Try gratitude

It was disheartening to read Curious Joe’s, “Don’t Immigrate to the US“. I have felt sad for him since reading of his regret about immigrating to this country. Like Joe, my mother moved to the United States several years before Iran’s revolution. Perhaps, if there had never been a revolution she would have returned to the country she has always loved first and foremost, but since there was a revolution, we can never know for sure what she might have done. One thing that is for certain is that I have never heard my mother utter a word of regret about her decision to come here, originally as a student, or her decision to remain here and make this country her home.

Regardless of the fact that there are those who would surely disagree with me, those of us who have been born and raised in the United States, or any country other than Iran cannot know the extent of the pain our parents and other emigrants from Iran have locked away in the hearts. Without doubt, we have at various times in our lives seen their tears of longing for the lives they left behind. We know of the heartache they’ve endured being separated from their friends and family in Iran, and many of us have vicariously through them felt a sense of loss and separation. None of these things, however, diminishes the reality that many of us have been born and raised in cultures that are far different from the one that our elders were born and raised in.

Though I have visited Iran many times in my life, I have never felt as if it were my home. Of course, I love seeing my grandparents, uncles, and aunts and cousins, and spending time there, but I have never felt sad when one of our trips was coming to an end. If anything, I’ve always been both grateful for the chance to travel there to see my family and grateful to be able to return to my home. I know that my mother’s feelings are different from mine. I know that when she goes to Iran, she feels as if she is finally back home, and when she departs, her eyes are always full of tears and her heart is full of sadness.

This in no way, changes the fact that she is grateful for having had the chance, over the past thirty-something years, to build a happy life outside her native land. Despite the sadness locked away in her heart, she is happy and grateful to God that she and her children have been spared the terrible suffering her people… our people… have endured in Iran for three decades. While I’m sure that she would be willing to do anything to relieve their suffering if it were within her power, the sad reality is that there is very little, if anything she can do except to cheer them on from afar and to pray for them. Like millions of other pre and post revolution Iranian emigrants, she made a decision to build her life abroad.

There are many aspects of American life that she has never accepted. She acknowledges that the culture of her adoptive home is different from that which she grew up in many respects, but she doesn’t approve of everything around her. She has for the most part taken those things that are good, decent and wholesome, and left the rest. She doesn’t preach to others (except me, my sister and my dad) about what they should or shouldn’t do, but she doesn’t make, what she regards as objectionable or indecent, aspects of the culture part of her life individually, or our life as a family. I don’t always agree with my mother on what she thinks, but I figure as long as I’m living under her roof, I’d better respect her decisions.

Being half-American and half-Iranian, both my elder sister and I have at times felt that we are different from our mother. She is after all, Iranian born and bred. We are not. We have lived our lives with one foot in two distinct worlds. This does not mean that we always agree with our father either. Although we have been raised in the same country he was born and raised in, our mother’s influence on us has been significant.

One of the things that one gains from having one American parent and one Iranian parent is a fairly balanced sense of perspective. Surely any Iranian in America would recognize when they are being the victims of prejudice or discrimination by Americans, but they are far less able to recognize when they are being the discriminators. I could not begin to count the times I’ve read articles on this site that were blatantly racist against Americans. Over the years, contributors to have called American people blue-eyed-devils, ignorant, stupid, cultureless, and backward, in addition to a host of other insulting names.

The thing that has always struck me as odd about this is that these classless, ignorant, cultureless blue-eyed-devil Americans opened up the doors of their country and gave those that insult them a home when Khomeini and Co. turned Iran into a cesspool of despair. Does this mean that life in America has always been easy for Iranians? Of course, it doesn’t, but for most the good far outweighs the bad, or at least outweighs what life in Iran would have been for them if they had remained there for the past three decades.

Curious Joe came across as being very bitter in his commentary, but he is no different from thousands upon thousands of other Iranians who’ve emigrated from Iran. All of us know those in our mist who perpetually see themselves as victims. Instead of focusing on the good around them, all they see is the bad. These are people who are angry; angry that their life turned out the way it did; angry that they can’t live in their own country even though no one prevents them from leaving the hell they call life in the United States, or whatever country they call home. For these people, the only thing that is wrong with America is that is so damn full of Americans. This kind of Iranian would not know the meaning of gratitude if it jumped up and bit them on their butt.

Personally, I have nothing against any of these people; they are after all my hamvatan, but I do feel sorry for them and I don’t like being around them much though because their negativity is infectious. Many of these people would be wonderfully positive if they could only do what the vast majority of Iranian immigrants to America and other countries have done, and that is to come to terms with their reality. The only way they can do this, however, is to begin to heal, and just like the addict or alcoholic they must want to heal themselves before they can get better.

None of us can begin a journey in life unless we are willing to go. Without willingness no can ever begin the process of self healing for it is surely a journey. Being willing to heal oneself really boils down to one taking responsibility for one’s own feelings regardless whether those feelings are of pain, fear, anger, hurt, loneliness, disappointment, depression, or a diminished sense of self worth. If one numbs himself or herself from their feelings with either intoxicants, or a denial of their personal reality then they are not giving themselves permission to adjust emotionally to the reality of their personal situation.

Having a willingness to heal also means that one is ready to stop hiding from what is really bothering one and to stop making excuses and blaming others for one’s lack of happiness and satisfaction in life. If one is not able to begin the process of coming to terms with one’s reality, he or she will always be negative and never develop what many call, an attitude of gratitude.

True gratefulness comes from a conscious decision to recognize and acknowledge one’s blessing. An ungrateful person may be able to utter the words “thank you,” or “mamnoon,” but they do not feel the emotions that accompany a thankful heart. Grateful people not only count and take joy in the blessing of their life, but they influence others with words and deeds by outwardly displaying their pleasure and appreciation to those who should receive it. Life is full of opportunities to give thanks, but many of our compatriots are so engulfed in negativity that they rarely see those opportunities.

There is an old English axiom that says misery loves company and how true that is. If one is a complainer one is surely to attract plenty of like-minded souls to commiserate with. If, on the other hand, one is positive and grateful for what one has, one is bound to attract other positive, grateful and happy people into one’s life. I feel sad for those in our community that stifle their lives, their happiness, and their success in life by neglecting to cultivate a positive attitude for themselves. Surely, we all have problems, hurts, and disappointments in life, but the difference between those with a positive attitude and a negative attitude is how they deal with those adversities.

Each day, Khoda gives all of us 86,400 seconds to use as we please. How many of those seconds do you suppose people like Curious Joe use to give thanks for what they have instead of what they don’t? All it would take for him and so many others is to start out small and use just 60 of those seconds to thank God for the good in their lives instead of focusing on what they don’t have, or what someone else has and they don’t. Then slowly, day-by-day they can inch their way upward to 70, then 80, and maybe one day even reach 100 seconds of each day being devoted to nothing but being appreciative for the blessings in their lives.

Perhaps, Curious Joe and many of our other compatriots will never be happy about their individual decisions to immigrate to America, but if they can find it within their hearts to be grateful for the little things in life they take for granted which our brothers and sisters in Iran would give their right arms to have, maybe, just maybe Curious Joe and all those like him will one day find something to be happy about in their adoptive home. God Bless you Curious Joe!

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