Posted on 2 Comments

How Do We Determine Our Value as Women?

woman in colors

The issue with letting people walk all over you is that you do not truly understand your own value as women.

You grow up hearing many things the top two of which are either you are a smart and strong girl, or you are a beautiful girl. If you heard both, then you were lucky because the system approved of you as a young female. You fit perfectly in the box of useless social recognition. There is nothing more damaging to how we perceive our own value as women as fitting into the box too well.

What does it mean to know your value as women?

Your value as women is born with you.

First accept your value as a human being.We honor the breath inside our body and the heart that continues to beat irrespective of life’s conditions. You are a living being this is your first added value to this earth. Every living breathing being has a place, has a contribution has VALUE.

Your value as a woman is not what others agreed upon only.

We are all so deeply conditioned to be certain people. Parents and friends and the general society you grew up in wanted you to become one or many different things. They transferred value to certain aspects within you and diminished others to shape you into a being that would be accepted and active in the community. People do this out of love. They do it out of ignorance too, and a deep seated fear of having to deal with your difference in a society that generally idolizes sameness. So just because those around value certain things over others, it doesn’t mean that your less acceptable qualities are valueless.

You create value wherever you go.

We are all put in similar containers growing up. Good families or broken ones, schools and jobs that slowly either build our self esteem or obliterate it. We explore romantic relationships that range from subpar and mediocre to perverse and violent ones; depending on our self esteem and our boundaries and our need for love. Life has the capacity to kick us straight in the ass, if we allow it to be a beating it will become one. The alternative however, is to put a damn end to the beating and call for a pause, even if it was an internal one. PAUSE and then assess your position if you could. Are you creating value? Do you feel like your presence matters? Is it crucial or are you filling space?

Make decisions that reflect your value and worth to yourself not just others.

We make decisions about everything. Appearance, lifestyle, personal growth, emotions, thoughts, experiences and diet, to name just a few. Do your choices reflect your value? Do they have the weight of accountability and the lightness of awareness? Essentially are you making choices out of love for yourself or neglect? That is the most profound expression of all.

So my dear, the keyword in letting others walk all over you is this: LETTING THEM. We must cultivate agency in the smallest aspects of our lives and then build up from there. Determining our value as women is simple and difficult at the same time. Will you eat this piece of crap or will you honor your digestive system with something a lot better? Then will you love your body or will you think the worst things about her? Automatically, we become better at noticing our nourishing thoughts and behaviors and the damaging ones.

Posted on 1 Comment

Why Comfort is Keeping You from Achieving your Dreams

Let’s talk about comfort. You know the kind that comes in soothing flavors of sweet vanilla and melted chocolate. The caramels and the soft crunches of pecan that swirl over your tastebuds and whisper to you that everything is ok. Or it could be the sounds of waves crashing, kissing your toes under a sunset that feels just right all over your skin, a golden hour that makes you feel like every hour of your life can feel that way. Comfort is a warm blanket in the freezing cold, and lilac colored mug of hot chocolate that has “Just Breathe” written on it in classy gold.

Comfort is appealing, it is the snuggle and not the nudge. Comfort is the tap on your shoulder by a loving friend and not a shake by a stranger telling you that your train has stopped. The crimson blush of a beautiful person staring at you like you are magic is comfort embodied. So let’s talk about that beautiful comfort that we seek endlessly every waking hour. Let’s wonder about how far we go to be comfortable. You see, comfort evolves in its nature, it learns and provides us a space to just be.

Now, let’s think about the end of comfort, the break in its seemingly recurrent consistency.

What happens if we never leave that comfort?

Comfort becomes external. You will no longer be able to experience comfort in anything but a tub of ice cream, a warm blanket and an ocean breeze. The easiness of our well cushioned caves removes any need to seek wonder elsewhere. You will lose your imagination and the urge to experience the world. You slowly befriend fear, and the thought of losing that comfort could tear you to pieces. Don’t get me wrong comfort is a beautiful feeling, but that’s all it is, a Feeling. If we hang on to how things make us feel for too long, we become incapable of living without them. Mind you, wanting to live with some things is not crazy, it does not determine how good or bad you are at life. Though the fear of loss limits your ability to experience having things, losing things, and creating and transforming your life based on purpose and genuine happiness, and not based on material, or feelings of attachment or responsibility.

We learn ever since we are kids that we must have things to make us happy; that without things we are nothing. The distance between who we are and what we have becomes so minimal that we can no longer tell the difference. I am not saying that we must give up our “things” but that we must understand that we are not a sum of what we buy or what we can make a month. Having a lot of money is awesome, no body would be bothered by that, but having a lot of money is unnecessary, seeking a lot of money is toxic if not done out of a deep understanding of your true worth with or without it.

The deep secret is that comfort is tricky. It takes years out of your life making you believe something that isn’t real. Being comfortable with misery, or ordinariness, or poor health, or laziness or abuse or over eating, blinds us from what discomfort really means. Discomfort is not always bad, it sometimes is the only way out of toxic habits of comfort. Our brains have not evolved to tell us to leave that camp fire and walk out of the cave to seek shelter elsewhere. We instinctively stay away from discomfort and unknown feelings and experiences because we think it terms self preservation. Habits can be changed, our life is prone to complete dismantlement and rebuilding and transformation if we allow ourselves a peek every once in a while outside of the cave.

This is not about dissatisfaction with status quo, but its about creating space for our happiness to manifest itself in the craziest of ways. How many times have you heard someone say : I WOULD NEVER LEAVE MY JOB FOR THE UNKNOWN, I WOULD NEVER SPEAK TO THAT PERSON, I WOULD NEVER DO/GO… ETC… We all have our comfortable thoughts, convictions, places and people. Going beyond them is unthinkable to most of us. There is no need to put ourselves out there, there is no point in experiencing a possible let down when we can clearly avoid it. I GET THAT.

Then again, what if you do?

What if you let yourself off the hook? What if you allow yourself out of that comfort whatever shape or form it has? If looking outside is so painful, then that says something. If for example, your relationship has gotten too comfortable, and you catch yourself watching other couples, that says something. It does not deem failure or defeat, it is a nudge. A NUDGE TO TAKE THE CHALLENGE, MAKE THE EFFORT. A Nudge that you have become so unfamiliar with, because you’re so used to the soft love taps. Notice the Nudge, go for it and create new comfort wherever you go; because it rarely is the people, the places and the things you have, it’s mostly how you decide to see things.

So my friends, comfort will always be there; rest assured! You can even take parts of it with you. Leaving what we perceive to be easy shouldn’t be a threat, it can be an adventure, it can be the only way to live our best lives.

Posted on 1 Comment

What do you do when the sun sets? You push the damn brakes!

How do we break through the dread? How do we wake up consistently and find hope everyday?

All I know is that it is immensely difficult, and whenever I or anybody else over simplifies the practice of living well, that’s disillusion. Sweat and tears my friends, it takes overcoming negatives in all of their forms on an hourly basis, the overt and covert kind. It takes a lot of courage and faith. It takes faith to look at a difficult situation and somehow deep down translate it into hope. It takes persistence and trust to produce something good out of your life. And I am here to tell you, if you can do that at least 50% of the time; well then good job. You are trying, and happiness follows that process always. You deserve this moment.

The movie Moment

silhouette photography of woman
Photo by Pete Johnson on Pexels.com

Let’s go back together to that movie scene that is always so enthralling, so freeing- the Hollywood movie moment- where one stands atop a mountain and looks onto vastness and a never ending horizon. The sun is setting, and the character finds peace, a scream breaks from the pit of their stomach, and it echoes past the softest winds, the sky paints itself in violet and orange. Brilliant ending, fully orchestrated by character breaking free, and nature being itself, as it always is. End credits start rolling, and you are frozen to your couch wondering what that character will do next? How will she start over? What will her life be like now that she managed to unravel and just be?

The trend nowadays, is one where struggle in most of its forms is undermined, because everyone struggles, it has become an arbitrary given, one that provides the monotone style to all that we preach.

The triumph of a good attitude over every hardship is preached like religion. And it is true, but one tiny loophole in that is the biggest pit ever.

Why should you have a good attitude?

When life gets too real, days get too rigid and boring, time collapses into a routine set of actions that almost always amount to the same outcome, our good attitude compass gets stuck on an autopilot neutral mode. Welcome to the challenge of identifying that and breaking free of it.

It is easy to know when you are feeling down, when you have a bad attitude everyone around you can tell you too. Determining the steps towards fixing the “broken” attitude come next as the natural progression to make a better life. However, the biggest dread of all is the neutrality. The “meh” attitude, the harmless sideline, the “I will just watch this day through, because I don’t want to participate”. The wallflower, not the weed.

I find this mode to be the most difficult to overcome because it is sly, it is soft. It is the comfortable couch you lay on and scroll through your Instastories, to watch other people live; in their good and bad attitudes. It is the autopilot, that tells you its good, but not good enough for you to pay any extra attention. And what happens when we live every day without paying enough attention? Well, nothing.

Nothing happens, the good and the bad all pass, and we don’t flinch. We Miss Out.

Welcome to my struggle

How do we push harder to make our experience amount to something more? How do we make sure that we do just enough to fully take in the moment? The truth is that we will miss out on a whole lot, but we will also be able to take what we get. We are able to navigate, the way way we want to, so better navigate into adventure, love, creativity and wonder.

Because i have a deep rooted fear of missing out on so much wonder in the world, because I feel bombarded by negativity, by dreadful individuals and ideologists, as though the entire world is on a good route to hell; and because nobody wants to take the wheel; I cannot shake the dread.

So maybe the best advice I can think of to myself and to you, is this:

Turn off the engine. Take some time off. What happens when the autopilot is turned off? You will have to look around, you will have to assess, you will be able to learn and determine what needs to be burned to the ground, and what must be revived at all costs. On another note, I find big well acted, brilliantly produced moments to be essential too. Freedom can be taught, we can drop aspects of ourselves that are absolute trash, and we can learn to be better. We must understand how overwhelming life is, and we must be brave enough to push the brakes, and just stop, watch the damn sunset and figure out where the hell we want to go.

Posted on 3 Comments

How Do we Take our Lives Back?

Life can be more fun. It can be fulfilling, it can have any meaning you want it to; it can be anything you want it to. You could be the good kind of tired. It can also be a disaster, it can be so terribly boring, so utterly hopeless and pointless if you want it to. You can easily make it to a midlife crisis that ends with a rigid realization that you have wasted your life, your money and your youth on nothing. See you can have it all, you already are working towards what you want daily, whether you see it or not. I want to help you see it, because I’m practicing what I preach and because I care about the 40 year old you.

Consider this the hands-on preacher pitch, from somebody who gives a damn. Too aggressive? well, why not if you are still reading, it means something deep down in you is curious enough to save 40 year old you from despair. Or, you might actually have a sense of humor, one that gets sarcastic baits off the bat.

The Important Questions

The first and foremost set of questions to ask ourselves right now as we read are:

Do I complain? Why do I complain? Do I do it consciously? Do i feel better after I have complained to the person of my choice? Does my complaining ever lead to action? Do I feel better because complaining makes me feel like I am actually doing something about my problems?

The questions can definitely get longer and more complex, but I will release you there.

The Epidemic

Complaining and whining about our problems is a national epidemic, one that we have been conditioned to since infancy, most of us grew up to singers complaining, actors complaining, parents complaining, and politicians complaining. Few people took action, complaining led to distraction, which led to corruption. We were always one step behind. Why? You guessed it, because we were complaining.

Lebanon, yes I am looking at you. The complaining disease is so deeply rooted in our brains that we have become incapable of perceiving solutions in any other form. Complaining became a cry for help, an embodiment of helplessness, greed and self-defeatist victim hood.

But this is not about Lebanon, this is about you, and the life you deserve and how you can get it. The Lebanon example is a nod of respect to every person still managing to live in the system untainted. This is a virtual gold star I am placing on your forehead right now. I get it. The general environment is difficult, it is almost impossible, but I insist that it can be better for you at least.

How do we take our lives back?

We start with the only things we can control, our selves, our thoughts, our attitudes.

The most important habit to drop, and people are preaching this everywhere:

Train yourself to stop complaining, and start doing something, anything about your problem. This needs taking responsibility, releasing yourself from the “I cant” captivity.

Talking about a problem with an action based attitude is optimal. Try to simplify it as such:

  • What is my problem? (choose one)
  • How does it make me feel?
  • Will time take care of it? If yes, great don’t talk about it anymore and be patient.
  • If no, Can I conjure actionable steps to solve it? If yes, then do that.
  • If no, and the problem is absolutely beyond your control (few are – such as mortality) then you must practice letting go; taking the next best action plan.

Once we learn to size up our problems, we gain better perspective about how to go about something. One problem no longer takes over your life, it becomes an item on your agenda. No life is easy, even if we mistakenly perceive other people’s as walks in the park.

45 year old you will still be young enough to take on life any way it presents itself. Do not mistake age with wisdom or achievement as though growing years take care of all the hard stuff. Nothing and no body will take care of the hard stuff but you. So do yourself a favor, one that will put your entire living experience on a different track and practice RCA “Reduced Complaining Attitude” -I just made that up- for a day, a week, a month and on. See what happens. You will find that there is a lot of empty space in your conversations, ones that could be filled with jokes, activities and higher quality issues. You will find that people suddenly want to be around you more. You will find that sitting in the control deck of life is the best kept secret of every person you have ever admired. Enjoy it all, and take it in, do something about it if you can, and then let go when necessary.

pexels-photo-965625.jpeg

Imagine who you could develop into a year from now, 10 years from now and beyond that? Who would you surround yourself with? What would you be doing? Nothing will be the same if you take back your life.

Think about it…

Posted on Leave a comment

Life Advice: Listen to your big brother

In the probability of you not having a big brother, you could listen to mine. You are most welcome.

The beginning of Appreciation

Is it me or does it become easier to appreciate your siblings the older that you get? They start seeming more like humans, less like Barbie doll mansion wrecking machines. Do you remember how irritating it used to be when your parents would ask you to watch your brother or sister? Or how useless it was to try and enjoy a game when sibling x would continually get it wrong/cheat/win because they were simply so much better?

It builds character to say the least, whether it builds you into an awesome person or an annoying baby, is up to you I suppose.

Let’s stick to appreciation, especially to all the big brothers out there.

Disclaimer: Sisters are lacking in my life, so I can’t speak for that experience; my outfits have always been exclusive to me. However growing up with brothers, my food and my personal space were shared commodities.

Let’s call them older siblings, send this out to them because its their birthday, or birth week, or actually simply because they were born before us. They did us a favor and started out tripping and falling a few steps ahead of us. They made it easy for us to expect traps, and hopefully learn to not fall in the same way, yet when we did, they had stories to tell and advice to give about that one time a similar thing happened to them.

Ladies and gentlemen! Life is not easy. It is so fun when you get to have an older version of your genes and blood living in a unique manner. I want to obliterate everything deep from the impact of such experience and simply talk about the amount of fun you get to have FOREVER. Especially if your sibling is ultimately and for years to come cooler than you.

I recognize how linear I am drawing life to be. Surely experiences don’t occur on a first come first serve basis; if they had, life experiences would have been fully consumed by now; after tens of millions of human lives on earth. I promise you that is not where I’m going.

Life Advice: the wisdom of the siblings

I actually want to share with you some amazing older brother wisdom; a concept he had taught me over 10 years ago, he was only 22 or so back then, I was 16 years old. I decided to visually depict it today, I brought back “Perception A” from basic memory, and as you can see, very basic. The second perception, he drew in the air for me a few days ago during a conversation that began with Rick and Morty, centered around dramatic life realizations and ended with Rick and Morty.

life paths

If our life was a movie, my brother would have to be the character with the most character development. The above perceptions are simple. They tell you that at some point -perception A- he believed that he had to teach me not to give up. After every crash comes a good climb to the top. He was a step ahead always, so he also felt that a slide was to be expected after every high point. The notion was quite extreme, but helped immensely, during my down phases. I’d stay positive, during my up phases I’d get ready, and stay realistic.

This has been modified today. Life, in hindsight, becomes a process filled with major life events of varying colors-perception B. It stops being a long way up and long crash down; you become smarter, your breaks get better and your wings get bigger.

Having somebody you love and trust tread the life path ahead of you helps. When they are brave, lively and very honest is a plus too. It helps when someone nods back at us and tells us that its all going to be alright even when they aren’t so sure of it either.

“Go back?” he thought. “No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!” Bilbo Baggins, The Hobbit

Posted on 2 Comments

Me, myself, anxiety and I: An R rated love story

Almost a year ago in an April a little less beautiful than this one, I made the worst acquaintance of my life.

Due to my knack for drama, I call it the shadow of my existence, the world likes to call it anxiety.

The Fall

At first it was this dreadful, sticky and relentless pest; it screamed in fear, it woke me at night, it told me to listen to how fast my heart is beating, and I would hold my breath fearing it might just stop. My sleep paralysis got so bad, I was afraid to close my eyes and go to sleep every night. It showed up at work, while I exercised, as I ate, it became vicious and I started crumbling under its shadow. I had no name for it, I had no idea what was happening, I just thought that my existence is suddenly and abruptly being interrupted by a fear so furious, that I had to stop and pay attention to it. I was so scared, I stopped drinking coffee to slow down my heart rate, and I started eating 2 bananas a day (rich in magnesium etc…). Funny now, f**king terrifying back then, when I would still get attacks, hyperventilate and break into random sweats for no real reason.

That was the shadow of my existence, the anti-experience, the anti-life, the anti-love and it wasn’t even death. Think internet, and the dark web, well my life was the internet and my anxiety was the dark web and it was creeping into my daily nonchalant life. Imagine scrolling through your Facebook watching cat videos, and then suddenly seeing a human trafficking ad. You become THAT tangled, you have no idea when something terrible will come into your consciousness with no real cause. [Bad metaphor, but serves the purpose I hope]

The Rise

After some tests, a doctor came to my aid: There is absolutely nothing wrong with your heart; you have been experiencing anxiety attacks. She said with a smile.

ANXIETY!? Really? I had seen a Buzzfeed piece on Facebook about it before and I gave it no mind whatsoever. I suddenly felt silly, but then I felt awkward; now what?

Step 1: I started announcing it to whomever was around me when it would hit, because my face would turn pale, I couldn’t hold eye contact, and I would just focus on getting my heart rate back to normal, it was impossible not to notice how strange I suddenly became.

Step 2: Breathing exercises, meditation and detachment practices were on continuous reruns. I decided that if I were to regain control of my regular functioning, the second step after acknowledging that I was anxious, was to let go. Breathing in I would think “Just be”, breathing out I would think “let go”. Enough times it started to work; I’ve been doing it since then. Very difficult step for sure.

Step 3: Truly addressing my fears; the real ones! became a daily goal. If i were going to be afraid my entire life, I might as well find something worthwhile to fear. No more petty fears for me. My real journey towards personal growth started right then and there.

The Lesson: A Big F*** You to Fear

If anxiety, or my shadow self were going to be my life long companion, then I was going to pick myself apart, I was going to learn everything I could, and I was going to lead by example. Shine the brightest light into every darkness within, and then pick all the skeletons in your chest apart. Take control.

Avoiding Mount Aso by @noraneko_nyankichi
Winning

I dare say, that anxiety has made every decision I had to make a crucial one. Being constantly aware of the underlying despair of your human experience, and the fragility of everything you hold true, propels you onto another level, one where you are a choice away from fearing everything, and a choice away from facing it all.

I promise you it comes down to that, choosing every day, every minute, and passing heart beat that it will not be wasted on fear; it will be used to ignite fires everywhere you go, because there really is no escape.

Anxiety has become the best friend I had ever made, it has nudged me so violently into acknowledging the vulnerability of my short presence here, it has pushed me off the ledge to discover that there was no safety to start with; we are all hanging in thin air, so might as well glide through it.

Make it brave, make it glorious, embrace the surreal and keep it simple.

 

 

Posted on 3 Comments

On a scale from 1 to pain, how bad are you at love?

One major foundation to my character is my ability to love and be loved in return, I can’t tell you enough how much I love love, except I am not your text-book romantic. I tend to forget “important dates”, and care a little less than my friends and family think I should about the traditional roles of a female in a heterosexual relationship [Que the unnecessary words that usually follow such statement].

Hold on, this needs a cup of coffee, I can tell its going to be good, not just for me but you too.

What if I tell you that I am training myself to be better at love? What if I tell you that you could also teach people how to love you better?

If you knew that already, then really you might as well not continue reading, I don’t want to waste your time. [This statement comes from a place of love without attachment-yes i went there, I love you enough to not waste your time]

I am not just talking about love for my fiance, but love for my parents, my family, my friends, my cat, strangers and the world in general; there is a certain subconscious order to the list I suppose. The point is, I thought that I was locked into a certain pattern of intrinsic and acquired emotional baggage, I thought that was it. To my tragic surprise, I could learn to be better, and to have higher respect for the process of unlearning almost everything I knew about love, and loving.

I doubt that we recognize that a lot of our acquired concepts and ideas about love come from books, movies, and stories that we hear, we almost rarely weigh it upon ourselves. Not our egos, and what we would like our love to look like, but our deepest needs and attempts to feeling like we are unique and unsubstitutable cornerstones of someone’s life. How freeing is the concept of loving beyond understanding, beyond attachment and ownership, beyond need and lust? What if you are able to completely see the other person not in their utility but in their own existential value?

I suppose the notion might sound somewhat naive to some, maybe even foreign in our current day and age when people’s utility has been marked painstakingly high. Try to go along with this:

It starts with you, it always does.

Many have toyed with romantic love that eventually and surprisingly leaves them consumed, it leaves them wondering who they were in the beginning and what they have come to be after time has passed.

Shallow love is coupled with a certain melancholy. It holds love’s hand a little tighter every step further down the road to self mutation. Shallow love lets you believe that you have merged with the person you love until you discover that there is so much left to deal with. You start throwing your “stuff” at said partner, hoping that they know what to do with them, sort them out, categorize them and make sense of them, while simultaneously they throw their stuff at you. Shallow love looks normal and reciprocal when you are taking part in it, well because it is to some extent. Yet, it strangely leaves you hurting. All that hurt is then quieted down by the power of social influence, when movies, stories, books and people tell you its OK, love hurts. And then you see a picture on Instagram of two people parading a seemingly beautifully drawn loving relationship. And you are confused, and unsure what the truth really is. Am I happy? or am I unhappy? PAUSE HERE

This is your thread, grab it.

What does happiness look like to you? What does love mean to you? Is your partner your emotional errands boy/girl, do they fill some deep holes drilled in you by other people who have crossed your path? Are they capable of making you happy? Are you capable of making yourself happy?

Some of the questions you will ask yourself will suddenly become scary as though you are getting closer to a ledge, so you start holding onto the stories you are used to telling yourself and each other. Except, how much love will you have for yourself without the stories, without the partner, without all your stuff, and your comfort possessions? Do you forgive yourself, and learn from your mistakes? Do you believe in your abilities and your capacities as a human being? Do you do unto others as you would like to be done to you?

The Keys

Training yourself how to love begins with acceptance, it begins with anticipating the negative thoughts and the emotions that tag along, and having the right comfortable accommodation for them. Self love is mind, body, heart and soul combined in taking responsibility and remaining accountable for the life you live. Learning how to love yourself and others requires compassion and a small dose of faith mixed with heaps of courage and warrior worthy decision making skills.

Learning how to love will not only reflect on your face, but on the life you live. Your ability to love will act like a sun, you have no idea how bright you will burn, but you will spread without bias and foster gorgeous forests, and shine on weeds as well. Immense power exists in choosing to love better, and allowing it to yourself in your short life span will be the best thing you ever do for yourself and everyone else. Misery in its usual form is a sign of apathy, a lack of appreciation to all the possibilities that life might hold. Misery is lazy and easy, love isn’t.

My cup of coffee has gone cold, and my word count has surmounted what I had in mind, so I will leave my two cents on teaching others how to love you better for another post.

With Love,

Nour