War is exhausting.
It’s been two weeks now, and we are finding ourselves very tired. Very drained.
I do not understand what the bigger picture is. I am done trying to analyze why this is all happening. I am giving in to fatigue.
I have spoken with so much press, but it doesn’t seem to be working. In fact, I feel that I have become just another war victim. Just another story on your radiowaves. Just another blog entry online. The media lives off of stories like mine. I help get their ratings up. I help people tune in to their channel. I help them sell ad spots to make money.
I also manage to get my voice heard. I also manage to touch a few people. I am grateful for that.
But I do not want to be just another war victim, that perhaps next week you will forget all about me. I don’t want to live a life of war. I did not ask for this. I do not want this. I had another life. One that was directed by me. One that I was in charge of. Decisions that I made by myself. Responsibilities that I set for myself. I don’t want to be a war story. Do you understand what I am trying to say? I just want to be me. Live the life that I spent shaping and moulding for myself. Follow my dreams. Carry out my projects. Paint what I feel like painting, and not what is imposed on me.
This war is imposed on me. Like all wars are, on all civilians. I don’t want to be another depressing story in your inbox.
Already, so many people are becoming too used to this. People have stopped going to work — what’s the point? There is war! People have let go of certain commitments and responsibilities — again, what’s the point? There is war! Cafes and restaurants have shut down. People have let go of projects, proposals, plans … people have stopped communicating. Telephones don’t work!
I saw Maya today. Maya lived in Lebanon during the civil war. We had a strange conversation.
Maya: What’s wrong with you today? You look so down … so depressed … Zena, what’s wrong? Did someone die? What’s wrong?
Zena (saying this out loud to Maya): Oh, it’s nothing … it’s just this war. Don’t worry, I’ll be fine. (Insert fake smile here.)
Zena (saying this in her head): I have anxiety all the time. My tummy is always in a knot. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. I am afraid all the time. I am angry too. It’s hot. My food in my fridge keeps going bad, because electricity is on and off. I’m freaking out because my Internet has been going on and off … I’m so afraid that one day it just won’t come back on again.
Maya: Don’t worry. You’ll get used to this. We all did back in the ’80s. You have to. You have no choice. You will see, soon you will be so used to this, you won’t even realize that there is a war going on.
Zena (out lout to Maya): I don’t think I want to get used to this.
Zena (to herself): It doesn’t have to be like this. We don’t have to accept this. Maya, I’m so sorry you once had to “get used to it”. I don’t want you or me to have to “get used to it” again. It doesn’t have to be this way. This is not a way of life. Don’t we still have choices as human beings? Don’t we still have a chance to prove that in the end humanity prevails?
Maya: Come on, let’s make some pancakes. It will get your mind off things … by the way, did I tell you how much weight you’ve lost? You look good!
Zena: Yeah, let’s make pancakes … I have been meaning to shed a few pounds … but I didn’t think it would happen like this and so quickly. Now, i want to gain weight … so I can lose it the right way.
We had pancakes for lunch. We invited our friend Hiba and my brother Nidal. My husband kept feeding scraps to Tampopo and Bawsee. Of course, I yelled at him, telling him that pancakes were bad for doggies. He of course replied, “No, they are not. And besides, it’s war.”
Zena el-Khalil is an installation artist, painter, curator, and cultural activist. She is the co-founder of the art collective, xanadu*, that is based in NYC and Beirut. Her blog, documenting her writing from Beirut, is located at http://beirutupdate.blogspot.com/.