I am hugs. I am tears. I am life that affects. I am woman.
While visiting a hospital, I met a girl who had been assaulted by her step-mother. The step-mother had pushed a stick into the vagina of this six-year-old who was admitted to the hospital two days after. She had three successful operations but the stick had punctured her large intestine and Shadia now has recto-vaginal fistula (RVF). I had been at the hospital visiting women who had just had operations to repair their obstetric fistula. Most of them had been uncontrollably passing urine for years, others for months. I had been in the theatre with the doctors, but left when one woman had walked in, in her hospital gown with the visible little trail of urine down her leg. Shamilla climbed onto the theatre table, and I walked out of the theatre to collect myself. She had been worried about her surgery because her birth injury was different from the other women’s. Later, she was wheeled back into the ward unconscious, with an IV fluid drip and a catheter. Surgery: successful. I had been in the ward talking with the women, hearing their stories and sharing their joy and hopes for a different life. I wanted to be there when Shamilla woke, but I had met Shadia and heard her story.
I had been meaning to stay another night, but I just couldn’t. I felt so much and yet it felt all so little. I got into a taxi and returned home. The most affecting thing was not her assault, but Shadia’s optimism. I followed up on her when she was discharged and her spirit is still as buoyant, even if she is wearing pampers right now.
I like figures and research. I feel that in argument this holds better than anecdotes, although anecdotes also have their strengths. Because of VOF Week 1 readings on media, I have been looking at the daily newspapers here and I have a tally of what is written, who is writing it and who is quoted as an expert. I am going to do it for a month, April 22nd-May 22nd. My computer has several PDF copies downloaded and I am always raiding a library. Shadia reminded me why I look for this information. I got so involved in my fact-finding missions, I forgot.
Zooey Deschanel says it best: "Being tender and open is beautiful. As a woman, I feel continually shhh’ed. Too sensitive. Too mushy. Too wishy washy. Blah blah. Don’t let someone steal your tenderness. Don’t allow the coldness and fear of others to tarnish your perfectly vulnerable beating heart. Nothing is more powerful than allowing yourself to truly be affected by things. Whether it’s a song, a stranger, a mountain, a rain drop, a tea kettle, an article, a sentence, a footstep, feel it all – look around you. All of this is for you. Take it and have gratitude. Give it and feel love."
Women’s stories and spirits affect me. I cry when I am writing the last paragraph about a girl who does people’s laundry for money to send other girls to school. I am inspired by the woman who wants to learn enough English to speak at her daughter’s graduation. Every day, these women teach me to rise above and we hug and share tear-filled glances across the room.
I had attempted to shhh myself because of the urge to want to curl up in a corner under my desk when I finish writing about Shadia’s optimism or after a session with my Adult Literacy class, but that is just me being affected by the spirit of these women. It is a strength and I write better for it. I teach better because of it.