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. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Selfie Sticks

Tweet Tweet
You're not alone

Tweet Tweet
Look at your phone

Tweet Tweet
Are you there?

Tweet Tweet
I don't care

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Counting Leaps

Last night as I lay on the couch, trying to fall asleep, I reflected on my lack of motivation to write. I told myself that I just don't have anything to put down on paper.  As I tossed and turned, thinking about my dilemma, I reminded myself that I need to exercise my writing muscles. I need to try to write everyday, even if just journalling. Like all forms of exercise, the more I do it, the better I become at it. 

These thoughts raced through my head. I had an inkling to get up and fetch my notebook and pen, turn on the lights and write them down before they flee. But then I thought that it was too much effort to exert, while I am trying to fall asleep. I turned over onto my left side and mulled over my laziness for the next thirty minutes. It was so difficult for me to fall asleep with all these thoughts battling in my head. If only there was a way I could purge my mind before going to bed. How marvelous this would be! I marveled at my idea for another twenty minutes. I glanced at the alarm clock, it was 2:25 am. I flipped onto my back and stared at the ceiling, "I have to be up in four and a half hours. I really should try to get some sleep," I thought. I forced my eyes shut. I saw a lovely green pasture divided my a wooden fence. A round bouncy sheep approached from the left and leaped over the fence. Soon after, he was joined by another and another. I counted 1 2 3 4 as sheep after sheep leaped up and over the fence. The sheep grew in number and the right side of field accumulated with white fuzzy furry sheep. They crowded one another. They pushed and shoved. There was no space for more sheep as I counted up to 133. Now this was a problem I needed to solve. Perplexed at the vision, I counted backwards, instructing the sheep on the right to revert back to the other vacant side. But that didn't seem like much of a solution. Once all 133 sheep abode and moved over, there wouldn't be any room left for more. I needed to count more sheep, I still hadn't fallen asleep. I opened one eye and peaked at the clock. It was three am. I rolled over and thought, "Instead of having all the sheep crowd each other as they leap over the fence, why not have only one of them jump back and forth." I smiled with triumph as I thought up this clever scheme. I began to count leaps instead of sheep. Every time snooze ensued, I was jolted awake when I recalled that thirty follows twenty-nine or sixty's not after fifty-eight. I'd sleepwalk through iterations of digits, but transitioning from one decade to the next brought me back to consciousness. When I reach 86, I saw my lone sheep was exhausted from all the jumping back and fore. What had I done, to solve my problem with the congested herd, I burdened my sheep with the trouble of carrying this task on his own. How selfish was I to demand this sheep do all this work so I could fall asleep.

Then I remembered the restful nights I had when I religiously wrote every night. I'd set my journal aside, turnoff the lights, close my eyes and fall asleep within the minute. If only there was a way I could purge my mind.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Today I am 39 !

Every birthday, I take the opportunity to examine the preceding year. I look back at my accomplishments and measure how far off I am to attaining my goals. For a long time this meant updating my CV because I used to define myself only in professional terms. If I wasn't able to add something substantial to my resume, to me this meant that the previous year was a waste. Not only did I not advance, I had actually declined, because in the business sense you're already behind when you stand still. My entire focus was on my career and my development as an employee. 

A few years ago I finally realized that my job was merely a means to an end. It is important to keep my skills sharp and to advance in my career to ensure employment, although nothing is guaranteed in life. Yet, this was no longer my objective in life. I explored other facets of myself as an individual. I took a moment to be still and identify who I am as a daughter, sister, aunt, friend and human being. I discovered what it meant to be happy rather then just content. I rediscovered what it meant to live a fulfilling life. I slowed down and enjoyed life. Tiny minutia at work, that used to turn my life upside down, had no power over me, and for that I became a better employee. I still do my best at work, for my work ethics have not changed. I focus my efforts on mastering the elements within my circle of influence, while acknowledging the impact of my circle of concern and realizing that I have no control over them. I no longer spend sleepless nights mulling over macroeconomic indicators and organizational peace. Now, I sleep and wake up relaxed, with a smile on my face, thankful for the ability to wake up. I enjoy using my vacation days and sprinkling them throughout the year, understanding that resharpening the saw with renewed knowledge, interests and downtime are fundamental to a productive individual.

I still take stock of my life on my birthday. I count my blessings. I am thankful for the people I have in my life. I cherish and savor the moments we spend together and my heart swells with happiness as I look back on the memories.

Thank you to everyone who made feel loved for the past years.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Freedom

Ocean, wind, sand
Grass, birds, trees

Space with no borders
Land with no peaks
No limitations. No aim
Be me
No hidden tears
No seldom cheers

Free of
Memories and Dreams
Escape
Reality and Fantasy
Relinquish
Future and Past

Love the moment I'm in
No turning back to begin
Someone new
Somewhere different
Realms of possibilities
Gone by the end

Walk. Run. Be
One. Whole. Unity
You are free

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The DOs and DON'Ts of Riding a Taxi in Cairo, Egypt

As an avid taxi rider, I have notices some peculiar behavior from cabbies. I shouldn't be surprised. Cabbies' actions are a reflection of the continuum of descent we face in every facet of life in Egypt. Each group simply descends in a manner congruent with their perception of acceptable behavior, not taking into consideration the affect of their actions on others. Not only do they neglect to acknowledge their impact, they simply do not care.

As someone who works in change management, I have found it frivolous to try and change the behavior of Egyptians. A carrot never works, only a stick. Even so, punishment must be consistent and continuous. The moment you remove the stick, people revert back to their original state. They are willing to chance termination in order to be lazy, careless, and do as little as possible. The other alternative is to change the people all together and start with a clean crop of employees, while constantly weeding out bad elements. Do not delude yourself and think that harmful weed will not grow in your organization. The only way to combat mediocrity, is to constantly remove negative influences from their roots. If once, only once, you rest on your laurels, harmful weed will infest your entire garden. So, in conclusion, Egyptians are impervious to change.

As a result I don not go into a long diatribe with cabbies, or try to lecture them on customer service, or explain to them how they are role models to future generations of taxi drivers and how their constant presence in the streets of Cairo has a harmful effect, far more penetrating than civilian drivers, yet they can also be a positive change, that is, if they wanted to. It is a fruitless debate that will render me breathless. That being said, it is not in my nature to passively stand by. If I cannot eradicate taxi behavior, the least I can do is not condone it. I own a carrot, the fare. I control my choice of cabbie, and thus have become quite selective and very aware of my own behavior as a rider of taxis.

Here is my list of DOs and DO NOTs:
1) When hailing a cab, select a proper area to wait. Take into consideration that when the taxi stops to let you in, he doesn't disrupt the flow of traffic. Avoid the corner of narrow busy streets and double parked cars.

2) Be courteous to your follow taxi riders and stand after those already waiting for a cab.

3) Make sure that you have enough change before getting into a cab. If not, let the cabbie know in advance so he can stop at a gas station and break a 200 pound note.

4) Know where you are going and don't rely on the cabbie to know how to get there. Some of them are clueless and may not work in the area regularly. Identify the various routes that you are comfortable with and make sure that the cabbie does not detour.

5) Put down your phone and pay attention. If the cabbie takes a detour you are unfamiliar with, ask him where he is going. You can also ask him to take another route. Be polite but unyielding.

6) Commercial license plates are ORANGE. The blue ones are for civilian cars. Ask yourself, why is a civilian driver masquerading as a cabbie. Least of all, there will not be a meter.

7) You are not obligated to shout out your destination from across the street because a cabbie doesn't want to pull over. Wait from another taxi who values his job and does it properly.

8) A cabbie who cuts across from the left lane ahead of another taxi to beat him to a customer, is a person who will not think twice about cutting in line at the supermarket. If this behavior irritates you, then wait for the other cab who kept to the right.

9) If you are crossing the street, in order to wait for a taxi from a better vantage point, and notice that a cabbie pulls over and waits for you, don't get in. This means that he noticed you standing on the other side of the road. If he's truly keen on picking up a customer, he would have been paying attention to the sidewalk to his right, where normal people wait to hail taxis, not the opposite direction.

10) If you are happy with the service rendered, don't forget to thank the cab driver and tip him accordingly. They have a terrible job and the worse work environment possible.