The Hiatus Ends

This blog has been inactive for nearly two years. I’m surprised and pleased that no one or nothing has deleted it in my absence. I don’t know why I’ve decided to post again, and I don’t care. Such is my peculiar bent of personality; I abandon my passions for other passions and return to them sooner or later.

In addition to neglecting this blog, I have neglected all my personal writing. Instead, I’ve been doing photography as my preferred means of creative expression. I offer no explanation other than that I am still chained to a job, from which I will be rid by the end of the year, inshaAllah. Well, enough of commenting upon my hiatus…I want to dig in.

I still have “Return to Riyadh” dreams. They occur less frequently, but follow the same pattern. I begin the dream knowing I am going back to Riyadh. I pack my suitcase, buy my ticket and get on the plane, but I don’t pack correctly, I buy the wrong ticket or get on the wrong plane, or I get on the right plane but it goes to the wrong country. Complex variations on these themes weave in and out of the dreams. None of it feels unreasonable, just perplexing. Sometimes the dream begins after I’ve landed in Riyadh, having gotten myself there properly. However, I wander the streets looking for where I am supposed to live, and I look for my friends who still live there, and the hospital at which I worked and maybe am supposed to work at again. Naturally, the plots of dreams include ridiculous feelings and events. I cannot find the necessary phone numbers. I run into strange men who want to help me, and I don’t know whether they will help me or hurt me. I do find a nice swimming pool and take a marvelous dip, but then get lost again and don’t know where I am supposed to go, or I know, but don’t recognize the place, even if I arrive there. I find myself in public without an abaya. I go to a souq and try to buy some Arabic foods, but I don’t have riyals. I remember that I never told my family I was going to Riyadh, and I need to phone them, but I my cell phone is still connected to a US network. All these dreams are distressing, but I am so accustomed to them, I merely wake up  and turn over.

Long ago, I realized that my dreams are nothing more than an expression of discontent with my life here in the United States. I’ve necessarily had to re-enter (and remain in) the workforce– a fate I tried to avoid. My marriage ended in divorce– a fate I never imagined would occur. The practice of Islam here in my community is anemic compared to what I had lived in Riyadh. I’ve pushed Islam into a form that fits into the slots between my other forms, and I don’t like that.

Wonderful events have also blessed my life. I am now a grandmother to four magnificent children– a glorious position I never imagined I would occupy, but for which I am infinitely thankful.

This is enough for my first entry after a near two-year hiatus. If anyone reads it, I thank you! I wouldn’t blame any of my handful of readers for abandoning my blog as I have abandoned it. At the same time, I will be thankful and responsible to those who come back or to those who find my blog by happenstance. Maybe I will keep posting for another concentrated period. The concept of Riyadh as place, and Riyadh as metaphor, still guides me. I will never lose it, as one loses distant memories and feelings that no longer hold currency. Its character remains vivid, its personal significance does not pale as I travel further from it along the trajectory of my life. I am on a path returning to Riyadh, and I haven’t arrived.

Return to Riyadh

800x600_pulsate1.pngAfter I repatriated to the United States in 1998, I began dreaming about returning to Riyadh. These were night dreams, and they all had the same plot. In the dreams, I wanted– needed– to get back to Riyadh, but I couldn’t. I’d forget my passport, or forget to pack  my bags, or pack too many bags, or miss the airplane, or get on the wrong airplane, or get on the right airplane but land in the wrong country.

My dreams progressed over the years. I’d actually land in Riyadh, but then lose my way through the city. I’d get lost in the neighborhood I used to live in; I’d encounter new construction that confused my knowledge of where I was supposed to go. I’d finally find my apartment building but could not find my apartment. I’d find the hospital in which I was supposed to work, but could not find the laboratory to which I was assigned. I’d worry that my supervisor would think I hadn’t arrived, and give my job to someone else.

I’d find myself in Battha without an abaya. I’d want to buy food but had no riyals, only US dollars. I’d want to phone my friends Asma and Sharon, but I’d left their phone numbers in the United States, or if I had the numbers, could not remember how to use the public phone.

You get the idea.

I recorded these dreams in my journal, and named the series Return to Riyadh.  

This summer, I described the recurrent dreams to a friend of mine who is a psychologist. She suggested that the dreams were trying to tell me something  important, and I wasn’t listening.  I didn’t believe her, because I could indeed go back to Riyadh any time, as a worker or a visitor. My repatriation was deliberate. Consciously, I was committed to rebuilding my life in my own country, but unconsciously, discontent churned, and it was all about Riyadh. Why?