Rerouting Arizona

Let me do a bit of rerouting for the sake of this blog: It hasn’t all been sour lemons in Arizona. It is true that Arizona has represented a revolution in my life. But my story in Arizona should not be reduced to “the sadness of geography“, that unavoidable feeling of loss that marks the immigrant experience. I am now aware that Arizona has brought back traumas and memories that had been unattended to for too long. It made me look inside and confront my demons. This is not easy but the proverbial “make lemonade when life gives you lemons” withstands.

Arizona is a mirror. It is difficult to face the mirror.


The truth is I had been negating certain things in my life for too long. I had been telling myself that the easier route was to lead life as if certain moments had not meant much.  Maybe, if I avoided those moments long enough, they would cease to exist? There were too many decades of overlooking, of bypassing, of taking detours. As a natural defense mechanism, I chose to forget and foolishly persuaded myself that a black hole would magically suck up all the bad. Of course it did not.

I struggled to adjust and for years I could not find my bearings.  Arizona painfully and relentlessly pushed me into recognizing my shortcomings. It required not only an interiority but also a sobriety that was not available to me then. I became too self conscious of my insignificance in the United States. More than ever, I was yet another number. A mere immigrant statistic.

Arizona made me more alone. Arizona made me more aware.

My life in Arizona is very quiet. I have made very few friends. It is true that Phoenix is not the friendliest of cities and many people complain about feeling lonely. The vastness of the city makes it challenging to make friends and people hide too many hours in their cars. The long lasting summer heat can also become truly oppressive. People tend to spend their times in air-conditioned spaces and skip their outdoor walks. Yet, to be fair and honest (remember I am talking about mirrors), it’s not alone the vastness nor the heat of Phoenix that are to blame:  I am not the easiest person to make friends with. I am incurably shy and self conscious. On a lighter note, even though loneliness has the power to kill you, it can also make you stronger. You have to look for resources other than people. So there is a silver lining to my loneliness: I feel compelled to go out of my shell and seek solace and company in things and activities. Yoga has been one my best “friends” here in Arizona. It has given me sobriety in the midst of my turmoils. It has showed me that I still have what it takes to face the game. That I can pick up the pieces and move on. It has also taught me that I am responsible for all of my choices, therefore I’d better make good ones. And…let’s face it: Arizona has been my choice. I’d better own it.

Arizona is a metaphor. It is a state of mind.


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