No

SayinNoI do most of my thinking in the car, actually that might not be true.  I think about random stuff all the time, it is just that usually in the car I have enough time and nothing else to do and can formulate entire thoughts.  Today’s thought was about saying No.  I had recently seen a couple of posts on facebook about rape culture and consent and how anything other than a clear YES means No, which should be obvious, but apparently isn’t.

This isn’t about rape, this is about No.  In our culture, No, is not an acceptable answer. Ever.  It starts really early on.  A mother is feeding her child, the child is still an infant or a toddler and closes her mouth because she is no longer hungry.  That is a pretty obvious No, isn’t it? What does the mother do? She forces said child to eat some more, because No is not acceptable.  A different scene, the family goes to visit relatives, and the little child is ordered to hug and kiss one of the people they are visiting, the child refuses.  Another quite obvious No, again the child is forced to give hugs.  And it goes on and on into adulthood.  An arranged marriage is taking place and after the prospective groom leaves, they ask the girl if she is interested  and she says No.  Now that is a very clear no, instead of accepting it, she will be required to explain and justify her answer.  She will also probably be pressured to say yes, at least to another meeting.  Even as grown ups, if you are invited to lunch, your host will try and force you to eat more than you want foods that you probably don’t want to eat.  Even if you say things like “No thanks, I really don’t eat liver” they will probably ignore you and pile that liver on your plate.  I hate liver, and I hate how it smells and I will not eat it even if you beg me, yet these people refuse to accept taking No for an answer.

This is unfortunate, instead of saying what you mean and meaning what you say, you end up either being passive aggressive or just lying to get out of having to say No.  Passive aggression is more socially acceptable than saying No.  I wish I had an answer for why this happens.  Could it be control?  Everyone likes to feel that they have control over others by obviously forcing them to do things they do not want to do?  Or is it just another cultural thing that no one has ever thought about?  It doesn’t seem like it is an accident that one of the first things babies learn to say is No.  I understand that as a parent, we need to teach them to say Yes too.  The tricky part is teaching them where their boundaries are and how to protect them.  The trickier part is to teach yourself all of that as an adult.  And this is just the direct refusal of your No, I haven’t even got to the part where you say Yes/Maybe/Whatever because you just can’t say No because you don’t have the heart for another confrontation or just want to be accepted, but that is a totally different story.  Or they can’t take being guilted, blamed or shamed for their choices anymore.  It is exhausting.

We need to say No if we want to.  We also need to understand that when others say No, we need to accept that and back off.  We don’t own others no matter how much we love and care about them.

 

 

Here is a cool printable for helpful ways to say No <<http://www.juliehanks.com/2013/10/23/free-printable-helpful-ways-to-say-no/>>

Unleash your inner two year old and say No <<http://livingthebalancedlife.com/2011/unleash-your-inner-two-year-old/>>

On deciding what to be when you grow up

I still haven’t decided what I want to be when I grow up. I did for a while. I was a software engineer. I liked doing that. But I wasn’t really all grown up. Then for a while I was just a stay at home mom. That too was fun and not so fun all the time. And since I was still not done growing up I didn’t feel like settling on that. Then I became a knit wear designer. I still sort of am. I still enjoy it. But I am still not done growing up. I sometimes entertain myself with thoughts of things I could do. I could become a novelist. I would definitely like that. I would also like to be a photographer. I like telling stories with pictures. I don’t want to tell sad tales of defeat but of happiness and spontaneous brightness in life. I could become a chef. I like cooking. Experimenting in the kitchen with ingredients and telling a culinary narrative with edible items. Or maybe I could make jewelry and use gemstones and metal that describe fairy tales.
And then I realized I am a story teller. We all are. The medium doesn’t matter. Everything we do or don’t so tells a story. Every picture, word, stitch, movement is just another part of the puzzle. Another paragraph in our autobiography. Some are better than others at curating their stories. Some are more meticulous in what they reveal. Some are raw and open. Some are private and share with only a select few and others happily tell the world using the biggest megaphone they can find.
I am going to be a story teller now and when I grow up. I am going to use all the different outlets that can be used to tell stories. Real ones, made up ones, legends, fables, useless ones; it doesn’t really matter. The story is not the end. It is the vessel. The telling is the real destination. The way you tell and the content you share with the world. To find the beautiful and show it to the world in the form of a story. That is what I am going to be doing while I grow up.

Notes from the internet apocalypse {Book Review}

NotesFromInternetApocalypseI just finished the book Notes from the Internet Apocalypse.  It is Gladstone’s journal following the internet apocalypse.  Suddenly the internet disappears and he is trying to find it.  It is an interesting read.

“Magic is a cliche, but what do you call it when you enter a place and you can pretend you’re anywhere and everywhere from the Mesozoic era to present day, provided you haven’t killed every bit of childhood wonder with cynicism? It is magic. The kind that exists.”

What would happen if the internet is gone? I wondered.  I am from the generation that existed pre- cell phones and constant connectivity.  But I am also from the generation that has become so accustomed to the ubiquity of the internet.

I wake up and call my mom and sister who live on a different continent using VOIP.  I check my email and my social media accounts.  I also make a living selling digital files on the internet using a skill which I coincidentally learned by watching online videos and visiting blogs.  I watch my movies, buy my books and learn stuff.  I even use it to stay connected with my husband even when I am not away because we share photos, music and random notes.  I use it to monitor what I am eating (and what I shouldn’t be) and upload the data from my wearable tech to find out how much I am moving (or not) and then compare that to what I should be.  I listen to podcasts about topics I find interesting, that I might not otherwise have access to.

My daughter is 6 and she already knows that if she asks me a question and I don’t know the answer, we can Google it.  She knows that she can stream her favorite cartoons on demand or read books on it.  She sometimes even video chats with her grandmother and aunt all by herself.

But the question continues to pester me, what if it is all gone?

I wouldn’t be able to call my family. Would I resort to calling cards? Would we go back to writing letters?  I wouldn’t mind writing letters, but with the current state of local post, I would probably be luckier to send homing pigeons.  I know I would read more books.  I remember when I would go through a couple of books a week.  I still read a book a week, but I am sure that I would have more reading time if I didn’t get sucked into watching YouTube videos of people walking on water or doing strange magic tricks.

I would watch movies on TV when they aired or rent DVDs.  I would listen to music when it played on the radio or buy CDs.  I don’t mind these things, as a matter of fact, I might even enjoy the slowness of life.  Everything is on demand now.  Just think of a type of media and you can instantly devour it.  I haven’t read a paper in years, I get my news from the internet.

I might even enjoy my bubble, not being bombarded every 10 seconds with sad and horrific news from around the globe, either from events that happen to people I know or people I do know who are scattered around the world.

But then the thing I would miss the most is people.  I am an expat.  I almost have no friends where I live.  I stay connected with friends using technology and to be denied that privilege would be sad. Or maybe it would force me to go out and actually make friends.  Even the friends I made here were found on the internet.  I complained once about the lack of friends on twitter once, so a twitter friend who lives in the UK, connected me with her friend here.  A friendship that grew and brought more friends with it.

I am sure we all suffer from information overload, all the time.

“There has not been a piece of technology designed to save labor that has not increased labor. Word processors allow you to do what your secretary used to do for you. The Internet, BlackBerries, iPhones, yes they keep you tethered, but that’s not the main problem. It’s that along with increasing personal productivity, they increase the expectation of productivity. It no longer becomes a bonus to do the work of one and a half men, but the norm. And then when everyone’s working at one hundred and fifty percent capacity, they can fire a third of the workforce and still maintain output.”

And then there is this quote.  So much more is expected of us, of our children and of society.  We no longer think that normal productivity is ok, we have to be overachievers.  Children aren’t left to grow in their own time and speed, they are constantly being compared with everyone else on the planet. And when it comes to society we are expected to relate to everyone else, have a stance on everything and try to change the world.  When people try to live in their bubble now, they are mocked, ridiculed and called self centered.  The need for self preservation is higher than ever before.

I understand that it is a great tool.  It has opened the largest gateway or portal for mankind to more information than we know what to do with.

The future will probably be even more connected than the present, but I guess there is no harm in going completely offline every once in a while to be ready for the apocalypse (just in case).

On roots, wings and home

My father had an interesting habit, whenever he came home after a day or more away he would open the fridge and just check the contents.  It had nothing to do with being hungry or wanting to eat, it was his way of confirming the fact that he had come home.  I carry on the tradition.

I was born in a country that I was not a citizen of, moved to another country while still a child, lived in 2 different cities there and then finally we moved back to Egypt.  Years later, I got married and moved to the country I was born in.  I have no roots.  I don’t share memories with a lot of people because the memories of my childhood were not shared with the friends I have today.  When I started my own family I was obsessed with the idea of growing roots, settling down in one place and being buried there.  I did not want my child to have to live through the same things I did.  I wanted her to still be friends with her KG friends when she was 20 or 50.  It is a romantic view.  Not suitable for life today.

I sometimes wonder what home is. Is home a place?  Is it the bricks and mortar that make the building? 
It is a place, a time, family, familiar sounds and smells, a meal, opening the fridge. And so much more. It is the things you carry in your heart and yearn to all the time. It is that cup of coffee in the morning before anyone else is awake. It is the sound of the alarm clock. It is the shelf of books that you have already read and the shelf of books still waiting to be read and cherished. It is the box of old photographs. It is the smell of lunch cooking and a sink full of dirty dishes that no one else will wash. It is the place where you belong even if it doesn’t exist.

I don’t want to grow roots anymore, at least not just yet. I want to grow wings. I want to learn how to fly and discover the world. There is so much more homes out there that I still want to experience and enjoy before deciding on one that doesn’t move from place to place.

Are you a sexual harrassment supporter?

Yes, you! And might I also say that it is time we call it what it is, violence against women, which is becoming a norm in Egypt.  Sadly, many people who say they are against sexual harassment are actually supporters without realizing it.

If your first response is, she got attacked because of how she was dressed or where she was, then I am sorry you are a sexual harassment supporter.  No one (regardless of their gender) should be abused or harassed for any reason.  Period.  Why is that so hard to understand?  When people say things like women are like candy and need to be covered up, they really are saying that men can not control themselves and are rapists waiting to happen.  Women are scientists, doctors, engineers, fighter pilots, moms, referees, etc.  They are not candy.  They are not diamonds.  They are human beings who have the right to dress as they choose without having to justify it or be punished for it.

If you think that sexual harassment affects a woman’s honor (شرف ) then you also have a problem.  Her humanity, dignity, soul, heart, psyche, body and more have been violated, but not her honor.  Her honor is only defined by her actions not what someone else does to her.  It is time we stop being dinosaurs and realize that honor has nothing to do with it.

If you are a man and feel that your honor is being violated because a woman was harassed/raped/abused/attacked please take a number, have a seat and wait until hell freezes over.  This has nothing to do with you.  You do not own women.  Your honor is only defined by your actions not by what happens to someone else.  Your job is not to harass women.  Full stop.  If as a decent person (regardless of gender) you choose to stand up against harassment then thank you, that means you have chosen the right thing.

If you feel that videos of attacks make us look bad in the eyes of the rest of the world, then please go drink some arsenic. The fact that you believe that half the population lives in constant fear of being abused or harassed is less important than our collective image means you really need some therapy.  I totally agree that the privacy of victims needs to be protected, they at least deserve that from us. But covering an attack up or pretending that they are not an epidemic is just sick and stupid.

We have a serious problem in Egypt.  It is called misogyny , as defined by wikipedia

Misogyny /mɪˈsɒɪni/ is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.[1][2] Misogyny has been characterised as a prominent feature of the mythologies of the ancient world as well as of various religions.

If you find any way to blame a victim or justify an attacker then you are a misogynistic inhumane creep that needs to find a hole in the ground to bury yourself.

If you think you don’t support violence against women, but see people blaming the victim and don’t say anything that makes you a supporter.  If you lead men to believe that this is about their honor and don’t right their views, then you are supporting more violence against women.  If you want to hide the fact that these attacks happen then you are a supporter.

If you do not take a stand against crimes against women, you are supporting them.  If you belittle efforts that are made to stand against these crimes then maybe you support these crimes.

If the only solution to this problem in your view is violence against men then this is another problem, it is called misandry.  We can not fight violence with violence. We can only start educating everyone on how to stop the current epidemic and to make sure it never happens again. We need strong laws and implementation of these laws.  We need to feel safe by knowing that we are protected, not that we need to walk around carrying weapons to fight back.

A stand, is long overdue.

Airport Brides

Yesterday at the airport there was a bride in her wedding gown flying to meet her groom.  In her full gown and made up to the nines she looked gorgeous, happy and stuffy.  Almost 7 years ago to the day I flew to Kuwait with my husband as a newly wed after my wedding and quick honeymoon.  I spent years feeling sorry for myself that most of my family had never visited me at my new home, that I had never been able to host a family dinner and that they are never near by.

But years have passed, years that have added wisdom and peace.  I never could understand why a woman would do that.  Traveling is stressful enough without having to wear a wedding dress. A white one that will probably pick up dust and dirt.  Make up that will probably smudge and melt in the heat of the plane. Being cramped in those tiny seats that seem to be designed to torture anyone who is taller than a meter and a half while wearing a huge dress.

But a week earlier I had watched a bride arrive at the airport and I heard the claps, the ululations (زغاريط) and the happiness of people who were waiting for her to arrive and I finally understood.  This was a woman who chose to deal with all of these discomforts to be happy, to take what was given to her by life and to accept it and enjoy it.  She still got to wear the dress, she still got the celebrations but most of us, she was still a bride who was happy to be married and join her husband.

We do not choose what happens in life, we only choose to accept it and enjoy it, or to refuse and whine about it.  And we all know that whinging does not work.  It just robs you of happiness.  I spent years doing the latter.  Trying hard to change the unchangeable and challenging a fate I could not control.  I was robbed of happiness.  I robbed myself of it.  I chose to be miserable and sad.  I was so caught up in wallowing in my own misery instead of enjoying all of the things I had been blessed with without any doing of my own.

I say a little prayer for airport brides, may they forever be happy, may they be blessed with happy and full marriages and lives, may they always have the ability, wisdom and grace to walk in their lives with smiles on their faces whatever they may face.  May their husbands understand the sacrifices they have made of leaving family behind and trekking out in the world on their own to meet them half way.  May they always be blessed with the ability to find the silver lining.

“Expect nothing and accept everything.” I read that quote somewhere and it sounds defeatist at first, but it isn’t.  It is finding the strength not to put conditions on happiness.  It is harder than it sounds but it is rewarding.

When a nerd mom goes to a Halloween parade

Today the 5yo had the Halloween parade at school.  It is a simple affair, they dress up and walk around the playground once then go back to classes. The parents were invited too.  I had a problem with two things today.  Which is quite good because I usually have more issues than just two.

First was that the parents were asked not to cross the white lines that marked the area where the kids would be walking.  They were also very clearly asked not to stop the parade to take pictures.  And what did many parents do? They did the exact thing they were asked not to do.  This bothers me for so many reasons (see, I told you I always have more issues) first is that it is unfair to the parents who did the right thing and stayed in the designated area.  They too have kids whom they want to take pictures of to immortalize the moment, but they chose not to stop the parade.  Second it sends out the wrong message to the kids, that rules are not real and that people who break the rules get what they want and that the people who do not break the rules get nothing.  That just deeply irritates me.  If you are a parent and you really NEED to take pictures then do it before school or after school, not during an event that everyone else is involved in.

The other thing was the gender gap in costume choices.  Girls were dressed as fairies, princesses (Disney princesses mainly), a few witches and fewer black cats.  There was a total of maybe 4 girls in super hero costumes.  The boys were slightly more diverse superheros, pirates, explorers, monsters, animals, two Pharaohs, a Riddler, a Charlie Chaplin (which was my favorite costume because it was so detailed and different) and a Harry Potter.  Almost all the costumes were store bought.  I want to see a world where there are more girl superheros.  And more kids who are willing to think out of the box.  Who want to be more than what they are taught they can or should be.  I hate the Disney princesses.  Just think about it, why would I want my daughter to be Ariel, who gave up her voice (the voice is quite symbolic here)? or Snow White, or Rapunzel both of which had to wait to be rescued?  Perhaps Merida is an exception, it is about her own personal bravery and the mother/daughter relationship.  Why would I want my daughter to be a fairy?  I might want my daughter to be a powerful good witch.  Empowered, smart and can help herself.

There wasn’t a single girl wearing a lab coat.  Not one single girls thinks that being a doctor would be a good idea.  Think about that.  I think there might have been about 70 girls.  Give or take some.  There was a Wonder Woman whom I thought was awesome. Even the girls who were wearing witch costumes were almost all identical.

My daughter wanted to be a bat, which evolved into bat girl.  She wanted bat wings and tried to figure out a way to sleep upside down but couldn’t.  She was totally fascinated by the fact that bats are blind and can still fly around and get around.  The process of making the costume fascinated her.  I asked her a couple of times if she wanted to go pick a costume or if she would like to look at ideas on pinterest and we could make it together, and she wanted me to make it.  It took me a couple of weeks to get it all done.  She helped with the process and spent a few days wearing parts of it.

Yes I understand that not a lot of parents have the time that I do, or the skills to sew a costume or craft one.  But it isn’t rocket science and it doesn’t need to take more than a an hour or two.  We can’t teach our kids that everything can be bought like that and devalue creativity and hands on work.  It is taking away from their childhoods as well as their creativity.  Children need to build forts out of blankets and cardboard boxes.  They need to make their own masks using paper and crayons.  Every.day. They need to paint and draw and make up silly languages.  They need to experience this kind of creativity and curiosity.  They need to embrace it.  And parents need it too.  Parents need to be silly and play pretend with their kids.  If we don’t then we are telling them that they can not be who they are or what they want to be.  We are packaging them in little generic labeled boxes for life.

That is just it.  It might be dress up and it happens for most kids on a single day in the year but that is just wrong.  Every child needs to own a crown and a superhero cape.  The crown is for them to pretend to be kings and queens.  Which is a great opportunity to talk about community and how decisions are made and why?  It is about teaching compassion even when we are in power.  It is a fantastic opportunity to open their minds and widen their horizons.  The superhero cape is to make them believe they can be heroes.  Most of the superheros in comics pop culture are just ordinary men and women who became extra ordinary.

And then there are the real heroes in life,  the ones that are extra ordinary because of the hard work they put in.  Every day.  There was one little boy who was a soldier and another who was a fireman.  These are great examples, of people who keep us safe who put themselves at risk to get their job done.

The costumes don’t need to be fancy, a cape can be made of an old towel and a crown can be made of newspaper.  It is not about them being real, it is about them being tools for change, dialogue, imagination and tons of fun.

Finally, it also makes you question, who do our kids see as role models? Who do they want to be?  What do they want to become?  Are they being taught the right values? Are they seeing these values enough in real life so that they grow up believing in them?

Sometimes, I wish I could just go to a Halloween parade, push the other parents, take pictures of my daughter while standing where I shouldn’t be standing and then go home and forget all about it.  It would be so much easier than all of this thinking.

What do you want for your birthday?

Every year after her birthday is over in October, my sister starts asking me what I want for my birthday.  It is in November. And every year she ends up yelling at me, because I almost always won’t tell her what I want or if she suggests something that I feel is too expensive I will make up excuses about why I don’t want it.

Every year.

The fact is, I feel uncomfortable asking for something, it feels impolite or wrong or needy or whatever it is.  I am uncomfortable asking.  It is that simple.  Even though I am certain she doesn’t mind and can afford whatever it is I might want or ask from her.  It is sort of like when someone asks you what  do you want to do or where would you like to go out today and instead of telling them what you want you just say “whatever”.  Whatevers do not make us happy.  They are just a silly way of saying I want something but instead of asking for it I will just say that so i don’t feel like I asked for something.  Maybe I don’t want to want something and then not get it.  I am guilty of that too.  The fear of rejection or failure creeps up in every part of your life when you let it.

I also feel bad about wanting things.  It is like I do not believe I deserve to receive a gift from my loved ones.  I do not feel worthy.  I don’t feel I can afford to reciprocate a more expensive gift so I don’t want to receive one.

I did not see that reason coming.

I do not feel worthy of receiving gifts.

It is a scary sentence.  It is also heartbreaking.

But it is not true, it is a lie.  A lie that my brain has obviously so intricately woven into my thoughts that I was unaware of.  A lie that I am no longer willing to tell myself or believe.

So this year I am going to make a list and send it to her.

 

Vulnerability

I feel compelled to explain the absence but I won’t.  I am not really writing for an audience this time.  I am not sharing this because I seek your approval or acceptance.  I am sharing it because I need to feel vulnerable and be ok with it.  To accept it, embrace it and understand that it is not my enemy, it is an aid to my growth as a person, a wife, a parent, an artist and all the other hats I wear.

Being vulnerable is a scary thing.  I know from experience.  I am so good at climbing into my cocoon and adding layers to it that it was almost impossible to get back out again.

What does vulnerability mean?

vul·ner·a·ble ˈvəln(ə)rəbəl susceptible to physical or emotional attack or harm.
I always thought that the first time I was really vulnerable was when my father died, but after a lot of soul searching and thinking I realized it was before that.  It was when my family moved back to Egypt from Scotland.  It was a move that I originally wanted and hoped for.  I have always yearned for the feeling of belonging and my 11 year old self thought that living in Egypt would make that come true.  Interestingly, I just finished Brene Brown’s book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and she touches on the difference between fitting in and belonging.
photoI was struck by these two paragraphs.  I used to think fitting in and belonging were the same thing, but according to her they aren’t, and I think I agree with her.  But what does belonging have to do with being vulnerable? Personally, a lot.  It is the root of why I feel what I feel.
After moving to Egypt I never really felt accepted or that I belonged.  I couldn’t connect with friends or the people around me and eventually I stopped trying to belong and started learning how to fit in.  It became so easy and automatic that I don’t think I even realized I was doing it. Honestly, I probably still don’t believe it.
Perhaps the hardest vulnerability is with your self.  To step back and say I will examine my beliefs, I will question them and I will allow them to change and evolve.  Then comes being vulnerable with the people you love.  Accepting that they can see you as you are, flaws, imperfections and all and trusting that they will accept that and cherish it.  It is hard because before you can expect it from others you need to be able to do it yourself.  Am I worthy of love? Is the real me worthy of love and respect?  Questions that we might not really ask but our behavior always exposes.   Because of our ability to hussle for acceptance, we usually go through life without really taking that deep look inside of ourselves.
For me, it is time.  Time to stop and explore.  Take an adventure inside my soul, not my head but my soul.
When my father died in 1999 it was an incredible shock.  It rocked our world almost threatening to demolish everything we ever knew.  I tell this story saying we because it involved three people.  My mother, my sister and I.  And while I do not claim to know exactly what they went through I am pretty confident I can tell the collective story.  My father was not a sick or dying man.  He was a brilliant orthopedic surgeon.  He was 45. But my father was a long time sufferer of diabetes.  It was slowly eating him alive inside out.  But there was nothing on the outside that foretold his death. He went to work that Friday and never came home.  It was his wish that he never have to become an invalid or too sick to work.
To say  that death is terrifying would be robbing death of its true meaning.  Death is a thief.  It takes what we hold most dear and gives nothing back.  Some would say it gives back strength or resilience to adversity.  But that is not death’s work, it is the work of hope and our desire  or need to keep going.  My mother suddenly found herself having to carry a heavy burden, two girls still at university, a home to run, a job to go to, finances to keep straight.  My sister and I were lost.  We had very little support from the outside world.  Yes people might be empathetic in the first few days even sympathetic or compassionate.  There was no grief counseling and no real long term support.
Everything was tough at the beginning.  You have to grow up suddenly.  Without the luxury of time or feeling your way through the process, you are suddenly thrown into life unprepared and definitely not ready.
No one is ever ready or prepared for that kind of thing.  Even people who have lost loved ones after long battles with disease are never really prepared for what comes next.
Instead of reaching out or asking for help we did the exact opposite we clammed up even harder.  I am not blaming anyone or saying that we should have been helped I am just saying that maybe next time if God forbid you have someone close to you dealing with something of this magnitude, remember that they might not ask for help even though they will be needing it the most.
Perhaps one person I will always be grateful for is my grandmother’s cousin, he would drop by every couple of weeks just to ask about it.  For no reason.  No explanation. No justification.  Just an unexpressed offer of support. My mother’s aunt would sometimes drop by with lunch and spend some times with us.  I am pretty sure that they have no idea that what they did is something we valued very much.  Perhaps the simplicity and total honesty of their actions was what we needed the most.
There were many others who did give support in the way they new how.  And to them I will be forever grateful.  Some of them don’t even know that what they did may have saved us or helped us.  My sister has a friend who spent the first couple of days with us.  To her I say, thank you.  My cousins spent the first week with us, to them I say thank you.  And to my best friend who also was there for hugs and support, I am eternally in your debt.
But then life goes one, everyone goes home but the pain and loss don’t.  Suddenly you learn to laugh and smile to mask it and after a while it stops becoming a mask it becomes part of who you are.  It is not an act, it is a natural reflex to pain and hurt and all the horrible things in life that you don’t really know how to deal with.  You stop believing in the future.  You stop trusting the present.  You are not miserable, on the contrary, you lead a good life, but you are never whole and because you never learn to deal with it, it doesn’t go away.
At some point in life we need to stop, tell our story, own it and accept it.  It is what makes us who we are, flaws and all.  These flaws do not make us worse, they are what give us our value.  But for them to do that we need to accept them.  No one in life hasn’t been touched by some kind of adversity and no one is perfect.  Far from that, we are all imperfect.  But we are who we are, and you get what you get.  It is what you do with it that changes everything.
Last year I almost died.  It is a long story that I do not feel like telling today.  But it was another scary moment for me.  It made me go back and forth between I need to be strong and I need to break down. All of this might seem touchy feely or mushy.  Yes true.  But I am not writing this for you.  I am writing this for me, I need to heal.  Because now I know I do not need to be strong on the outside.  I am strong,  I am flexible, I am adaptable and I am a survivor.  But right now I need to be at peace with myself.  True serenity and peace, that stem from the bottom of my being that can carry me into the future,  a future that I so desperately need to believe in.
We carry a lot of baggage with us.  We don’t need to.  We need to travel light.  Take only what you need and keep going.  I am unpacking the bags because it is the only way forward.

Saying no to the Undershirt

An undershirt
is
an article
of underwear worn
underneath a
dress shirt intended
to protect them from
body sweat and odors. It can have short sleeves or be sleeveless. The term most commonly refers to upper-body wear worn by males. It also makes dress shirts less transparent. It can also be worn during winter months as an extra layer of warmth. Wikipedia

The undershirt is an ubiquitous item of clothing for Egyptian children and men. Almost always white and something I hate.  It is another example of one of those things that people just do because everyone has always done it.  I think most Egyptians will tell you that their family has worn an undershirt since the time of Ramses the first.  That is basically the real reason why people wear them “we have always worn them”.  Then they will go on about how important they are in the summer because they soak up sweat (gross) and keep them warm in the winter (redundant).

Basically I think it was more about when people did not have automatic washing machines so it was just easier to wear undershirts and wash them instead of having to wash a shirt.  But we all have the wonderful device called the washing machine in our homes so I don’t find that argument really convincing anymore.  Especially for children, since they usually spill something or roll around in any available dirt, so you will probably need to wash their clothes anyway.

As for staying warm in the winter, SERIOUSLY? When it is cold, I usually dress her in a couple of layers so who cares if it is a purple t shirt instead of a white sleeveless undershirt.  If it is about warmth, the layers are what count not what we call that layer.

My grandmother keeps bringing it up until I finally gave up and bought one, so my daughter can wear it when she visits.  I am not really trying to defy anyone.  I just don’t see why it is such a huge deal and why every Egyptian and their mother needs to tell me that I need to dress my daughter in a certain way.

And this isn’t really about the “undershirt”, it is about all of those little things that we do without questioning because it is how everyone has always done it.  So many cultural practices that make no sense at all.  Questioning things around us is healthy, imperative actually.  Why can’t I start my meal with dessert?  Why do I need a living room when I really need a craft room/family room?  Do I really need to own a TV, when I already watch almost everything online?  Why do couples who get married need to have kids right away? Why do we need to have two children? Why are people who chose to have one child heckled all the time? I have no problem with people making these choices or others, I just wish we put more thought into what we choose.

We have shackled ourselves and our lives needlessly.

I have taken off the undershirt (literally and figuratively).

I invite you to try it.  And if you do want to keep it on, then do it because you like it, not because you should keep it on because someone a hundred years ago thought it was a good idea.

Oh and by the way I googled about the benefits of the undershirt and came up with nothing scientific.