Thursday, June 15, 2017

It Happens on a Thursday


For the past few months, I have been going through intense awareness cycles. I call them cycles because I experience Aha! moments, followed by a sense of euphoria or dread, then self-doubt and sometimes self-loathing (depending on the area of awareness). At the end, eventual clarity and lightness evolve out of the process. This has been happening on and on for the last six months or so. I'm not sure if these are accumulative layers of awareness, or cause-and-effect sequences where one awareness leads to another. There are times when it feels like a wall has collapsed on me, and I am climbing out from under the debris one brick at a time. With each element I uncover, I can see the light more clearly and I can breathe more calmly.

Yet, there are times when the awareness is painful, necessary but painful nonetheless. This happens with those aspects of myself from which I have been hiding so masterfully. For years I had been living in denial, holding on to false hope that I or my circumstances will change on their own. Although, deep inside I knew that change would not occur. This awareness is the hardest for me. It is followed by bouts of cleansing tears and soulful reflections, but also agony. For some reasons, these onsets always happen on a Thursday. There was no specific pattern to why Thursdays would be days of self-reckoning, yet during this avalanche of awareness my worst days fell on a Thursday, with the cloud of melancholy hanging over me through out the weekend.

This Thursday, as I was getting ready for Taraweh prayers, I started to recall all the amazing experiences I have lived so far. I remembered lost loved ones and I was thankful for the joyful memories I had of them. Then I browsed my mental catalogue of serene life moments. I cried, as I did with every other Thursday before, yet these were tears of gratitude and remembrance that lifted my spirit. My tear stained cheeks plumed as I smiled at my good fortune. At that moment I was aware that if I never experience another happy moment in the years to come, I'll still die happy, for the experiences, memories, friendships, and family I have accumulated in these past forty years are enough to sustain me for lifetimes over. My smile broadened as I realized that this tearful evening has broken the cycle of chagrin. Yet, it too happened on a Thursday.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

In the Shade of Positivity

It was a quarter to nine on a Saturday morning. I was getting ready for my first workshop with university students, and as a result I was visiting my alma mater. I hadn’t been back in over fifteen years. I was excited with anticipation. I hailed my Uber. Although the application stated that the trip from Heliopolis to Maadi would take no more than 25 minutes, I buffered an additional thirty minutes, just incase. I watched the Uber arrival time counted down to 3 minutes and I went down stairs to wait for the car, too excited to wait in front of the TV. The driver arrived promptly, and I got in. 

While traversing the seemingly empty streets of Cairo, that weekend morning, I noticed that the driver was tailgating alarming close to adjacent cars. I’m always nervous while on the streets of Cairo, whether as a passenger or driver. So, when trepidation creeps in, I try to soothe my thoughts, and stomach, by convincing myself that I am being overly cautious. I did the same that day, but for some reason, I couldn’t relax. As we cruised towards Magra El Ayoun area, the car started to veer towards a bus that was to the right, as if the driver had released the steering wheel and left the vehicle to its own momentum. I raised by hands to cover my ears, scrunched my eyes shuts, and exclaimed a silent scream. Right before the moment of impact, with no more of a hair’s width separating my window and the large wheels on the bus, the driver came to his senses and abruptly swerved to avoid the collision. Ignoring every instinct in my being, I didn’t get off then and there. “What are you going to do in the middle of Magra El Ayoun? How will you find another ride? Just grin and bear and get off at Maadi Cornish, there will be plenty of taxis to take you to your destination,” were the thoughts ricocheting in my head. 

The adrenaline of the incident must have woken the driver from his haze. We crossed El Asheir bridge and I could see the Nile in the vesta, for it was a clear warm March morning. I relaxed and lost myself in thoughts of the workshop, while gazing onto the horizon. I was violently yanked out of this nirvana when the car jumped over the concrete partition that divided the Cornish into two opposite lanes. The driver zoned out once again. His lead foot drove the speedometer to 100 km/h. This time the car swerved left, as I daydreamed onto the Nile to the right. Of course, I wasn’t wearing a seat belt , so I flew into the front seat and smacked my eyeglassed face into the back of the head rest. Thankfully, the car didn’t fly over the curb to face oncoming traffic. A street lamp cushioned the landing, pushing the car back into the its original lane.  

As I came about and realized what had just happened, my hands raced to my face and I patted around for injuries. Physically, I was fine, with the exception of broken glasses and a bruised cheek. Emotionally, I was a wreck. My first instinct was to call someone, but who? I couldn’t think of a single person to call. A good Samaritan taxi driver, ever an oxymoron, gave me a lift to my final destination that was a few kilometers away. I tried to reach the workshop coordinator, who was also a very good friend, to explain what had happened and postpone the first session so I could go to the hospital, but she didn’t answer her phone. Finally, I stood in the lobby and cried, waiting for her to arrive. Between tears and a bloody nose, reason returned to me. “Are you dizzy or nauseated?” I asked myself. “No,” I responded. “Is your nose broken?” I painlessly squished the permeable cartilage around, and responded “No.” “I’m okay,” I thought. 

My friend arrived and was quite distraught to see the shape I was in. I really was never a pretty sight, coupled with puffy teary eyes, a bloody nose, and a bruised cheek, I must have looked like the bride of Frankenstein. I calmed her down and assured her that I felt fine and would like to move forward with the session as scheduled. That was the best decision I had made in a long time. 

The kids started to enter the lecture hall and my excitement returned. I apologize for my appearance and explained the situation. We agreed that I would continue, contingent that I’d excuse myself once I didn’t feel well. As I began to engage in the material and with the kids, who were an amazing group of youngsters, I couldn’t feel the throbbing pain in my right cheek. Through the sheer enthusiasm of the group seated before me, I completed the four hours as scheduled. After the workshop ended, I gladly stood on the sidewalk waiting for an Uber to take me home. I had a smile plastered on my face during the 75 minutes it took me to get back to Heliopolis. The positivity generated from the workshop permeated every molecule in my body. It pushed away all residual anger or resentment from the accident. 

I have been exploring Positive Thinking for the past five months, since I was introduced to the concept during a Life Coaching class. I read as much as I could find on the topic, but I was skeptical. I often wondered, “How could one remain Positive while living in Egypt?” I masked my negativity with positive thoughts that were not genuine, and that never worked. The Positive impact the workshop and the group of college students had on me, post car accident, was a major paradigm shift for me. When we are open to Positivity, it’ll penetrate through to the core of us. Its light will prevail in the darkness of negative thoughts or negative situations. Pseudo-Positive thoughts, that usually manifest themselves as justifications and the other person's point of view, are not enough. Positive energy must come from an authentic place within the person, driven by a true desire to see and embrace the positive despite the negative. And accordingly, my lifelong journey to pursue happiness will traverse in the shade of pursuing positivity.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Life

I desire it. I've been good.
A sacrificed
Reality isn't at peace
I deserve nothing. I want it all.
The impossible. The insane.
No compromise insight
A compromise enticed
Rejected

A never ending need
An everlasting desire
unknown, undeserved
A continuous spiral
A glimpse
What's yet to come.
It never comes.

I need. I want. I covet.
Starts with I, ends with me
So is life, the sacrifice
A selfless existence without a self
Starts with I, ends with me

A breath of air. A breath of life
An expulsion of air, to my demise
Starts with cry, ends with sigh
A journey of discovery 

Start with I, ends with me

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Purge

For the past few years, I have been focusing on my mental well being and positivity. This doesn't mean that I don't get angry, on the contrary I get very angry. But, I don't bottle it up. I release my anger in all of its fury, and then I'm free of the negative feelings. They no longer fester insides me. Sometimes I have a good cry. Other times, I lock myself in the bathroom and word out my frustrations to my reflection in the mirror. I often journal and write through the fog. I like to go for a brisk walk and regurgitate my anger. Although my actions differ, the outcome is the same. By allowing myself to experience these negative emotions, I can let go of them. I purge them from my being and achieve peace. I move forward, leaving behind the incident and associated feelings.

I admit it would be better if I could rid myself completely of these negative thoughts, and just not have them. But it doesn't seem to be in my nature, at least not for now. I also admit that my outbursts are not always in private. Sometimes people get caught in the crossfire, for which I apologize. Even though my apologies often go unaccepted, I won't allow myself to feel guilty about my emotions. Losing the guilt was the first step to releasing myself from the hold of negativity. Before, I'd either be immersed in a victim's mentality. I'd convince myself to concede to defeat. I was hopeless to change anything. Other times I'd spend hours, maybe days, plotting my revenge, thinking about all the things I should have said or done to retaliate. I'd live the situation over and over again, re-experiencing the negativity. It eroded my self esteem and self-worth. It suffocated life out of me. 

But now, I allow myself to be angry, to defuse the negativity, and then I move on. As a result, my head is cleared and I can examine the situation and assess where I'd gone wrong and what are the triggers that had set off the explosion. Then I work on making amends. Furthermore, I won't be able to change everything in life, sometimes the only choice we have is to purge ourselves of triggers and to gravitate towards people who accept us for who we are and bring out the positive in us.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Spritz at Your Own Risk

This morning, I saw a guy in the street wearing baggy shorts and a tennis shirt. He was carrying a gym bag and a bottle of cold water. He was obviously going to his morning workout. As he approached, I was over taken by a fog of citrus and greenery. He smelled amazing. This got me thinking.

First, why would anyone wear cologne to the gym. You're definitely going to sweat. You're going to have to take a shower, and wash away all traces of your artificial scent. Maybe it was habitual. He absentmindedly reached for his cologne while checking out his coiffed reflection.

Secondly, I was told a long time ago that wearing perfume, for women, was akin to adultery. I was 17. My uncle's wife approached me with hushed tones and took me aside. With our bowed heads , inches apart, she gave me this pearl of wisdom. At the time, I thought, "This is the most absurd thing I have ever heard." I was a teenager, I only spoke in absolute superlatives. Furthermore, her manner offended me, her veiled judgement hiding behind the guise of concern. Needless to say, I haven't stopped wearing perfume because I want to smell nice. I enjoy going to the cosmetic section, sniffing floral and spicy aromas until I find something that captivates me. I wear perfume for me and not to attract men. But this is besides the point. When this guy passed me, his scent was tantalizing. I looked up and noticed his aviators and Tissot watch. I saw the pack of cigarettes he clutched in his right hand. The very same hand that rested on the gym bag hanging from his shoulder. 

As Egyptian females, we are told that wearing perfume is haram, forbidden, because it is seductive to men. We are told that wearing perfume is no better than sinning. Yet, men are instructed to liberally spritz themselves because it is Suna. My predicament is the fact that scent is seductive to both genders, and for some animals as well. So, why have perfume wearing women been labeled sinners, excluding men from this classification. Furthermore, why do we accept these arbitrary statements. Several people have reiterated the fact that it is haram to wear perfume, to a point that some women refused to use scented soap, yet no one bothers to quote Koran verses or Nabawy saying to support this claim. People simply regurgitate something they were told, something they chose to accept as a fact without questioning the validity of this ruling, and then they decided to broadcast these beliefs onto others in the name of guiding the less righteous to the path of enlightenment. 

Yes, these are the sort of debates we need to have about Islam, whether wearing perfume is haram, or showing one's foot and ankle isn't proper Hejjab, and the proper placement of feet during prayer. These are the important issues. It's not like there's  a group of terrorist killing innocent civilians and committing atrocities in the name of our beautiful religion.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The High Rope of Life

Life is a tight rope balancing act. We walk along the borders of dichotomies, balancing wealth with poverty, vanity with humility, knowledge with ignorance. The balance keeps us sane. It keeps us real. It keeps us human. Sometimes we lose our balance and fall towards one side over the other. It happens to most of us, on occasions, but there usually are safety nets put in place by governments, society or family and other support systems. These harnesses catch us when we tether on the brink of dissolve. But some of us are without these securities, these luxuries. They never climb out of poverty, vanity, and ignorance once they have fallen.They lose their balance forever. They create a life of poverty, vanity and ignorance. Their offspring grow knowing nothing other than poverty, vanity and ignorance. They have no awareness that something different exists and a yin-yang balance between both is possible. 

It takes immense courage to climb out of the abyss and see the other possibilities. It takes immense conviction to strive for balance when you have been deprived and underprivileged for so long. Very few are courageous enough to try to be different. Very few posses the conviction to embrace both sides, to admit that there is such a thing as too rich, too vain, too ignorant. Very few are wise and modest enough to realize that one needs to experience wealth with poverty in order to appreciate what we have and empathize with those less fortunate, to be vain but humble to build our self esteem without crushing other's, to know that we are ignorant to everything in the universe in order to embrace our nobleness and fragility as human beings. 

For without balance there is no humanity.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cairo Heat

The alarm clock echos with an urgent beep. I stretch out my arm and swat the nightstand with my hand in search for my eyeglasses. I slip them on and peep at the flashing numbers. It is 7:15, as it always is every morning. I drape my legs down the side of the bed and force my body up. I flick the remote control of the A/C over my shoulder and turn off the unit. I open the door to my bed room and step into the hallway. A wall of humidity welcomes me and assaults my sinuses.  They immediately congest. I swivel into the bathroom and shut the door. I rest my back against the wooden barrier and exhale in relief as I escape the baked atmosphere. I glance to my left. My reflection startles me. I move closer to the sink and lean in towards the mirror. My eyes are two pink ping-pong balls, seamed with crust. My nose is inflated and tender to touch. My hair sticks to my scalp, drenched in sweat. Wispy strands stand in attention at the crown. I peel off my clothes and stand under the waterfall. I wait for the moister to saturate my pores and wash away the heat.