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.