Tough Times

I had to go pay respects and condolences to a university friend who spent the last month attempting to save her mother’s life.

When did we grow up?

When did we become the adults responsible for making such harsh decisions?

Our friend has had to navigate hell, two chronic illnesses, greedy doctors, incompetent nurses and surgery & chemo complications.

She had to make a series of decisions that may potentially save her or risk expediting her demise.

The thought of being responsible for the well-being of loved ones is scary.

Having to do so in such dire conditions is terrifying.

Healthcare in Egypt breaks my heart.

Fragile strength

The title of the post is borrowed from the lyrics to the song Gravity… where Sara Bareilles complains that all her fragile strength is gone. Yet these days some circumstances are making me wonder if our strengths are by definition fragile.. All the things that are perceived as good about us, are also the source of our demise.

Here we are, a generation who’s brilliance makes us unorthodox and crazy; our creativity makes us emotional, vulnerable and excessively sensitive at times; our ambition makes us impatient; our exposure makes us harsh…

A generation pre-formatted to be prone to extreme mood swings.. pre-destined to greatness… pre-destined to depression… pre-destined to change the world… or having failed… leave it…

إرادة الحياة

إذا الشّعْبُ يَوْمَاً أرَادَ الْحَيَـاةَ فَلا بُدَّ أنْ يَسْتَجِيبَ القَـدَر

وَلا بُـدَّ لِلَّيـْلِ أنْ يَنْجَلِــي وَلا بُدَّ للقَيْدِ أَنْ يَـنْكَسِـر

وَمَنْ لَمْ يُعَانِقْهُ شَوْقُ الْحَيَـاةِ تَبَخَّـرَ في جَوِّهَـا وَانْدَثَـر

فَوَيْلٌ لِمَنْ لَمْ تَشُقْـهُ الْحَيَاةُ مِنْ صَفْعَـةِ العَـدَم المُنْتَصِر

كَذلِكَ قَالَـتْ لِـيَ الكَائِنَاتُ وَحَدّثَنـي رُوحُـهَا المُسْتَتِر

وَدَمدَمَتِ الرِّيحُ بَيْنَ الفِجَاجِ وَفَوْقَ الجِبَال وَتَحْتَ الشَّجَر

إذَا مَا طَمَحْـتُ إلِـى غَـايَةٍ رَكِبْتُ الْمُنَى وَنَسِيتُ الحَذَر

وَلَمْ أَتَجَنَّبْ وُعُـورَ الشِّعَـابِ وَلا كُبَّـةَ اللَّهَـبِ المُسْتَعِـر

وَمَنْ لا يُحِبّ صُعُودَ الجِبَـالِ يَعِشْ أَبَدَ الدَّهْرِ بَيْنَ الحُفَـر

فَعَجَّتْ بِقَلْبِي دِمَاءُ الشَّبَـابِ وَضَجَّتْ بِصَدْرِي رِيَاحٌ أُخَر

وَأَطْرَقْتُ ، أُصْغِي لِقَصْفِ الرُّعُودِ وَعَزْفِ الرِّيَاح وَوَقْعِ المَطَـر

وَقَالَتْ لِيَ الأَرْضُ – لَمَّا سَأَلْتُ : ” أَيَـا أُمُّ هَلْ تَكْرَهِينَ البَشَر؟”

“أُبَارِكُ في النَّاسِ أَهْلَ الطُّمُوحِ وَمَنْ يَسْتَلِـذُّ رُكُوبَ الخَطَـر

وأَلْعَنُ مَنْ لا يُمَاشِي الزَّمَـانَ وَيَقْنَعُ بِالعَيْـشِ عَيْشِ الحَجَر

هُوَ الكَوْنُ حَيٌّ ، يُحِـبُّ الحَيَاةَ وَيَحْتَقِرُ الْمَيْتَ مَهْمَا كَـبُر

فَلا الأُفْقُ يَحْضُنُ مَيْتَ الطُّيُورِ وَلا النَّحْلُ يَلْثِمُ مَيْتَ الزَّهَــر

وَلَـوْلا أُمُومَةُ قَلْبِي الرَّؤُوم لَمَا ضَمَّتِ المَيْتَ تِلْكَ الحُفَـر

فَوَيْلٌ لِمَنْ لَمْ تَشُقْـهُ الحَيَـاةُ مِنْ لَعْنَةِ العَـدَمِ المُنْتَصِـر

وفي لَيْلَةٍ مِنْ لَيَالِي الخَرِيفِ مُثَقَّلَـةٍ بِالأََسَـى وَالضَّجَـر

سَكِرْتُ بِهَا مِنْ ضِياءِ النُّجُومِ وَغَنَّيْتُ لِلْحُزْنِ حَتَّى سَكِـر

سَأَلْتُ الدُّجَى: هَلْ تُعِيدُ الْحَيَاةُ لِمَا أَذْبَلَتْـهُ رَبِيعَ العُمُـر؟

فَلَمْ تَتَكَلَّمْ شِفَـاهُ الظَّلامِ وَلَمْ تَتَرَنَّـمْ عَذَارَى السَّحَر

وَقَالَ لِيَ الْغَـابُ في رِقَّـةٍ مُحَبَّبـَةٍ مِثْلَ خَفْـقِ الْوَتَـر

يَجِيءُ الشِّتَاءُ ، شِتَاءُ الضَّبَابِ شِتَاءُ الثُّلُوجِ ، شِتَاءُ الْمَطَـر

فَيَنْطَفِىء السِّحْرُ ، سِحْرُ الغُصُونِ وَسِحْرُ الزُّهُورِ وَسِحْرُ الثَّمَر

وَسِحْرُ الْمَسَاءِ الشَّجِيِّ الوَدِيعِ وَسِحْرُ الْمُرُوجِ الشَّهِيّ العَطِر

وَتَهْوِي الْغُصُونُ وَأَوْرَاقُـهَا وَأَزْهَـارُ عَهْدٍ حَبِيبٍ نَضِـر

وَتَلْهُو بِهَا الرِّيحُ في كُلِّ وَادٍ وَيَدْفنُـهَا السَّيْـلُ أنَّى عَـبَر

وَيَفْنَى الجَمِيعُ كَحُلْمٍ بَدِيـعٍ تَأَلَّـقَ في مُهْجَـةٍ وَانْدَثَـر

وَتَبْقَى البُـذُورُ التي حُمِّلَـتْ ذَخِيـرَةَ عُمْرٍ جَمِـيلٍ غَـبَر

وَذِكْرَى فُصُول ٍ ، وَرُؤْيَا حَيَاةٍ وَأَشْبَاح دُنْيَا تَلاشَتْ زُمَـر

مُعَانِقَـةً وَهْيَ تَحْـتَ الضَّبَابِ وَتَحْتَ الثُّلُوجِ وَتَحْـتَ الْمَدَر

لَطِيفَ الحَيَـاةِ الذي لا يُمَـلُّ وَقَلْبَ الرَّبِيعِ الشَّذِيِّ الخَضِر

وَحَالِمَـةً بِأَغَـانِـي الطُّيُـورِ وَعِطْرِ الزُّهُورِ وَطَعْمِ الثَّمَـر

وَمَا هُـوَ إِلاَّ كَخَفْـقِ الجَنَاحِ حَتَّـى نَمَا شَوْقُـهَا وَانْتَصَـر

فصدّعت الأرض من فوقـها وأبصرت الكون عذب الصور

وجـاءَ الربيـعُ بأنغامـه وأحلامـهِ وصِبـاهُ العطِـر

وقبلّـها قبـلاً في الشفـاه تعيد الشباب الذي قد غبـر

وقالَ لَهَا : قد مُنحـتِ الحياةَ وخُلّدتِ في نسلكِ الْمُدّخـر

وباركـكِ النـورُ فاستقبـلي شبابَ الحياةِ وخصبَ العُمر

ومن تعبـدُ النـورَ أحلامـهُ يباركهُ النـورُ أنّـى ظَهر

إليك الفضاء ، إليك الضيـاء إليك الثرى الحالِمِ الْمُزْدَهِر

إليك الجمال الذي لا يبيـد إليك الوجود الرحيب النضر

فميدي كما شئتِ فوق الحقول بِحلو الثمار وغـض الزهـر

وناجي النسيم وناجي الغيـوم وناجي النجوم وناجي القمـر

وناجـي الحيـاة وأشواقـها وفتنـة هذا الوجـود الأغـر

وشف الدجى عن جمال عميقٍ يشب الخيـال ويذكي الفكر

ومُدَّ عَلَى الْكَوْنِ سِحْرٌ غَرِيبٌ يُصَـرِّفُهُ سَـاحِـرٌ مُقْـتَدِر

وَضَاءَتْ شُمُوعُ النُّجُومِ الوِضَاء وَضَاعَ البَخُورُ ، بَخُورُ الزَّهَر

وَرَفْرَفَ رُوحٌ غَرِيبُ الجَمَالِ بِأَجْنِحَـةٍ مِنْ ضِيَاءِ الْقَمَـر

وَرَنَّ نَشِيدُ الْحَيَاةِ الْمُقَـدَّسِ في هَيْكَـلٍ حَالِمٍ قَدْ سُـحِر

وَأَعْلَنَ في الْكَوْنِ أَنَّ الطُّمُوحَ لَهِيبُ الْحَيَـاةِ وَرُوحُ الظَّفَـر

إِذَا طَمَحَتْ لِلْحَيَاةِ النُّفُوسُ فَلا بُدَّ أَنْ يَسْتَجِيبَ الْقَـدَرْ

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Find Joy

Mostafa Ghanam RIP

As another light goes out I am reminded of the extent to which Cairo is a modern day Gotham in all its gory glory. It is dark, hopeless, scary, sad and beaming with negativity and injustice. This year, it has only been getting darker. We keep losing those whom are the brightest and most full of life and light. So the rest of us, those opting to stay in the city, we owe it to ourselves and to their legacy to fight the darkness. We each need to find it within ourselves to shine bright, to become beacons of positivity, light and life. Dig deep… shine bright… Find the joy.. protect their legacies.

Bella

Waiting is by far the oldest and most painful forms of torture. I hate hospital waiting rooms. I chickened out today. I was unable to sit through another disinfectant smelling corridor listening to machines beep and watching doctors and nurses fly all over the place. Yet here I am a 20-minute drive away waiting… She should be fine. It is all routine. No need to worry.

Yet you see, those are pointless reassurances, because in the truth of the matter, the extent to which you worry is less a function of the scale of the incident but rather a function of the extent to which someone is precious. Bella most definitely was precious. There she was, the child I had never had, my virtual baby sister in the hospital yet again.

It was a long and bumpy ride. I met Bella 5 years ago, back then we didn’t click. We existed in parallel comfort circles with what we believed to be no common ground. This revelation of how wrong I had been will taint my outlook to new people for a lifetime to come. One should not be too quick to jump to conclusions and dismiss individuals. Yet there she was 5 years later, blood, near & dear, in can’t-live-without status…. absolutely precious.

She flashed me a 100 megawatt smile accompanied by a genuine hug… “I miss you”… “I’m pregnant”… “I didn’t’ want to tell you long distance”. My heart sang. I had been having what was undoubtedly a tough weak and my confidence and morale where at an all-time low. She instantly made it all better. She sat me down, shared her joy, heard my woes, told me it wasn’t my fault (repeatedly), heard me argue, made strong and valid points, hugged me and made it all alright.

Here I am… incapable of returning the favour. A conversation and a hug would not magically make it all alright.

She had a gut feeling. Do mothers always know? My morning meeting ended early in the vicinity of her house, something made me want to go over. I had a burning need to see her that I can’t explain. She was different, she looked tired, she shared her concerns. She had a feeling that it was happening again, that she was losing the baby. I naively thought it was just lingering trauma from last time, I delivered a pep talk, told her she was worried for nothing, told her we must stop praising her composure because it is starting to decline from all the envy. I left her to get some rest and headed out to my other meeting with the promise to meet her at a doctor’s appointment later that day. The entire arrangement impromptu and unplanned.

I make it to the doctor’s clinic. She is running late as is her hubby. We see the doctor (her husband hasn’t arrived yet). He makes an offhand comment about how good friends we must be since she entrusted me with this trip. It hits me, how blessed I am for her friendship. You know how sometimes people’s nicknames evolve from their personalities. I am confident that is how “Bella” came along. She is by far one of the most beautiful souls I know. She re-adjusted my definition for words such as “tolerant” or “non-judgmental” or “considerate”. She set the bar so high I can’t imagine mere mortals measuring up. Her sarcasm and wit often had me grinning like an idiot. While her support saved my ass numerous times.

Doctor takes her into another room for the sonar. He comes out, looks me in the eye and shakes his head. I raise an inquisitive eyebrow and tells me that it isn’t good; that it is the same old story. She steps out a minute later… my heart almost stopped. The look in her eyes will haunt me forever. Bella never cries… or never in public. She looked broken. I had always used the word loosely but at that moment, she embodied it in a way beyond my ability to simply phrase. Her eyes were swelling with tears that were to remain prisoners. The light in her eyes was gone. My knees went weak. I felt the weight of the room come crashing down. I stood up to hug her, she warned me that she wouldn’t be able to handle a hug. We took the elevator down as her husband was arriving. No hug there either. We went home having failed miserably at being able to console her. What do you say? What do you do? How do you explain to the most perfect potential mother you know that it isn’t time yet… that there was nothing she could have done differently? How do you lighten her load? My remaining reserved of confidence and optimism are gone. I exist in a perpetual state of almost crying in fear and angst. My heart goes out to her.

The next day, I cut a work day short and show up at her door. We watch light movies and snack while she takes her meds and waits for the action. That night clinched it for me… it was a painful revelation and one that makes me appreciate all mothers under completely new light. I realized that you can go to bed with your child in your arms, knowing they are in pain, knowing they are heartbroken and knowing that there is absolutely NOTHING that you can do, save pray… May God have mercy on all our souls. Yet you must wake up the next morning with the faith that they will be better, and they will be better. Yet it remains an insanely humbling experience.

My saving grace is this one idea… “She is well.” I realize the gravity of her loss and the selfishness of my perspective, yet at the end of the day that is what really mattered. That elhamdollelah she is well, will be well… and will have other shots in the future at making other babies. Apparently it takes time and sacrifice to get it right. You don’t get another Bella from the first go. Sexy little geniuses take practice and are one in a million. May God give her all her heart desires.

2016 Bucket List Update

2015 was a year of celebration brimming with engagements and weddings and partying. Yet it was also a year of personal growth. Taking time today to take stock of the key updates since the last posting of my bucket list.

  • Travel the world. Safari in Kenya, dance in the streets of Brazil, snorkel around the Australian reef, pray in Palestine and take a photo sitting cross-legged on the floor in the square in front of the Kremlin. – Pending
  • Write and publish a book that means a lot to me and which becomes a worldwide (ok, fine! regional or local) best-seller in the field of economics or business. Extra points if it has an awareness and/or local flavour. – Pending
  • Jump out of a plane (preferably with a co-conspirator who understands the beauty of that experience). – Pending
  • Start my own firm. Indifferent between a boutique management consulting firm and a VC. – HUGE YES!!!! More news soon :)))
  • Write a hit song. Get a friend to sing it. Record it in a proper studio. Get the radio to air it. – Pending
  • Study abroad at an Ivy league school (and get the highest GPA of that class). – Enrolled in Stanford’s LEAD Certificate for Corporate Innovation UPDATE!!!
  • Hold a photography exhibition. Work on my craft to be worthy of hosting one. – Pending
  • Speak at an international (economic) forum. – Spoke at local forums yet still pending on an international one.
  • Teach university. – Being randomly invited to speak at classes but yet to formulate a course of my own – Taught economic development at PLP
  • Become the policy maker. – Not minister yet🙂 But got to be project manager to the Egypt 2030 Strategy.
  • Be the best boss that I can. – Work in progress
  • Be a positive influence. – Work in progress
  • Strive to learn something new every day. Seek to spread that knowledge and coach and teach others every day. – Work in progress
  • Inspire people. – Work in progress
  • Make Egypt a better place. – Pending
  • Get fit. – New addition inspired by the five floor torture.

5th Floor Debates Series – Volume 1

Do you believe that competition is a prerequisite for progress?

That humanity will continue to develop and evolve in the absence of a self-serving mind-set or a perpetual desire to outdo?

Can a cooperative greater good themed mindset be the next big thing?

Would it be sustainable?

How would the change come about?

We would love to hear your thoughts!

24 Carats

The Arab culture often references the notion of 24 Carats to signify that blessings or rizk (fortune) is fairly divided among all God’s mortals, whereby each person gets his or her 24 Carats. These 24 Carats may be any random mix of health, happiness, money, kids, travel, work, family, talent, brains, recognition, etc… The premise being that nobody has it all… That superb performance across all life’s aspects simultaneously is rare and short-lived.

Yet what if the contents of life were also finite? What if you only had 24 Carats worth of life to live? 24 Carats worth of achievements, heartbreaks, success, disappointment, life, challenge, adversity, etc.. Once you have exhausted those lives, like any good play-station addict would tell you, it more-often-than-none is game over.

Game over = death??

My friend timeline & coffee discussions these days are still buzzing with “Ta7t El Saytara” (under control) discussions. The hit Ramadan series took a deep hard look at the concept of addiction. The closing episode having a wonderful monologue on how we are all addicts. I agree; we are all addicts. In this day and age more so than ever before. The crazy tempo of life has rendered us all junkies. We are all over-competitive self-absorbed divas constantly seeking to out-do each other in a virtual life and at times real life for the hell of it.

We all crave that feeling of achievement/accomplishment, all looking for a high… whatever the driver behind that high may be. Those looking for love want bigger better grander gestures of love and affection. Those looking for careers want better pay, more impressive titles, greater clout and global recognition. Those seeking adventure want bigger adrenaline rushes, higher mountains, wilder rapids, etc…

Yet as you go for that faster, bigger, better…. you need more and more and you seek to acquire it in tighter time-lines. Yet once you have it all, once you have achieved what you believe is your reason for existence… is it game over all over again?

I have seen people move between games to prolong the inevitable game overs. I have seen people… young people… brilliant people… die young and tragic deaths. I have seen stars opt to take their own lives believing the game to be over. I have seen people spend their lifetimes chasing elusive dreams. Do our dreams determine our propensity to life? Does our consumption of life result in a point where there is no more life to live? As a generation… are we living it all before our time?

3… 2… Awesome !

Since our measurement of time is quintessentially arbitrary, I have decided to portion time differently, I have abandoned decades in favor of countdowns. Hence whenever your age is a countdown then this marks the start of a new era.

Think how big of a fuss we make over a child’s first birthday (1…lift-off). It marks the start of your learning years, during that time you experiment, acquire tastes, build information reservoirs and learn to fend for yourself.

Then you turn 21 (2.. 1… fireworks), you are old enough to be considered an adult world round. It is your time to venture out into the world and discover yourself. This is the time where you career hop, backpack through Europe, fall repeatedly in and out of love with partners, hobbies, careers, friends, ideologies, choices, commitments at large. Alas, enjoy these years and remind people that “Not all those who wander are lost”.

And now ladies and gentlemen, I am turning 32 (3.. 2…1… ka-boom). I believe this marks a key milestone, I am on the verge of the era of making a mark on the world. At 32 I am at peace with who I am and my self awareness is as good as it will ever get. Now this blog is full of random musings and “things I have learned along the way” type posts. You can check them all out here.

Yet that is not what I will seek out to do today. Instead this is a post for me, a mandate for this new era (till I am 43 that is), I shall seek greater balance at life. I shall continuously strive to be a human being of value, of high moral fiber, of honorable character. I shall invest more time mentoring and investing in start-ups. I shall spend more time coaching subordinates and listening to those who come seeking my help. I will be a better confidant, advice giver, career adviser and tutor.

I shall write more proactively and share knowledge with a wider circle of humanity. I will once again attempt to make economics more accessible to the masses. I will keep travelling and snapping photos and bringing God’s beauty and mankind’s fragility to you. I will keep sharing and high-lighting positive examples whenever I come across them. It is sad how scarce they are becoming, yet we all need to remember that they exist, and we ourselves can become said examples.

I shall seek to be a better daughter, sister, friend, colleague and boss. Yet more significantly, a positive influence, a quality role model, an inspiration, a smile in a crazy day, the voice of reason a-midst madness and strife.

You are all loved dearly and appreciated to no end. You are the music to my early morning drives, the sunsets on otherwise cloudy days, the dazzling smiles in my lens focus and the smell of freshly brewed coffee on this chilly day.

I wish you all great books, rich coffee, supportive partners, fulfilling careers, honest loves, successful projects, healthy kids, fresh music, obedient pups and year round birthday festivities. May all your eras be truly magnificent ones.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of 2014

2014 has been harsh… it has been a year of great volatility and major drama.

The highlight reel:

  • Sailing down the Aswan Nile in the still of the night, star-gazing while relaxing on the sailboat’s roof.
  • Quitting my job.
  • Reaching the limits of my tolerance & capacity.
  • Becoming friends with people I didn’t think I would want to get to know. They are now amazingly good friends of mine that I wouldn’t trade for the world.
  • Revoking my resignation to turn a fresh page.
  • Mourning the loss of a friend who was going to change the world.
  • Sitting through a Moroccan Ramadan 7 course Iftar meal.
  • Walking through the old family household in Marrakech, which is now a shooting location for multiple US blockbusters, and hearing all the family stories about my grandfather’s childhood.
  • Screaming through roller-coaster rides and extreme water slides in the September Dubai heat.
  • Watching my baby brother get engaged.
  • Chilling pool side with partners in crime that I hope to keep forever.
  • Seeing recommendations materialize into actual activities by the clients, realising we got through to them and had a real impact on their business/lives.
  • Buying a UPS upon getting tired of spending my summer evenings sitting in the dark wondering how long my phone battery was going to last.
  • Post work world cup games🙂
  • Having an existentialist crisis and complete meltdown following the loss of our real life Batman.
  • Finding support through the madness.
  • Losing any sort of work/life balance.
  • Working hard in an attempt to find greater balance.
  • Saying goodbye a lot.

I can not claim to be older and wiser or better for the kind of year I have had. Yet for 2015 I shall seek greater adventures and greater discoveries. Moreover I shall strive for greater self-awareness and truth. For at the end of the day, as 2015 comes to a start, the best piece of advice anyone can give you is to be true to yourself. So be yourself, unless of course you can be Bassem Sabry, in that case by all means be Bassem Sabry… our Gotham needs more of him.

Maybe In Another Universe, I Deserve You

I love her train of thought. The concept is articulated brilliantly. I can completely relate.
“Maybe there’s a universe where I don’t covet so much all the time and where I’m content and where I don’t wonder about picking up and moving to Japan without saying anything to anyone and where at this very juncture, I can just know I’ll always want to come home and cook dinner with you.”

http://thoughtcatalog.com/gaby-dunn/2012/05/maybe-in-another-universe-i-deserve-you/

Thought Catalog

What if, in another universe, I deserve you?

Hear me out. There’s this philosopher from the 1890s named William James, and he coined this theory about “the multiverse” which suggests that a hypothetical set of multiple universes comprises everything that can possibly exist simultaneously.

Are you following? The entirety of space, time, matter and energy is all happening at once in different timelines: It’s the idea of parallel universes. Right? So okay, let’s presume the multiverse is real.

Well then, maybe somewhere in those infinite universes is one, or several, where I deserve you.

Maybe there’s a universe out there — happening now — where we end up together and when I close my eyes at night, I’m not dreaming the way a normal person would. Instead I’m seeing flashes of our lives in the multiverse. They’re not simple dreams because I miss you, right? They’re scientific, anachronistic visions.

For…

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The Namesake

Take your first impression and acknowledge that it is probably wrong. She is not the girl you see nor the girl you perceive. Take a moment and look beyond the facade of bravado and indifference. Give it a chance, she will smile, if you are really lucky she will let you in. If all you got was a shrug and a “3ady”, don’t give up, try harder, wait…. the best things in life are worth the wait. This is coming from the epitome of impatience. Yet trust me, you want to wait, you want to meet the girl beneath it all.

Pray, don’t judge, it isn’t an arrogant air. She isn’t snubbing you. Nor is she claiming to be too cool for school. She is merely taking you in, sizing you up, attempting to understand how much damage you are capable of inflicting and the extent to which you would be inclined to inflict damage. She is working overtime trying to avoid getting hurt, she isn’t about to take a chance on you or me.

It was inevitable, the tough girl act, you see our twisted society has given her no other options. Be tough or get trampled over. Be tough or get abused. Be tough or get cheated. Be tough or die. Be tough! So tough she had to become.

Incidentally, I have this quote running through my head:

“I am a princess. All girls are. Even if they live in tiny old attics. Even if they dress in rags, even if they aren’t pretty, or smart, or young. They’re still princesses. All of us are. Didn’t your father ever tell you that? Didn’t he?”

I am angry at her universe for not telling her enough, for not re-enforcing the message at every opportunity. She IS a princess. She is worthy. She is important. She is loved. She is perfect. She matters.

Moreover, she maintained the classiness and attitude of princesses against all odds. She remained clean, pure and genuine in a society that ostracized you for all of the above. She repeatedly lost all sense of security and stability. Life as she knew it was constantly being torn from under her feet and radically altered before being thrown back into her lap. Even the constants in her life held that change against her, defined it as a shortcoming, accepted it as an unchangeable reality, sought to bury her spirit under these faulty realizations. The fallacy of realism, of protection.

She decided she didn’t need them. She could be a nation of 1, closed up from all the madness. She embraced the tasks at hand diligently, striving every day to be independent… to be bigger… better… smarter… stronger… tougher. She didn’t need them. She could take care of herself. All she had to do was work harder and embrace life without them.

Yet a decade later it will fully hit her… the extent to which she is exhausted, the scale of what she has attempted to take on, the futility of doing so in a society like ours. I have tremendous amounts of respect to who she is and what she has done. Yet I fear that in seeking to be independent she has excused them from their roles, given them a guilt-free way out. I feel she ought to call them on their bull shit and have them own up to their responsibilities. Perhaps then she would feel less strained, less tired, less abandoned and more pampered. Perhaps then society would give her a break because she would be better conforming to their norms.

May she get to be treated the way she deserves to be treated. May we miraculously mature as a society. May she realize that she is a princess, that she is loved, that she is worthy, and that she doesn’t have to do it all on her own.

Bones Like Iron Blood Like Mercury

Note to person in question: You Deserve BETTER!

Ramblings of the Disoriented Mind

To the same theme.. a poem I wrote a while back.

I want bones like iron….. blood like mercury
Such that you no longer have an effect on me

Aspiring to be superman for just this time
How I crave immunity from your eyes and your lies

How I long to be free from those insomnic nights
To move on, break out, take a risk and dive

I want bones like iron….. blood like mercury
Such that you no longer have an effect on me

Unbreakable, that’s what I want to be
Too late for that, now that you’ve broken me

Time after time, you come and make amends
I yearned to believe you, to forgive, to accept

I want bones like iron….. blood like mercury
Such that you no longer have an effect on me

Oh that damned little heart of mine
I’ll never understand why you still reside…

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Yet Again

At the end when you cut to the bone, we are all essentially the same; we are women of great expectations. I realized that sitting across the table from them, that despite the variation of our chosen paths we were quintessentially suffering from the same syndrome… insecurity…the plague of this century.
I never learn, I’m always surprised, as if it’s the first incident, as if I’m hearing it all for the first time. Women; amazing women; women of great intellect, looks, grace and social status; women from which you’d expect “I’m queen of the universe” attitude but whom never act on it. These seemingly spectacular beings all fail to see themselves in that light. Suffering from major esteem issues, seeking validation from the external world.
We are all almost the same age, typical quarter life crisis psychiatric test candidates. We shared the same fear, the same sadness so to speak, the same sense of failure and self disappointment. Plagued by unmet targets, un-achieved destinies, unrealized dreams and plans postponed or altered with an endless stream of plan Bs and contingencies as we strive to reach our goal.
I’m tempted beyond description to blame the goals, to blame our naïve childish aspirations, to claim that we had set our expectations too high, that we aimed for the sun neglecting the light-years that separate us. Yet I’d like to think that those far-fetched ambitious dreams were not out of reach, that we have it in us to rock the world, to reach the sun to have no limit. That it is not our dreams that were faulty but our rockets low on fuel, that we somehow lost steam or got lost along the way. ~ To Each Her Own

I am one for shameless self advertising. Yet I assure you that this is not one of these incidents. I’m just stunned at how rapidly and how intensely this theme is taking over my life. My entire 9 to 5 circle fits the above description to a T. I find myself baffled and speechless over and over again. So decided to put it in writing, in public, in the hope that it would boost my credibility. Perhaps my ineffective commentary and irrelevant perspective would take on weight when backed up by this blog’s kind and generous readership base. Or perhaps we come across as more sincere and more convincing when we scream things louder. Consider this my megaphone.

The top 10 reasons you are awesome (you know who you are mat-harageesh):

1) You are strong. I am in awe of your strength. I can not begin to imagine how you are able to carry the weight of all the drama and all the challenges and curve balls that life throws your way and still emerge smiling and victorious.

2) You are independent. You are not a spoiled brat waiting to have life handed to you. You are not clueless. You are on top of things. You can take charge and make magic happen.

3) You are stunning. Not workplace harassment, scout’s honour! Yet one would have to be blind or jealous to see you as otherwise. 

4) You are smart. Believe me, that is not a compliment I dish out often. We live in an era of mediocrity and stupidity. Your brain and how it processes is a sliver of positiveness in my otherwise bleak outlook on Egypt. 

5) You are helpful. You have a genuine interest in making people’s lives easier and making yourself useful. It is a blessing from God and a very non-selfish outlook to life.

6) You are dedicated. You would work through a storm and food poisoning and then some. I can’t believe the number of times I have had to beg you to go home.

7) You are spiritual. I love the simplicity and the genuineness with which you tackle the spiritual and religious aspects of life. It is non-superficial and fundamentally profound. 

8) You are talented. Uniquely so, in all things related to design and aesthetics with a special focus on fashion. You have an individual style to how you dress and how you envision or dress others.

9) You are ambitious. You know what you want and you fight for it and you seek to achieve it.

10) You care. You get touched by the simplest things. It is flooring to the person on the receiving end of the gratitude.

I could go on for considerably longer but I like round numbers (a).

Elif Shafak – The 40 Rules of Love

Rule 1
How we see God is a direct reflection of how we see ourselves. If God brings to mind mostly fear and blame, it means there is too much fear and blame welled inside us. If we see God as full of love and compassion, so are we.

Rule 2
The path to the Truth is a labour of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind. Meet, challenge and ultimately prevail over your nafs (self, psyche, soul) with your heart. Knowing your ego will lead you to the knowledge of God.

Rule 3
You can study God through everything and everyone in the universe, because God is not confined in a mosque, synagogue or church. But if you are still in need of knowing where exactly His abode is, there is only one place to look for him: in the heart of a true lover.

Rule 4
Intellect and love are made of different materials. Intellect ties people in knots and risks nothing, but love dissolves all tangles and risks everything. Intellect is always cautious and advises, ‘Beware too much ecstasy’, whereas love says, ‘Oh, never mind! Take the plunge!’ Intellect does not easily break down, whereas love can effortlessly reduce itself to rubble. But treasures are hidden among ruins. A broken heart hides treasures.

Rule 5
Most of problems of the world stem from linguistic mistakes and simple misunderstanding. Don’t ever take words at face value. When you step into the zone of love, language, as we know it becomes obsolete. That which cannot be put into words can only be grasped through silence.

Rule 6
Loneliness and solitude are two different things. When you are lonely, it is easy to delude yourself into believing that you are on the right path. Solitude is better for us, as it means being alone without feeling lonely. But eventually it is the best to find a person who will be your mirror. Remember only in another person’s heart can you truly see yourself and the presence of God within you.

Rule 7
Whatever happens in your life, no matter how troubling things might seem, do not enter the neighbourhood of despair. Even when all doors remain closed, God will open up a new path only for you. Be thankful! It is easy to be thankful when all is well. A Sufi is thankful not only for what he has been given but also for all that he has been denied.

Rule 8
Patience does not mean to passively endure. It means to look at the end of a process. What does patience mean? It means to look at the thorn and see the rose, to look at the night and see the dawn. Impatience means to be shortsighted as to not be able to see the outcome. The lovers of God never run out of patience, for they know that time is needed for the crescent moon to become full.

Rule 9
East, west, south, or north makes little difference. No matter what your destination, just be sure to make every journey a journey within. If you travel within, you’ll travel the whole wide world and beyond.

Rule 10
The midwife knows that when there is no pain, the way for the baby cannot be opened and the mother cannot give birth. Likewise, for a new self to be born, hardship is necessary. Just as clay needs to go through intense heat to become strong, Love can only be perfected in pain.

Rule 11
The quest for love changes user. There is no seeker among those who search for love who has not matured on the way. The moment you start looking for love, you start to change within and without.

Rule 12
There are more fake gurus and false teachers in this world than the number of stars in the visible universe. Don’t confuse power-driven, self-centered people with true mentors. A genuine spiritual master will not direct your attention to himself or herself and will not expect absolute obedience or utter admiration from you, but instead will help you to appreciate and admire your inner self. True mentors are as transparent as glass. They let the light of God pass through them.

Rule 13
Try not to resist the changes, which come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?

Rule 14
God is busy with the completion of your work, both outwardly and inwardly. He is fully occupied with you. Every human being is a work in progress that is slowly but inexorably moving toward perfection. We are each an unfinished work of art both waiting and striving to be completed. God deals with each of us separately because humanity is fine art of skilled penmanship where every single dot is equally important for the entire picture.

Rule 15
It’s easy to love a perfect God, unblemished and infallible that He is. What is far more difficult is to love fellow human being with all their imperfections and defects. Remember, one can only know what one is capable of loving. There is no wisdom without love. Unless we learn to love God’s creation, we can neither truly love nor truly know God.

Rule 16
Real faith is the one inside. The rest simply washes off. There is only one type of dirt that cannot be cleansed with pure water, and that is the stain of hatred and bigotry contaminating the soul. You can purify your body through abstinence and fasting, but only love will purify your heart.

Rule 17
The whole universe is contained within a single human being-you. Everything that you see around, including the things that you might not be fond of and even the people you despise or abhor, is present within you in varying degrees. Therefore, do not look for Sheitan outside yourself either. The devil is not an extraordinary force that attacks from without. It is an ordinary voice within. If you set to know yourself fully, facing with honesty and hardness.

Rule 18
If you want to change the ways others treat you, you should first change the way you treat yourself, fully and sincerely, there is no way you can be loved. Once you achieve that stage, however, be thankful for every thorn that others might throw at you. It is a sign that you will soon be showered in roses.

Rule 19
Fret not where the road will take you. Instead concentrate on the first step. That is the hardest part and that is what you are responsible for. Once you take that step let everything do what it naturally does and the rest will follow. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow.

Rule 20
We were all created in His image, and yet we were each created different and unique. No two people are alike. No hearts beat to the same rhythm. If God had wanted everyone to be the same, He would have made it so. Therefore, disrespecting differences and imposing your thoughts on others is an amount to disrespecting God’s holy scheme.

Rule 21
When a true lover of God goes into a tavern, the tavern becomes his chamber of prayer, but when a wine bibber goes into the same chamber, it becomes his tavern. In everything we do, it is our hearts that make the difference, not our outer appearance. Sufis do not judge other people on how they look or who they are. When a Sufi stares at someone, he keeps both eyes closed instead opens a third eye – the eye that sees the inner realm.

Rule 22
Life is a temporary loan and this world is nothing but a sketchy imitation of Reality. Only children would mistake a toy for the real thing. And yet human beings either become infatuated with the toy or disrespectfully break it and throw it aside. In this life stay away from all kinds of extremities, for they will destroy your inner balance. Sufis do not go to extremes. A Sufi always remains mild and moderate.

Rule 23
The human being has a unique place among God’s creation. “I breathed into him of My Spirit,” God says. Each and every one of us without exception is designed to be God’s delegate on earth. Ask yourself, just how often do you behave like a delegate, if you ever do so? Remember, it fells upon each of us to discover the divine spirit inside and live by it.

Rule 24
Hell is in the here and now. So is heaven. Quit worrying about hell or dreaming about heaven, as they are both present inside this very moment. Every time we fall in love, we ascend to heaven. Every time we hate, envy or fight someone we tumble straight into the fires of hell.

Rule 25
Each and every reader comprehends the Holy Qur’an on a different level of tandem with the depth of his understanding. There are four levels of insight. The first level is the outer meaning and it is the one that the majority of the people are content with. Next is the Batin – the inner level. Third, there is the inner of the inner. And the fourth level is so deep it cannot be put into words and is therefore bound to remain indescribable.

Rule 26
The universe is one being. Everything and everyone is interconnected through an invisible web of stories. Whether we are aware of it or not, we are all in a silent conversation. Do no harm. Practice compassion. And do not gossip behind anyone’s back – not even a seemingly innocent remark! The words that come out of our mouths do not vanish but are perpetually stored in infinite space and they will come back to us in due time. One man’s pain will hurt us all. One man’s joy will make everyone smile.

Rule 27
Whatever you speak, good or evil, will somehow come back to you. Therefore, if there is someone who harbours ill thoughts about you, saying similarly bad things about him will only make matters worse. You will be locked in a vicious circle of malevolent energy. Instead for forty days and nights say and think nice things about that person. Everything will be different at the end of 40 days, because you will be different inside.

Rule 28
The past is an interpretation. The future is on illusion. The world does not move through time as if it were a straight line, proceeding from the past to the future. Instead time moves through and within us, in endless spirals. Eternity does not mean infinite time, but simply timelessness. If you want to experience eternal illumination, put the past and the future out of your mind and remain within the present moment.

Rule 29
Destiny doesn’t mean that your life has been strictly predetermined. Therefore, to live everything to the fate and to not actively contribute to the music of the universe is a sign of sheer ignorance. The music of the universe is all pervading and it is composed on 40 different levels. Your destiny is the level where you play your tune. You might not change your instrument but how well to play is entirely in your hands.

Rule 30
The true Sufi is such that even when he is unjustly accused, attacked and condemned from all sides, he patiently endures, uttering not a single bad word about any of his critics. A Sufi never apportions blame. How can there be opponents or rivals or even “others” when there is no “self” in the first place? How can there be anyone to blame when there is only One?

Rule 31
If you want to strengthen your faith, you will need to soften inside. For your faith to be rock solid, your heart needs to be as soft as a feather. Through an illness, accident, loss or fright, one way or another, we are all faced with incidents that teach us how to become less selfish and judgmental and more compassionate and generous. Yet some of us learn the lesson and manage to become milder, while some others end up becoming even harsher than before…

Rule 32
Nothing should stand between you and God. No imams, priests, rabbits or any other custodians of moral or religious leadership. Not spiritual masters and not even your faith. Believe in your values and your rules, but never lord them over others. If you keep breaking other people’s hearts, whatever religious duty you perform is no good. Stay away from all sorts of idolatry, for they will blur your vision. Let God and only God be your guide. Learn the Truth, my friend, but be careful not to make a fetish out of your truths.

Rule 33
While everyone in this world strives to get somewhere and become someone, only to leave it all behind after death, you aim for the supreme stage of nothingness. Live this life as light and empty as the number zero. We are no different from a pot. It is not the decorations outside but the emptiness inside that holds us straight. Just like that, it is not what we aspire to achieve but the consciousness of nothingness that keeps us going.

Rule 34
Submission does not mean being weak or passive. It leads to neither fatalism nor capitulation. Just the opposite. True power resides in submission a power that comes within. Those who submit to the divine essence of life will live in unperturbed tranquility and peace even the whole wide world goes through turbulence after turbulence.

Rule 35
In this world, it is not similarities or regularities that take us a step forward, but blunt opposites. And all the opposites in the universe are present within each and every one of us. Therefore the believer needs to meet the unbeliever residing within. And the nonbeliever should get to know the silent faithful in him. Until the day one reaches the stage of Insane-I Kamil, the perfect human being, faith is a gradual process and one that necessitates its seeming opposite: disbelief.

Rule 36
This world is erected upon the principle of reciprocity. Neither a drop of kindness nor a speck of evil will remain un-reciprocated. For not the plots, deceptions, or tricks of other people. If somebody is setting a trap, remember, so is God. He is the biggest plotter. Not even a leaf stirs outside God’s knowledge. Simply and fully believe in that. Whatever God does, He does it beautifully.

Rule 37
God is a meticulous clock maker. So precise is His order that everything on earth happens in its own time. Neither a minute late nor a minute early. And for everyone without exception, the clock works accurately. For each there is a time to love and a time to die.

Rule 38
It is never too late to ask yourself, “Am I ready to change the life I am living? Am I ready to change within?” Even if a single day in your life is the same as the day before, it surely is a pity. At every moment and with each new breath, one should be renewed and renewed again. There is only one-way to be born into a new life: to die before death.

Rule 39
While the part change, the whole always remains the same. For every thief who departs this world, a new one is born. And every descent person who passes away is replaced by a new one. In this way not only does nothing remain the same but also nothing ever really changes. For every Sufi who dies, another is born somewhere.

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.

Quote

The Signature Of All Things

“The old cobbler had believed in something he called “the signature of all things”-namely, that God had hidden clues for humanity’s betterment inside the design of every flower, leaf, fruit, and tree on earth. All the natural world was a divine code, Boehme claimed, containing proof of our Creator’s love.”