Let me just tell you something, this recovery of mine has been shite! Healing has been slow. Most days I have been weary and frustrated by the lack of progress. Or maybe it was the pace of the progress. I went into this surgery the most fit and healthy I have ever been in my life. Somehow, I thought I would recover lickity split but the surgery knocked me on my butt for weeks. Weeks!
Around week 4 to 5, I finally turned a corner and started to feel more like myself--with the exception of the fatigue, random pain spurts, and the emotional meltdowns (well, that wasn’t new). On a day I felt particularly good, I got up early, took a shower, and listened to the news while getting ready. Kind of what I did in my normal life. It was in that moment things crystalized for me.
It’s been interesting going from being in the thick of things, being incredibly busy with work and being active to being “post op.” I am not a good “rester,” said in air quotes. I do not like sitting still. I feel like I need (and want) to keep pushing against life; somehow it makes me feel alive. I felt like I had been put in time out the entire 5 weeks up to that point. I’m also an extrovert -- maybe that’s part of wanting to be in the action all. the. time. I spent most days alone, despite having plenty of visitors and help. But most days I was just quiet. As you know, completely the opposite of who I am! Quiet, reflective, and resting. I will say there is something incredibly beautiful about the healing process. There is a miracle that happens in healing; being present to it with all the pain and frustration is really to commune with God. And isn’t quite something that our bodies can heal? That in itself is quite a marvel.
I didn’t watch the news. I stayed off of Facebook and social media for the most part. Everything felt so elevated, extremely volatile and so consumer driven…with the exception of cat videos and pictures of my friends’ kids, which kept me entertained. It actually stressed me out to see what people where arguing about every day. But as I stood in the bathroom listening to a report on Syria, I could finally put words to what I had been feeling all month.
The report was on a story about Syrian children. Well, actually it was about Gary Johnson blanking and asking, “What is Aleppo?” Then they moved into a horrifying new fact.
“…humanitarian group says that at least six children and seven young adults have attempted suicide in the past 2 months alone in the town of Madaya, which is also besieged, like Aleppo.” 
Syrian children are attempting suicide. That’s when my freshly applied make-up started to run. I didn’t need a picture or a video to see how this was a natural course of events in continuing trauma…with no end in sight. Children, the picture of resilience, are losing hope and the will to live…how is that not the definition of evil?
My mind raced to the haunting video of Omran that was passed around social media earlier that month. Omran Daqneesh was the little boy pulled out of the rubble in Aleppo who sat in shock in an ambulance. I finally had words as to what was disturbing me so much about it. I wasn’t uncomfortable watching his shock or his blood -- I was uncomfortable because I felt like I was intruding. I was uncomfortable because someone was filming him rather then sitting with him. I was uncomfortable and horrified, not by what war looks like, but rather that this video of a child’s most personal, horrifying moment when he was at his most vulnerable, was being passed around the internet for all to see, to judge, to pity, to feel bad… or maybe to prove a point. I was uncomfortable and horrified because I felt I didn’t have permission to watch it.
War is not a video game to me, nor is it a movie or entertainment. But, I have been a civilian in war(s). I remember vividly how it feels in the midst of such violence; it felt to me like evil running rampant, like it permeated the air. Maybe that’s what death, destruction, and dysfunction are -- evil. I wasn’t in a building that was blown up but I know this for sure, I would not want a video of me at my most traumatized, at my most vulnerable, floating around the Internet.
And I have to tell you I struggle with pictures in my work. I think it’s important for people here to see Palestinian refugee camps, to see the important work being done in the camps, and to read the stories of people who live in the camps. For the most part, most people have no idea there are refugee camps that are 68 years old or even that Palestinians are refugees. Telling stories is important. It’s a hard call to make because taking a picture and posting it, even if you have the person’s permission, can be objectifying. Is your agenda more important then protecting the person’s dignity and privacy? Is it exploitation? Like I said, it gets complicated and becomes a moral issue for me.
I guess in the end, what bothers me most is how news, war, and suffering gets narrowed down to a meme or picture or a video that gets passed around social media. I think we feel better when we pass around a picture or a video, like we did something to help, maybe? But, are we really doing anything? Do we really need a daily reminder of how truly horrendous war is? That, every day, people are dying, that everywhere people suffer? That suffering crosses all cultural and language barriers? It seems to make us all equal because it brings us all to our knees.
Children are sitting stunned in cartoon shirts covered in dust and blood in Syria. Children are now denied an education with the closure of all primary schools in Shatila Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. Children in Gaza are attending bombed out classrooms with bullet-holed chalkboards surrounded by the empty seats of their schoolmates who have died in the conflict.
“What is Aleppo?” The reporter’s words echoed from the radio into my bathroom and jarred me back to the present. He suggested that maybe the point is not about Gary Johnson or his lack of knowledge about Aleppo. Maybe it’s a question we all should be asking ourselves -- “What is Aleppo to you?”
I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror at that point. I looked down at the porcelain white sink now dotted with my mascara-stained tears.
“What is Aleppo to you?”