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March 2022 – A long-time member of L’Arche and Lebanese,
Hoda Aouad-Sharkey has encountered, and lived through a war, in her own homeland. .
Hoda tells us here how she nurtures her inner life.
My inner life is a wild animal, self-willed and indomitable. I have to sidle upto her softly, welcome the intensity of her presence and find ways of taming her while knowing that she will never become house-trained. My inner life dislikes noise, excitement, worldliness, fatuity, vanity and motorway boutiques. She prefers silence, solitude, the crashing of waves on a beach, the flutter of a bird’s wings and grocers who remember my name. My inner life escapes my grasp: I invite her to share my daily prayer: sometimes, she condescends to join me, sometimes not.
We become close when I’m writing. She enjoys seeing words emerge to form a sentence, or when I recall the faces of people no longer with us but who are still dear to me; or when I retrace the endless agony of my country, or evoke the pleasure of a Knéfé (a lebanese pastry), savoured on a sunny terrace in Beirut. My inner life makes allowances for the contradictions that come with exile as well as for my own: she is broad-minded enough to embrace opposing ideas. On the other hand, she is implacably severe about how I write. She is scarcely able to contain herself if I fail to make clear my thoughts when speaking; but she draws the line when it comes to writing: “What on earth is this ? Do it again! Did you really think you could get away with talking about me in such pompous, inflated terms?” She urges me to hunt down the right word, the apt phrase. And when we finally agree and she appreciates what I have written – which is what’s happening right now –, then we enjoy a brief moment of complicity, ephemeral but delightful.
My inner life encourages my longing to write. She knows that for me it is both a way of protecting this longing and of inviting her to share my love of words, my expressivity. She has so much to say that she doesn’t always understand my hesitations:
– What on earth are you waiting for to get down to serious work on your second book?
– I find it difficult to refuse all the solicitations that reduce my space for creativity: I find it hard to say no.
– When you say no to requests, you say yes to me!
– Yes, but… no. Or rather… To tell you the truth, the enormity of the task scares me a bit.
– That’s because you’re thinking of the whole task. But you do your writing bit by bit, potato-head. You’ve already done it once! And I’m here with you!
Only she can call me a potato-head. But I’m flattered by her insistence all the same: her need for me to be at her service, telling me that I’m the only one who can do it.
My inner life can also surprise me when I least expect it: when I go out to greet my grandson late at night and he spontaneously throws himself into my arms; when I meet André’s affectionate and pacified gaze and recall his frightening violence when I started in L’Arche; when Beatrice plants herself in front of me with a low growl, and I finally see that all she wants is for me to tie up her shoelace; and when it’s done, and she gives me a smile, then I say to myself how strange it is that my inner life, in other respects so demanding, can be satisfied with such a simple gesture!
Hoda Aouad-Sharkey is the author of a first book, ROBES DE SOI – Au fil d’une guerre, recoudre une vie, edited by the Editions AUTEURS DU MONDE. In this book, she evokes her experience of the civil war in Lebanon (1975-1990).