Maria from Bulgaria

I’ve been asked to write in English so that my international friends can also read my blog. I could write a whole text about my issues trying to convey a message from the heart in another language but my mother tongue, but hey, I’m just going to throw myself out there… 🙂

Maria sees me waiting for the subway. She’s been trying to get other people’s attention before me, with little success as far as I can tell. She comes up to me, looks me in the eyes and says her name is Maria, and wonders if I would like to buy her magazine. Since I had headphones on I couldn’t quite hear her, not wanting to ignore her, I take them off and asks her to repeat what she said.

Moments earlier, the news about the chemical attack in Syria had reached me and I was talking to a friend who wanted to make a silent demonstration in the hope to make everyone cease-fire. He asked me if I would help to call people in Stockholm to join in. I felt so powerless. Whom would I call? Why are we answering to this situation and not to all other horrible situations around the world? I realize one can’t be everywhere at the same time and help everyone, and that every stand makes a difference. But I just felt so blocked. How could I morally justify having a demonstration for Syria when people are struggling for their survival right before my eyes?

Maria takes my hand and she seems happy for me not ignoring her. She asks me where I’m going and she asks me if she can join me on the metro. I say yes and we enter the metro together. She tells me she has a baby four months of age and that she needs to buy medicine for herself. I listen and I nod. She gives me her magazine and wants me to have it for free. She says it’s about Easter, and that Easter is important. I take it, but I can’t accept it. I try to give it back to her so she can sell it and get some money for it instead. I also feel like I don’t really understand her, maybe she does want money for it and doesn’t understand that I don’t have any money on me.

We’re standing in the subway together. Maria looks happy and half-singing she says that Maria and Lotta are riding the train together. Or that’s at least what I think she says since I’m having a hard time understanding what she says… And then I just start to cry. She asks me if I have problems. I shake my head. No, I don’t have any problems – but maybe I do. I cry because I feel it’s horrible about what is going on in the world. I cry for not being able to ever be sufficient or enough for the world and all its miseries. I cry that I don’t understand Maria. She asks me if I cry for her, and I don’t know what to answer. Yes, I do cry for her, but I mostly cry for the greater picture.

She kisses my hand, she kisses me on the cheek. I let her. She tells me I’m beautiful, but I feel so ugly. My heart is not big enough to carry all of this. I see people around me being seemingly annoyed or disturbed that I and Maria are talking, or that’s at least how I feel. It feels like some of them pity me for not being able to tell Maria no. I don’t want to tell Maria no, I want to tell her yes.

And I cry even more when she then more desperately talks about how she needs money. It’s like my tears have signaled that I’m an easy target to ask for money from. I cry because she has to use my tears. But I get it, she has to. I don’t know what to do so I just keep on listening.

When we get off the metro I notice that she gets more stressed, maybe she thinks I will walk away from her. I tell her I will get some money for her, we just need to get to the ATM. We go to the ATM and I give her some money. She immediately asks me for more, her baby needs food she says. I feel terrible for telling her no, that I won’t give her more money. I touch her on her shoulder and tell her that I have to go, otherwise I’ll be late for class. She turns away from me and I just feel sad.

I could easily have ignored Maria when she walked up to me waiting for the subway and I could have made excuses on the way to the university to get rid of her. The thing is, I don’t want to close my eyes on people, neither myself nor anyone else. The pain in the world and in myself is reality, life as it is. The pain will be there, even if I try to forget it. That’s why this is so hard. Maybe some feelings have stirred up in you while reading this. Perhaps you’re touched, feel uncomfortable, think that I’m wrong or silly or maybe you think I was doing something nice… That is also what is. What I want to ask you and myself is: do we dare stay with whatever is? Whatever stirs up in us? Not to act in any specific way, just notice what’s going on.

I felt so powerless and insignificant meeting Maria, but closing my eyes would just make all this feel even worse. I want to feel and I want to meet my pain in this. It would be like twice as much pain if I ignored this – not only is there lots of pain in the world, but there would also be the pain of me not being able to be with all that I am. All my feelings. All the pretty and all the ugly.

Originally posted on the 12th of May 2017.

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