Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Book on Adversity with Lessons for Survival and Impact "A House in the Sky"

If you read enough of my blog you'll notice that for me books have held more answers to life than have any of my experiences or even my relationships with people.  There have always been books that have fallen in parallel with the events of my life. It has been only through those books that I've been able to gain some wisdom, serenity, clarity, and most importantly, inspiration about life, which I feel is sometimes scarce in our culture and current generation.

This particular time in my life is not necessarily conducive to anything inspirational, or even something productive for that matter.  I am living at home at the moment with my mother in a house full of distractions from too many people being there to too much drama going on.  I had to trade in my car to get a new one for my mother and now we are sharing this one together which makes it difficult to have any autonomous life.  I am working at a job that I enjoy less and less were it not for my ambitious nature to succeed and a pretty good work ethic, with people I feel I have no connections whatsoever, not even a professional one. My professional life is in limbo as I have not saved enough money to go anywhere nor have I put all my ducks in a row to actually apply to any colleges for my graduate studies, this will all take another year.  To open the wound a little more, a failed relationship isn't necessarily a good weight on my conscious. And to finally add the last bit of salt to this would, I will be turning thirty in the upcoming month. Boom! Boom! Boom!

In all of this, I feel like my slate has been scratched to a mulch, almost considered an empty slate, only in the darkest shade of black possible. I'm hanging on everyday to things that have always pulled me through in life.  My passion for reading being the first, as I continue with this website and build it in a new direction.  My curiousity and perserverance for science, as I am studying and reading as much as I can everyday even if it's just for an article or thirty minute of news online.  My goal to turn my life into something more meaningful, to actually move forward into the realm of starting my own nonprofit organization.  And lasly, my inclination to become more well-rounded and learn as much as I can in this lifetime, as I want to learn a new language (Spanish) and to learn to play the piano.

Even so, amid all these positive endeavours and forward being opportunities, I have moments of just utter emptiness and loneliness.  I feel like for the first time in my life, I'm in the deepest parts of this abyss.  It feels like throughout each day I'm building positive energy and building some kind of space for me to work with, and a black hole in a small instant just comes through and swallows it whole.  Today, like the past two, three weeks, has been just this.  And then I came across this book.

I've been trying to sift through my emails.  One email I get all the time is an update on the Oprah magazine and website.  Sometimes I don't even bother opening that email, but today something peaked my curiosity when the email mentioned 17 Books to Pick Up This Fall.  Third book mentioned is A House in the Sky.  This is what it says on the site:
"In 2008, on her fourth day in Somalia, aspiring journalist Amanda Lindhout and her ex-lover Nigel are kidnapped by a band of fundamentalist mercenaries who will hold them hostage in a series of prisonlike outposts for 15 months. Ransom is set at $3 million.

From the start of A House in the Sky (Scribner), a searingly unsentimental account of that period written by Lindhout (with help from journalist Sara Corbett), we feel we know this young woman, whose passion for adventure travel draws her to increasingly dangerous destinations and culminates in a hastily conceived trip to one of the riskiest places of all–Mogadishu, where warlords rule and lawlessness prevails. Which is to say, while some people fall into harm’s way, Lindhout threw herself there.

While in captivity, Lindhout hungrily reads the Koran­—"anything to feed my gnawing mind”—and fakes conversion to Islam in an effort to manipulate her captors. She and Nigel are eventually separated, and then the nightmare deepens. Lindhout is repeatedly raped by one of the young men guarding her; the first time carves “a gulch between me and the person I’d been.” Still, she finds things to be grateful for—a scrap of paper to write on, the bravery of a woman who risks her life to help her. As visits from “the boys” continue, she floats above her body, conjuring a “house in the sky,” forbidding the abuse to define or defeat her.

Hardship and dogged hope coexist and keep Lindhout sane, even as her teeth crumble and she nearly starves. Ultimately, it is compassion—for her naive younger self, for her kidnappers—that becomes the key to her survival, and it remains with her well after family members scrape together enough money to negotiate her and Nigel’s release. The determination that kept Lindhout alive fuels her now as she runs the Global Enrichment Foundation, which empowers Somali women through education, among other initiatives; still, at any moment even a smell can hauntingly trigger a phantom gut-punch, an “instant panic.” For Lindhout, the world is now a place filled with specters that may open “a floodgate of fears without warning.” 

Read more: http://www.oprah.com/book/A-House-in-the-Sky?editors_pick_id=45818#ixzz2hBrVIVqB        

What really struck my interest in this book was first the fact that this book was bout a journalist.  When I go back to school I will be doing my science journalism degree. But then the book became so much more to me.

Lindhout decided to 'throw' herself in a region in Somalia, Mogadish - "where warlods rule and lawlessness prevails." If you know just a mild form of what this means in your own modernized cultural environment with individuals in your life that the law is their law and no one else will put limitations on what they want to do, and they'll use that idealogy to become a type of "domesticated warlord," then you might have an idea of the immensity of what this statement actually says.  I speak more of my brother-in-law than anyone else, though.  So after reading that statement, I had to be grateful that although I think my current environment with this creature in our home might be limiting, it's nothing compared to what this woman went through.

I feel much like Lindhout that I need to read anything these days just to have "anything to feed my gnawing mind," but again not in the same extreme manner she experienced it.  She then talks about “a gulch between me and the person I’d been.” I feel many times there is a disconnect like that happening inside of me from all the repeated exposure to so many painfully emotional experiences. Little things will trigger that gulch, and waves of intensity usually follow.

Still Lindhout's story is something I must read soon.  It is this powerful statement that blew me away.  "The determination that kept Lindhout alive fuels her now as she runs the Global Enrichment Foundation, which empowers Somali women through education, among other initiatives; still, at any moment even a smell can hauntingly trigger a phantom gut-punch, an “instant panic.”" I know my own need to overcome my adversity and challenges and do something more meaningful with my life.  I will have my own nonprofit organization for young women in science.  I will be a science journalist.  I will be writing my own science books.  Meanwhile, I feel Lindhout has so much powerful lessons for survival and impact, that I may know nothing about.

I am not meaning to compare my life with her experience, because it does not, even in the smallest of similarity.  What I mean to achieve with this post is to show that inspiration came to me at an unexpected moment, when I least expected it, from someone I know nothing about, but for whom I gravitate to know and understand.  I feel that I am a small part of what Lindhout represents in terms of my sentiments of life and my ambitions for a more purposeful life.

Even if my life is difficult, it cannot be as difficult as it was for Lindhout to experience everything she went through.  She made something really powerful with her experience.  For me to sulk of over my experience is 'small' in this world, which carries much bigger tragedies and much more powerful actions to be taking place.

Thank you Amanda Lindhout for sharing your story!


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