Each of us has a story to tell. One is no more triumphant, or sad, or amazing than the next. Most of these stories were written before we even got here. They were written for us by a force and power greater than we know ourselves to be. The story was written, however, just the bare bones of it though. But the editing, the re-write, that’s all us.
Kiom Maraschiello, like most of us, is still in the process of her re-write. She’s still thumbing through her life chapters, tweaking what needs tweaking, erasing what needs to be erased. The story of her life has not been easy, but it has been interesting, and worth it.
A few years ago Kiom found herself homeless—three times since she’s been an adult. But that’s not the beginning of her story; it is however, part of it. It was an almost small thing in comparison to the preceding chapters of her life. She should be fragile by now, easily breakable, broken even. That’s what one would think of a little girl whose mother was verbally, mentally and physically abusive, who told Kiom daily that she was unwanted and worthless.
She was raised in a home where the female principle had little to no value, a school of thought strictly enforced by the one whom most of us hope will be our closest ally—mom. Kiom is the oldest of 8 children who by the time she was 9 became mother to them all because mom wouldn’t, or couldn’t be. It was hard though, to pretend to be something for which she had no real point of reference. But she did, as best she could.
Being raised in polygamy, in an environment where young girls are married off to old men by the time they are 14 didn’t help either. Being told not to cry, not feel, made life next to impossible. Especially when you’re a third grader who’s been molested by a group of boys and too afraid, too ashamed to mention it to a soul. There was no love advocate for Kiom. She was in prison, many of them all at once.
I never told my mother because she would have blamed me, and beat me for it.
Can you imagine? Probably not.
But life moved along for her as life tends to do when we allow it. She became a mom at a young age. Her son was sick for the first 3 years of his life. His dad left because a sick child was too much for him to deal with. And there she was again, picking up the pieces that others had left behind. There she was again being the strong one, substituting and sacrificing her time, energy and happiness because there was someone else, totally dependent on her, who needed her just like her siblings needed her when their own parents were absent, unavailable.
And the story of Kiom’s life just kept unfolding. Chapters were appearing on pages so quickly she barely had the time or wherewithal to acknowledge them. And then came love. It showed up one day in the form of a man whose last name is Maraschiello. She took it as her own. He didn’t look like her. But that didn’t matter. At least not to Kiom. But to her in-laws, it mattered. She began to see racism for what it really is: an ugly beast that has the power to destroy families, and rip them apart.
By her mid-thirties, Kiom was divorced and faced with the difficult decision to grant her ex-husband primary custody of their sons. But in the wake of all that had happened up until that point, there was still something alive, deep inside of her that spoke to her most intimate places.
Despite these things, all of my life, something made me know that I was better than what I was told about myself, how I was treated and where I happened to be at any particular time. Somehow I just knew it and kept pushing. When I was 14 I was pushed out into the street and told to survive. I had raised children (my siblings) so when mine came along I fell into place. I was determined to persevere because I’d been told, “I can’t”, all of my life. When I excelled at anything, instead of being happy, my mother would always say (in a venomous tone) “who do you think you are”?! She hated me. Being asked that question by her every time I did well fueled in me a desire to show her who I really am.
And she really is, Kiom.
Kiom is an American spelling for the Arabic word Qiyam which means, “to stand” in the first position of Salat (prayer).
And stand she does.
Graduating in the Engineering field was my proudest moment. I attended full-time with a sick child, while working two jobs and living on my own. I wanted to be an Architect (we don’t learn to seek out those types of vocations where I’m from) and that ‘win’ set the tone for me changing the “can’ts” into “cans”. All of those challenges, won and lost, are who I am as a woman. The good, bad, and the beauty that the challenges birthed in me helped me acknowledge intimately and in truth, who I am.
More challenges came, but so then too did more blessings. A series of serendipitous events transpired. Things started looking up. She was eventually set upon a path of triumph with help from the universe via a few friends and professional acquaintances. She got to live out her passions—interior design and writing. She got the opportunity to contribute her talents to other peoples’ visions. Finally, she was being seen. People were appreciating what she brought into their lives.
I’ve been replenished through my losses. Anything we go through is not really about losing, it’s about the lesson and that lesson replenishes you. It brings you into alignment with who you truly are at your very core.
Kiom believes that without spirit, there is no life. So that voice that spoke to her special places was THEE spirit reminding her of her true identity. It breathed light into the places that had been threatened by darkness. It was letting her know, even all those many years ago when the going was so tough, that she was/is, greatness. That she did not have to be confined by anything. Not pain, not religion, not shame. Nothing. That when she was ready she could live how and why she saw fit. So in Kiom’s world, spirit and the connection all of us have with it, became a symbol of ultimate freedom.
I used to be a very angry person. It took me a long time to get here based on the challenges that I’ve faced, even more than I have mentioned here. We spend our lives trying to fit into hypothetical boxes and I just never fit. The way that I think, didn’t fit, the way that I look doesn’t fit, etc. But once I turned 40 things shifted for me. Somehow spirituality found me. I had spent my life not being happy, wanting to know love and something greater than me, really wanting to feel peace. The kind that we assume is only relegated to the dead but not having to die to get it. That’s what I get from it. Spirituality has altered the way in which I receive and react to everything. Spirituality, my relationship with spirit, has freed me.
Kiom is still standing. Still editing and re-writing her life’s story. Though her career has primarily been in interiors, furniture and fashion, one year ago she added real estate to her repertoire. She is currently employed in the marketing side of the real estate industry. She lives in Georgia and has two grown sons ages 18 and 29, a daughter-in-law and a new edition expected to arrive on July 24.