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Never Late to Start a Different Life

Killing The Childhood Dream

We have a problem. Many people are unhappy, and unsatisfied with the lives they lead. Most people stop dreaming because it is not sustainable in modern society, and only fantasize about a different life. People are manipulated into believing that they need so much more than they really do; and with that they become slaves to a system that murders every child’s dream in its wake of adulthood. There is an alternative though. We can be happier and healthier.

The desk to bed life never compelled me in any way. Imagine growing up with a passion for learning and exploring but never picturing a future that included a job. I was very good at school because I enjoyed it, not because I wanted an awesome job. Don’t many – at least those of us who had been privileged enough to have dreams- start off like this?

The perfect story goes that we get to choose what we love and pursue it, if lucky, we can excel. However, we must also make decisions that shape our lives at very young ages. The dreams we had as children would only make sense at that point if they could be transformed into money making careers. Understandably so.

The problem is though that we are so young at those times that most of us have barely experienced any alternative options. At 17, 4 years after I got my period, 5 years after I stopped playing with Barbie dolls, 7 years after I stopped being afraid of the dark, I had to choose what my adult self would do for money. And stick to it.

INSANE.

Truthfully I never bought the story too much. Since the beginning i was looking for a way out. I never wanted too much money, I didn’t expect to find happiness in mansions and fancy jewels. I always imagined travel, walking through different places, smiling at faces from different races and that was the goal. Happiness to me was simple; its headlines were good people, good food and beautiful places, at the heart of it all would be a love so deep. The rest was background.

A white picket fence life looked good in the American movies I saw, but then the husband or wife either ended up cheating or dead or with Alzheimers. So that didn’t appeal too much to me either. This teenage girl was more cynical than the rest; now more than 10 years later; I stand my ground with similar cynicism and a little more wisdom and faith.

The white dress seemed like a distant vision, one that I also never dreamed about. I did however get to experience wearing it; my joy lasted for a short while until things ended, thankfully neither with death nor Alzhiemers, but a very broken heart. That, I could handle.

Bringing the Dream Back to Life

Now I know. Life is NOT only black or white. Life is NOT a matter of living up to standards set for us by others who have not had our dreams and visions. We must be more vigilant to the fairytales, and less cynical about what’s real. Children know something we as adults forget. Dreams are the fuel of joy, and experience is our best shot at learning something new. When we finally harmonize the child within with the adult that operates now, we can finally make our dreams materialize and live a different life.

Living goes forward and it never stops, it will never stop as long as the universe continues to expand infinitely. So planting ourselves in one version of the truth is imprisonment. The only surreal thing about life is our assumption that we are in control of every aspect of it, surely we can control a few things at a time, but not everything. Regret is the opposite of learning, and joy is the center of all that was, is and will be.

The Old Self Looking Back

black and white photo of clocks
Photo by Andrey Grushnikov on Pexels.com

I always picture that adorable 80 year old lady sitting on her old bones and staring into the ocean. Her eyes look like mine perhaps yours too, but a lot older, and she nods in approval. Life can be well lived if we allow ourselves the full experience. If we accept the ultimately wide spectrum of emotion, and navigate it truthfully and with grace. So if my old self looks back at me now, from where she is, with all of the wisdom she has carried, will she be proud of the life I’m living right now? I would sure hope she is.

Now my friend, enough about me! Imagine yourself in your later years, what do you look like? what and who do you love? Is your elderly self happy with the life you lived and are living today?

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Better Now Than Never: A Story

Once upon a time, there was a death. A death that was impossible without the life that preceded it. An old woman lived in a dark concrete apartment, one that she had inherited from her late father. If you looked really closely, you could still see how beautiful that lady used to be. Except there was a sadness in her eyes that was less about what she has done and more about what she hadn’t. The old lady worked to sustain herself and her family, but she never got to live her dream. The beauty shop she wanted to open, sat in a cloudy corner in her mind, never to see the light. She always said tomorrow was another day, and tomorrow never came; only more of the same and less of the joy. Her guilt piled up night after night, whenever she sat alone and planned. She had to wait, and the waiting took over, until she could wait no more. The story ends with a death, but that is not so bad, every story ends with that. The saddest part despite it all is that death was not preceded with the life that she wanted, but with the life that she settled for.

Think about something you really would love to do, are you doing it? will you get to it? OR is it somewhere deep down gathering dust, until the right time comes.

Comfort is incredibly easy, it is what we naturally work towards. We rotate around comfort like bees to the pollen, and we make sure to mark our flowers so that we never have to travel so far again and risk something scary happening. So we buzz around our little lives hoping that one day something will change in our favor, and sometimes it does, but not always.

So do it now, while you can, while you can still have regrets that become stories of old age, and lessons to those you bring to life. Live now and plan what’s next using your brilliant brain, and don’t drown it with the fake pleasures of sugar and digitalized wellbeing. There is no wellbeing in living on screens with carpel tunnel fingers. Use your fingers to build the life you want, and days you never want to end.

Think about it, every story ends with death, but every death begins with life. Make your life brilliant, and don’t overthink the ride.

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In the dark of things, where do we find the light?

We all have our ways. We all manage to live one way or another in spite of a tragic shadow that haunts us named fear. There is no shortage of fears! I am proud to welcome a new one into my life to sit at my ever-growing Halloween table. After some digging, I learned about the fear of suffering.

Gapping

However, just because I finally see this fear for what it is, it doesn’t mean it will take over.

“You are not the pain, you are not the suffering” he would say, as he helped me through one of my initial mindfulness exercises.

“Gapping”is the process of separating your spirit -the inherent you- from the body, the physical form, and the mental/psychological troubles you might be having. The practice is liberating but it also is heavily wakeful. You will be amazed at what you discover in the space between the external world, your physical avatar and the real you. What I am writing may sound like gibberish to you, but that is ok. Allow me to tell you why.

It is ok because I have found a way. See, for me to have a series of practices that work, save me from feeling like a victim. Once the victim is no longer there, the entire balance of things shifts from blame to insight. I have a process of anchoring on wonderful experiences, while choosing to put on some rose-colored lenses when the world has gone incredibly dull. It is Ok because I choose to be that way, and I choose to be that way for the people around me.

The Dark

Scrolling Facebook, I read news about the ongoing terrors in Yemen, the toxic food we are eating in Lebanon, and mindless acts of shaming and abuse that people go through. I see suffering everywhere!

I also have the impulse to adopt that suffering as my own. I then leave the house to find people close to my heart also suffering deeply for numerous reasons. I cannot but ask “What in the world is going on?”

However, before I jump into the victimhood pond of dirty treacherous waters, and before I treat the world with the same contempt I think it’s treating me, I put on my rose-colored glasses. Not out of naivete but because deep down I know that there are layers upon layers of blessings that we cannot see. I choose to first count my own blessings, then I start looking at the positive things happening in the world, I take a look at my cat and the wonderful world of happy lucky children, and I cannot but see.

Not everything we see is real, and not everything we believe is true. My rose-colored glasses are as real as my black ones if I really want them to be.  There is wisdom and there are lessons to be learned, sometimes from the experiences of strangers.

I have come to reason that this life, my life, your life are not singular experiences although our egos lead us to believe that they are. When I suffer, it does not mean that I deserve it, it is almost always never about me, and most of the times there are no real reasons whether good or bad. Sometimes things just ARE the way they ARE. So when I do my gapping exercise which I would love to pass on to anybody interested, it becomes easier for me to experience the inherent truth beneath all the “good” and the “bad” layers. I get to overcome my feelings and thoughts about the external situation and simply be free.

The choice becomes viable, either get free from all the exquisite mind traps or get sucked into the vacuum of it all and swept by guilt, regret, and blame.

The Light

It hurts my heart to know about all the suffering, and I do wish that it wasn’t so. But we are humans, after all, we do act on convictions that make us vulnerable at times, aggressive at other times and completely blind to the surrounding humanity and its essence. The real issue eternally will be, what will you do about it? To what extent can you extend yourself to be a force of good in a world that appears to be so bleak at times? How good can you make your friends and family feel? How beautiful can your presence be to those around you? It all comes down to a question of operating equally well in the dark and in the light. Beauty is still beauty whether it exists in a dark room or in a wonderfully sunlit one.

So despite that fact that we may at this point in time be living in a dark room, it should not stop us from being desperately and unflinchingly beautiful.

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Uninspired lives and Elephants

This is a post about elephants and their need to be seen and acknowledged.

Elephants are wonderful creatures, they rarely prefer to be indoors, but when they are, there is something to be learned. Sometimes elephants move into our houses, and lay in our beds with their trunks around our soft bellies, begging for our attention yet we still look away. An ELEPHANT in the room? Which room? This one? NO! I am not in denial.

I am inspired when I wake up, and when I go to sleep. My dreams are blockbusters, and my daily commute to work is therapeutic. I am a walking, speaking beacon of inspiration. I am not in denial.

Did I lose you?

The elephant in the room for those unfamiliar with the metaphor is when a stark reality or truth stares you in the face but you still choose to deny it. Simply put, having an elephant in the room but refusing to admit that you can see it.

Fine. Elephants sometimes take up a lot of space, and they make us feel small and less interesting. If I were to photograph myself right now, I have an elephant on my lap and he snores and weighs me down, and he really just wants me to accept that some days I am uninspired by everything. As soon as I do, he gets up and makes me write this.

What I’m really trying to say is this:

Sometimes inspiration doesn’t come, although we try really hard to squeeze it out of our mundane days, weeks and sometimes months. Inspiration and wonder are words at the end of the day that describe feelings that enable us to see more, be more and do more. Those feelings behave like self tailored secrets especially designed to appease our fluttering hearts from beating us to death.

Sometimes we wait in the rain with our water proof phones hoping to snap a picture of a beautiful rainbow, and post it to Instagram with an inspirational caption below that goes something like “while everyone hides from the rain, those who wait out the storm get the rainbow; #weather is so inspiring.” Boom, 230 Likes; We all slept well that night.

We lead ourselves to think that we have control; perhaps we did manage to snap that picture last time, but this time the rainbow doesn’t come out. During our wait in the rain we end up discovering that our phones are not as hydrophobic as marketed. We end up seeing no rainbows, just storms and broken phones. Lesson learned, inspiration is hard to come by, sometimes life is terribly ordinary and just awfully real. #Caption_that

So what do we do when our lives aren’t always Instagram worthy, or Facebook material? How do we present ourselves when we are uninspired?

We imitate

I personally and luckily am only slightly addicted to social media [this probably is a lie]. The truth really is that I like learning about how it works, and why it works the way it does; I am less interested in what is posted but more with why content is posted. I was curious enough about it and I took an online course on Coursera about Viral Marketing and what makes content contagious. Marketing, psychology and social theories of influence all play a part in how we present ourselves online truly reflecting three major things: we want to be seen, we want our lives to seem exciting, and we trust and rely on the images we are presented with from our peers.

We are creatures of imitation, and that only takes us so far; it could be both necessary for our survival and detrimental to it. Inspiration on the other hand is our ticket to originality. Inspiration where available is one of the most important tools for creating raw and beautiful foundations, actions and trends, where then imitation follows.

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Motivational Metaphor: Life is a relay race and death waits at the finish line, but here’s the twist

How is it possible that after all this time we are still so clueless? So much has happened and we still are apparently regressing to one misconception that life is a singular experience.

We’ve been  through evolution, religion, war, peace, theories about almost everything and technological innovation. We have been living, reproducing, and dying and then doing it all over again for centuries.

Except we are still confused. We still want to know how to really be happy, but not so happy as to become indulgent and obnoxious. We want to be knowledgeable, enough to make great decisions, speak wisely but not so wisely as to appear like we know it all. We still want to imitate and do as the successful are doing, because maybe just maybe one day that would be us. Just roll back to the cascades of articles that all sound the same like: 5 things every successful person does before eating lunch, 7 things your idol said before they received the outstanding human reward, and so on..) We are clueless, we are hungry and we are eating those words up.

I have a habit of reading almost anything and everything that I can see. I read the words and the sentences, I see the lines and pick at what’s between them. I read into something and write out of it. My brain is a fanatic tool of analysis, and yet, YET I still sprint to the answers, or anybody who seemingly has them in hopes of uncovering a truth, uncovering the pill that will not only save me from my own inherited ignorance after centuries of human sanity and insanity, but also help me save you.

What is in that grind for success? What is it about personal growth that tickles our senses?

Everything that grows almost always grows to a certain point, and that is it. Growth stops, and it is surely and most importantly and vividly stopped by death, a rather scary notion to most, one that blankly tells us that we will not live forever. But its OK, really.

So i dwell in this circle for a while, and think about what really drives our growth as individuals, as partners, as communities, societies and a species. It seems to me that although I see the finish line and I try to remind myself of its existence frequently, running is not a singular effort after all.

My value added is not simply by my mere existence, not simply by own thoughts that exist within my mind, and end at the tip of my tongue usually. My value added is mirrored and brought to force by my action, and my ability to influence not the world, but just one person.

Surely we don’t know what we are doing, but we are on to one thing, and I am so happy that I am living in this generation, being one of the many voices saying this again:

“Living is not a singular experience, although your own life line attempts to trick you into believing that it is. Sometimes your own society wants to include or exclude you all depending on where you were born and when. Living is not a race to a finish line that you have to do all by yourself. Think of it like a relay race, we are all running but the significance is not in making the finish line because we all will, your value added is in how well you grab onto the baton once you have your hands on it, how quickly, consistently, willfully.. (choose your own adverb) you run, and how gracefully you hand over your baton to the next runner.”

You get to choose your team if you are lucky, you get to choose your baton as well. All I really want to get to finally, is that although we are a species highly susceptible to distraction, make your part count, give it everything you’ve got because you just might be the runner who changes it all.

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Are you a Giver? Read this

This is for the givers, the doers free of charge, the lantern carriers when all are screaming “it’s too dark”. This is for the flame bearers, the fire breathers, and the fearless among the crowd.

Why am I writing about you? Well, because I like to think of myself as one of you, although some might digress, but that is a rant for another day.

So who are the givers?

They give time in the face of abandonment and unavailability, they give money in the face of greed and wealth hoarding, or love in the face of hateful speech and actions, or acceptance in the face of rejection. Are you a serial doer of any of the mentioned actions? Do you do so before you think about the real price of what you are giving? Do you live like this and worry about the returns later or never?

But what happens when you consider the returns today?

What do you do when your bag feels empty? Who gives you time? money? love? acceptance? Do you harbor a slight resentment for yourself or others, and all the seemingly “mindless” actions you have taken to bring yourself to this state of emptiness, of exhaustion of all of your resources? It might feel as though you are wasting your energy, when it seems as though the winners around you are takers. They succeed because they hold on to everything they can carry, and what they drop, well, they have people scurrying behind them picking up after them. Those people stay on top because of people like you, the givers. It is easy to think like this, to want to divert from living such life, because why the hell should you? as simple as that.

The story doesn’t end here you know. The story doesn’t end with you losing all that you have given to all the takers. The story ends where you decide it does, where you let it. See there is an unforeseen power that comes with the ability to give, because we live within a generation that is quite obsessed with having it all. We want the romantic relationship, a one true love story, but we also want the flings, the crazy crushes, the “Netflix and chill”. We want the bountiful success, we want to win but then who learns from winning alone, we have a special interest in the idea of failure and rising up again. We want the beautiful fit bodies, but we also really want to be “Foodies” who eat anything and everything for the sake of our taste buds and that review. We want everything, and really regardless of how contradictory our desires are, we seek it all.

The catch

So giver, where do you fit in this space? Who are you in this world, and what role do you plan on performing? Before you answer, consider 2 main givens:

You are extremely powerful if you are a giver.

You are extremely unaware of your power, if you keep on finding yourself empty, vacant and consumed.

Power is with those who have resources, and in this day and age, time, money, love, and acceptance are resources. People are creating empires out of those, think Gary Veynerchuck, Tony Robbins, Jason Silva, (and yes I realize there are no women in there -I will work on that ASAP, and your recommendations are welcome!) those are just a few people on my personal radar.

You must acknowledge the value of the resources you are offering, and when you do, you must direct them to the right places, projects and people, even and especially at yourself. Be efficient with your power, be smart and do not victimize yourself. Notice the darkness surrounding you, carry your torch high, straighten your back and walk to the forefront. You lead when you are a giver. You guide and empower, you make the first move.

You are the wild card, believe it, own it, and notice how when you take the reigns, the takers follow in your footsteps and not the other way around.

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On Love

Rule 40

A life without love is of no account. Don’t ask yourself what kind of love you should seek, spiritual or material, divine or mundane, Eastern or Western. Divisions only lead to more divisions. Love has no labels, no definitions. It is what it is, pure and simple. Love is the water of life. And a lover is a soul of fire! The universe turns differently when fire loves water.

Forty rules of love- Elif shafak

Stop and think about the role that love plays in your life. Where does it begin, does it have limitations? Does it dictate something? everything? or nothing? Where does love reside? Is it only outside of you, only reciprocated when received from specific sources, or is it infinite within you and eternal reflected onto everyone and everything with no objection?

I am not attempting a poetic account of it, many have done it before me much to my amusement and educational benefit. But then here I am, here we are, having to experience all of those descriptions and variations on our own, for our own sake. What do we do? Is this love or lust, is it love or dependency? is it love or need? Where do we draw the lines and decide, where do we let go of the need to define that state and simply sink into it, perhaps in to an intellectual abyss, or into a conscious black hole of upbringing, insecurity and desire?

I thought that love has always eluded me, perhaps every time I found a label, every time I found a description or an explanation I completely lost interest. Why would I still want something I completely understand, where I had identified points of origin and where it climaxes and ends. The more I could explain, the less exciting it became.

Then I stopped. I could no longer tolerate the thought of love. I could no longer sit and wait for others to show me my own value, I could no longer accept that love saves me, and then it leaves me, to find me again in a stranger’s eyes to save and leave me again. I no longer wanted the love I sought in everyone. I wanted to dig deeper.

I began my experiment, except this time I wanted my result to be as vague and incomplete as possible. My hypothesis was that: The love I am looking for cannot be explained, or contained. The Love I seek is not an intellectual experience.

I watched too many TED Talks about the physiology of love, and the different hormones and enzymes at play when one experiences romantic love. I dove into the strangest books by George Bataille, perhaps his eccentric and unbelievable talent and disgusting imagination could point me in a new direction. I moved on into music, and people; it seemed everyone had one thing in common. Everyone finds and emulates love in their own way. That unclear, unjustifiable energy we experience is too unquenchable that we direct at the first target.

We end up directing it towards people, and towards books and music and animals and the planet and God and sex and ..and …and.. all for the joy of experiencing it ourselves. We are always on one end of that love.

I was closer to my answer because I was getting more confused, things were making less sense, I was beginning to grasp the far extremities of love, like running your fingers on the fine ends of the softest fur. My external dissatisfaction mattered less and less. Life hit me hard, and my anxiety would knock me face down, but that still wasn’t stopping me. There was a well of indescribable energy within me, and I had tasted its water.

I write today reminiscing about the journey, and glorifying my absolute incompetence when it comes to grazing the surface of understanding how powerful and underestimated true deep and internal love is. Where with every wall torn down, love presents itself as it is; everything.

Love sometimes wants to do us a great favor: Hold us upside down and shake all the nonsense out

Hafiz