Personal Post: I am the Common Denominator


It seems the world offers me the best it has to offer me at four year intervals. Since 2008 was a brilliant year for me, I am predicting 2012 to hold much joy and happiness. It feels great starting the year with that conviction. A conviction that for this year, will become my mantra. It strikes me as significant that the main people in my life that were prominent in 2008, are also prominent in 2012 (they know who they are) and the people who were out of my life in that year, are also out of my life again this year (again they know who they are). From this I have much to learn. This is a big part of my job as a researcher after all, this finding patterns, isn’t it?!

I started this year with the firm decision not to make any New Year resolutions. I refused to say what I’m going to do for me. Instead, I asked of the world. I asked it to teach me things I need to learn to live these resolutions as a normal way of life and not something I was setting myself up to fail at. I was giving myself a sort of break, really. I was letting the world know that I understood its place in my life, that I respected it’s power and that I was going to learn how to receive.

Of the things I want to learn this year: a) to learn to love those who love me and b) to start only friendships/relationships/projects that have a chance of succeeding and c) to learn to hear my inner voice to understand what I want. Have I surprised you, reader, with the simplicity of those wishes? If I have, then you are one of the lucky few who understand the three secrets of happiness. For the rest of us, please go back and read them. Are they not the most difficult things to attain?

To reach a destination point (I have recently, finally, started to understand how maps function!) you need to actually know where you are first. In matters of the self, the honesty you need is incredible, difficult and often painful. But, I decided to hold my breath and bare that pain, in hope for something at the destination that would cure these ailments of the spirit.

a) To learn to love those that love me. How often have you caught yourself out with the “approval” habit? It eats away at us silently. It is quite an intricate process. You single out the people that do not totally approve of you, or those who are always critical, or those who actually simply don’t give a damn. Then you just try to please, to change, to be good enough, to impress so they approve. The painful thing is that usually, well – for me at least, these are not people who care about me and want me to change for the “better”, they are people who are just so selfish they want to keep me in their lives, but they just don’t care. Why do I do it if it’s glaringly, obviously, wrong? I actually have a reason. The need for pain. This isn’t a sadistic need. It’s something that much research has gone into, actually. Pain as a medium, a bridge, to some place deep in your soul that you need to touch to become creative, to write, to think, to philosophise, to draw. It feels like the mundane, the “every day”, the “normal” don’t get you there. They don’t hold the key the realms of depth and breadth of emotion that pain has the ability to. This aching of the soul touches parts that so far, happiness has not been able to. The tugging at the heart of the word “impossible” knocked on the doors of creativity and of growth.

But despite the explantations, I still don’t understand how love and pain have been so closely linked? I stopped this year and thought, “How dare I?! How dare I fall into the trap that this was the only way I could be what I wanted?!” For in truth, I was the common denominator. The different people came and went and I was left, I was left accountable for the thoughts, the feelings, the actions. I decided to take responsibility and let go of the inappropriate role of “victim”. I was going to take charge and I was going to make the search for happiness, and not the need for pain, the centre of my quest and those that made me happy would be the pivots of my world. Those would be the people I would link to love. I will no longer thank those who have hurt me, claiming that they taught me to be the person that I am. I wont, because I am accepting that I can learn much, too, from those who care and are kind and generous in their love. I am ready, world, to accept that love. I have found the barriers inside me that blocked it out and I am pulling them down. I will learn to love those who love me.

b) to start only friendships/relationships/projects that have a chance of succeeding. I guess where I was going wrong here is my skewed definition of the word “challenge”. In my dictionary, prior to this awakening, a challenge was usually something I knew 100% would not work out. It was a challenge in that I would faithfully bleed, sweat and pray. But that was it; that was the only resemblance to the real life dictionary definition.

I then realised the need to be kind to myself. I needed to accept my limitations to even begin to understand what was too easy, what was a genuine challenge, what was a challenge that wasn’t worth it and finally what was out of reach, not because I was not capable, but because it wasn’t the path I wanted to be on. I decided to learn the skill of letting go and giving in to challenges that did not fair well on the cost/benefit scale of emotion. It turns out to be that this was directly linked to the third point.

c) to learn to hear my inner voice to understand what I want. I was lucky to grow up with the support of my family to try things out. My mum and dad were the sort of parents who went out to buy the full karate outfit when I decided martial arts was my thing. They also bought me a piano when I thought music was my calling. My sister spent all her pocket money one month to go out and buy me a full calligraphy set and stand and paper when I felt that the art of handwriting was why I was born. Dina spent a significant amount of her redundancy money to support my decision of driving lessons. Shariff gave me the space to be every sort of woman i wanted to experiment being in a relationship, the independent feminist when I wanted and the the damsel in distress when he unfailingly set me free from the prison of independence. Ezzidin was there to teach me the joy of writing letters while everyone was on emails. My managers at work signed and approved every business development, project management and leadership workshop that took my fancy. My overdraft was, also, very supportive every time I enrolled on a course, from sign language, to psychoanalysis, to journal writing, to left brain training. Tant Kamilia was there when I wanted to be Christian, Ahmed was there when I wanted to be Muslim, Margaret was there when I wanted to be Brahma Kumarian and Anand was there when I was contemplating becoming Hindu.

You would be mistaken to think, having read the above, that the problem was me not knowing what I want. I just realised that this IS what I wanted. I want to celebrate the diversity and the contradiction and the fact that my fancies are not static. I needed to let go of the guilt of not following through or sticking to one thing. I accept now that I need to learn to shut out the voice of the structures around me. All expectations constructed by my family, schooling, media, gender, ethnicity, peers, class, creed, race, all had to be shut out. I finally discovered the volume button to something that should have been given supreme status. My inner voice. The voice that knew it’s ok to keep trying things out. That I didn’t have to be like the so many who knew exactly what they wanted to be and do as soon as they turned 4. That life was too short to be so sure of everything or anything. My voice, inside my own heart, was telling me it always wanted to be free to say “when I grow up….” But you know what was incredibly ironic? As soon as I let go, as soon as I accepted the not knowing, as soon as I wanted the freedom of keeping my options open; I knew exactly what I wanted. I felt satisfied and celebratory of where my life had taken me. The even better thing was that if this hadn’t happened, it would have still been ok because I would have enjoyed the journey and the search because I had entitled myself to experiment, to doubt, but most importantly, to change.

The most significant outcome of taking the time to reflect, was to understand that I was the common denominator. That nothing was anyone’s fault. That I am not so weak as to give anyone or anything or any circumstance the power over me by playing that person or that things victim. This is why I wrote this post. I wrote it in the hope that maybe one person out there will read it, and as they do, they will feel the absolute power and freedom I feel having written it and that they, too, will let go of the “approval” habit. They too will accept the love they deserve and maybe they, too, will be liberated in their discovery of wanting to try, and not simply wanting to want.

Personal Post: Midnight Judgement

Have you felt it before? That over powering feeling that you are full; so full you are over flowing, you’re bursting with… nothing? That’s how I feel now. It is my duty towards myself to write about this nothing; to empty the nothingness on to paper in the form of words so that there is space in my soul for what I would rather fill it with.

Do you think there should be a Lack of Gratefulness Disorder? Do you think by saying this I have disrespect for the person who suffers this terrible illness? Then you misunderstand me. This aspect of the disorder is perhaps one of the most painful. Painful not because you are not appreciating what you have, but because you are so acutely aware of your blessings and your lack of appreciation of them and you are suffocated in guilt. Suffocated because no matter how much is going on, no matter how lucky you are for all you are involved in; there is this huge gap; filled and overflowing with nothing. It’s something nothing on the outside can fill. And you, in desperation, try to fill it. You, at first, try with interest in the outside world, friends, love, hobbies, shopping, TV, politics, revolution. You wait, you watch expectantly and the emptiness grows, the space that holds the emptiness deepens. You then try and fill it in more desperate, more extreme ways; drug abuse, sexual promiscuity, over spending, over eating, risk, you take a razor and cut yourself, attempting to fill the gap with pain, with blood; but nothing. It haunts you, it tugs at your heart and it distances you from the whole world and everyone in it. This emptiness: you become it.

It is a curse to be intelligent, inquisitive, self reflecting. But ignorance is a greater curse because life is wasted on a life of floating on the surface of feelings and emotions. I tried a few times to lay back, relax, float and only touch the waters that pass quietly below me as I float; but even at those times my hair floated behind me weighing me down, I had to keep going and hoping for forces to move me along quickly in fear that if a stopped that mass of hair would wrap around my face and neck and drag me back down again. But the truth is, I was never floating. The “I” was somewhere else. The body was there, obeying the laws of the sea. But the “I”, the invisible mass has laws unto its own that no one can interfere with. This “I” was sinking more at those times in the deepest part of that sea. The depth of an ocean unimaginable even to me.

It is at precisely those moments that the detachment between body and soul is at its greatest and I looked in at myself with great amusement – and pity. I knew that when those moments of self denial were over, the self scrutiny and analysis would be deep and harsh and their call would have to be obeyed. Condemnation, the daily bedtime tablet. The slashing of the spirit that has let down and been let down. The deep sense of shame of existing as I am. The shame of having not contributed to an improved, better world. Where do I run from that? From the reality that my entire existence today was worth nothing, that I added nothing of value and lifted nothing of decay from this world that I occupy. How desperate this leaves me to seek approval and relieve pain of any sort, not out of kindness but to save myself from the night time blame where I am my own hangman. I am a slave to this emotion; a slave to being able to answer, “Yes!” confidently to questions such as “are you worthy of being loved, of living?”.

These midnight rambles are the most important. I am the prosecutor and lawyer at the witching hours. I am so harsh on this soul and I know it. I try to defend it, but the emptiness and what I have tried to fill it with are witnesses to the failure of the day. I have not acted well. I have not understood the purpose of the hours or the interactions with the people I have met with and I seem to have been blind to all the signs. Would have spending the day alone been any better? Are those nights safer from the whippings of my own remorse had I spent the day alone? Hardly ever. Do I have to go protect olive trees in Palestine, or build wells in Africa, do I have to donate a kidney or sign my organs away after death to feel that I have deserved the air given to me to breath? Perhaps. Perhaps even then I will feel the guilt that I am only doing it to be able to beat insomnia of the conscience…

Palm Reader

By profession I am a palm reader
By living there are things I just can see
I will read your palm for you
And I will charge you no fee

Turn your hand towards the light
Let me take a better look
Is it because the room’s not bright?
It’s usually like reading a book

No. The future isn’t written here
The lines here are a mask
What’s happening isn’t clear
This is proving no easy task

I can’t see where the sun will shine
Where have they gone, its rays?
I can’t see the roses and wine
The rainbow is shades of greys Ah!

Here are the curses
That have you under their bind
Ones that no doctor or nurses
Can help you leave behind

Your curse is that you feel my dear
You understand the heart
And what more than tear after tear
Falls when of the body you master that part

Your curse isn’t black magic
Or someone keeping a voodoo doll
Your case is far more tragic
Over the years it’ll take its toll

The duty you pay for the curse my dear
Is a tax with a price so high
For the curse you bear is one to fear
And there are no answers to questions of why

My dear your curse is that you care
About things big and small
And in a world where nothing is fair
It decides if you walk or crawl

The curse is that you think too much
In a world where no one has a choice
The curse is there’s no one to touch
When silence is your only voice

Oh! Look…the curse that’s worst
That follows you like a ghost
It is the one for which you thirst
The “Past” my darling, will hurt you most

Oh Go now, there is nothing more
For me to read in this palm of yours
My eyes are now feeling sore
I have to get back to my daily chores

No! Wait; come back, before you go
There’s one thing left to tell
Don’t go out looking for fairness
The only place that’s fair is hell

Rules of Contradiction

I do not know how to obey these rules; or what to make of myself; this bundle of contradictions that I am.

I so crave to put myself out there to the world, with all the beauty and ugliness mingled together, creating the “me” that so often I have no choice of being or not being. For this IS who I am; an oxymoron to my very core. I know the categories I should place myself in; I know well which boxes to tick for each of my beings. I’ve been taught what I need say to make people feel safe around me; the values I need to adopt to fit in.

The truth is complicated. It is acceptable that people shift their ideologies from one phase of life to the other, people who do this are somewhat accepted, but I am not one of those “just about acceptable” people. I change my ideologies from word to word, micro second to the next. I believe in two opposite things at exactly the same femto second and the words “I’m sure” are a blessing that has forgotten me.

So often I have things to say leaving the person I am speaking to in awe, falling in love with the mind that thought it. These moments frighten me. They shut me up completely; for I know that the very next sentence will make them think what they so fell in love with was a line learnt off by heart; I did not really know the meaning of what I said, that it was a fluke, that I didn’t really deserve the admiration, that I am not that well read, that I have great potential but I’m not ready to be taken under their wing. But none of what they conclude is true. I know well what I said, where it came from, I felt it with every atom of my being… just as I did the contradictory sentence after it.

The problem is deeper than that still. It doesn’t just manifest itself in conversation, social and political ideology; it is worse and far scarier than that. I am all and everything I should and shouldn’t be.

There are only things I know I am not. I can identify myself by the laws of deduction. I am not a Capitalist (by disassociation), I am not a Jew (because I cannot chose this religion), I am not a man (biologically at least) and I am not a hamster. On the other hand, I am the oxymoron. I can comfortably claim to be a die hard Conservative Socialist, a fully dedicated Brahma Kumarian Christian Orthodox Sunni Muslim, I am the extrovert introvert, a female “b meet ragel” and all this perhaps because I was brought up to be the patriotic British Egyptian.

29 Years and 24 Months Years Old

I was typing yesterday and I suddenly got a glimpse of my fingers typing; well not exactly my fingers, but the skin on the fingers that cover the same bones they covered 31 years. The skin was different. This was NOT my skin. There seemed to be three alphabetical letters that were stamped on every single cell of this alien skin. A. G. E. I stopped typing and examined this alien hand and realised that I did not recognise these fine lines, the extra creases on the knuckles, the slightly darkening skin where the bones bend and straighten… Who’s hands were these?!

But there was absolutely no point – whatsoever – feeling the slightest disturbed by this. “This”, what ever this was, be it nature, the way of life, the meanness of the world, whatever, but THIS, happened to everyone. But this is how I spent my birthday this year. I spent it looking at the little lines and wondered if God added a little one there for every joy, every heart ache, every dream achieved and each one broken… every line telling a story about life as we grow to know it.

The white hairs that have multiplied ridiculously over the last few months don’t disturb me. On the contrary, actually, I am very fond of them. So much so that I brush my hair in a way that they are more visible. They match the new “Professor Persona” that I’ve downloaded as part of a new theme to my life (lol). But these little lines… my hand – I cannot seem to forgive age for this cruelty.

But it’s because I haven’t linked the lines appearing on my hands as I have the white sprouting among the black in on my head. It’s all a visual exercise. The power of the mind over the body. Something I must learn to do as well I have learnt to look in the mirror and think “Ah, not THAT fat”. No, I’m just joking. But I do want to look at my hands and be proud. I want to look at them and think that these lines are a mark of honour for the kindness that they extend, the hard work they have dedicated to the world, the times little fingers wrapped around mine. Just like the manual laborers are proud of the calluses on their palms for the honest bread it brings their family, so may the fine lines become river banks where good can be written.

What is age, but a number of years and months… and a few white hairs.

My Birthday’s Resolutions

This year, starting the 3rd May 2011, I have a new set of New Years Resolutions. I am going to record them here so that I can look back (if I’m alive) on 3rd May 2012 and see how well I have done to keep them.

  • Look through all my past new years resolutions and make absolutely sure that I do not include a single one of them as a resolution again.
  • I will create a list of things I will NOT do this year. These include:
  •                                I will NOT try to lose weight this year
  •                                I will NOT try to EVER go to the gym – not ONCE
  •                                I will NOT force myself to like raw tomatoes
  •                                I will NOT try and fix the lives of everyone who comes to me with the pieces
  • I will re embrace my semi vegetarian state – no animals that are out of the sea
  • I will block every single boy/girl who only contact me only for stuff they want
  • I will complete my year of field work with Street Kids in Cairo
  • I will give every ounce of effort to support the new Democratic Workers Party in Egypt
  • I will learn to say NO to people I love
  • I will learn to say the word “exactly” correctly and will learn to say the word “chivalry” as one word, not three
  • I will let go of memories that hurt me – emotionally and through memorabilia
  • I will let go of people who have continuously bought me down to the pits of hell with their own decay
  • I will publish at least one paper in an international journal on childhood
  • I will surround myself with more children than adults
  • I will accept, at last, the way I am with absolutely no need for change
  • I will treat everyone I meet as if they will die tomorrow
  • I will at some point when I’m settled geographically, get a pet
  • I will start learning something that enhances my creativity (pottery, calligraphy or photography)
  • I will eat more pop corn and less mushrooms (for no particular reason)
  • I will make sure that the people I love know this, not by words but by deeds…