary of my husband Diaa's death. Anniversaries of death, called sennawaya, are usually observed in Egypt for at least the first few years, but the past four have more or less slipped in under the radar as far as I've been concerned. I have not visited the grave site because I have no sense of him there. It is a place of pain without any comfort whatsoever. I've promised myself that I will not be buried in that barren patch between Heliopolis and Ismailia. I would much prefer to be buried out here in one of the cemeteries of the villages with my friends around me.

You see? I find myself thinking on death, which is something rather unusual for me, and I notice that this year his death is more real to me. Perhaps this is because I am finally seeing the ends of the business issues that have entangled me in his life so much. Perhaps it is because I am closer to making a material start on my own life without involvement in the projects that were his. I don't really know. I am aware of emotional turmoil that has been long suppressed and is now leaking to the surface.

I like to cook and although I hate to eat vegetable soup, I make excellent vegetable soup from fresh vegetables and herbs. I used to make it all the time for Diaa as he was always watching his weight and cholesterol levels for his pilot's license. The process of choosing the most interesting and freshest vegetables, of cutting them into appropriate shapes and sizes, the browning of onion and garlic in good olive oil, and the combining of colour, texture and flavour to create a whole greater than the sum of its parts was a joy, even if I was never going to eat it myself. I'm funny that way. I like my vegetables raw. There was a point in the process when I knew that the soup had simmered just enough, when the vegetables were all floating in a savoury broth at the same level rather than some floating on the surface and others resting on the bottom. I think that I am like that soup right now. Many things that had been floating on the surface have now sunk to the bottom, and when I turn a psychic spoon in my mix, I find a selection of all the ingredients.

But I don't think that I've tasted it yet. Am I afraid to taste it? A little. Who wouldn't be? Here I am, the mother of two adult children who are beginning to make their own ways in the world, I have no living parents so I am truly an adult. I have no male protector in a culture where this is important, so I am an eccentric. This year I face my loss and assess it. No one else in the world is ever going to be responsible for me, for my decisions, for my actions. The realisation is both freeing and terrifying, but I can live with it. My soul has had time to develop some tough skin on it, thanks to the battering it's taken over the past five years. Now I face a new five year plan, an open-ended plan of rebuilding me and my life on my terms entirely. Wow.


Joan said...

Fantasic blog...very well said. Good luck with your five year plan.

Colleen said...

Does that five year plan include writing a book?

styro said...

brought tears to my eyes. :) thanks for sharing.