March 2008


Today I delivere my first speech in two years at Toastmasters. I opted to do another icebreaker, a speech that introduces me to the club. Here it is…  

When I want to introduce myself I find it very hard to do so through the typical age, occupation, family and history approach. These are all things you can learn about me from a business card and an ID card. So I thought about what it is to know someone, to truly be introduced to them. That led me to close my eyes and look inwards. This is what I saw.
When I close my eyes I look at the world around me.
I see a world that has no conflict, hunger or poverty. I see no global warming and no pollution. I see a world so beautiful with many spectacular places to travel to and make friends in I see history, culture, art and music enriching our lives and accessible to all.

When I close my eyes I look at the work I want to do. 
I want to lead change, I want to be change. I want to work with people. I want to make a difference. I want to work with my hands and be engaged in my mind. I want to put smiles on people’s faces. I want to create. I want to serve. I want to teach. I want to be.

When I close my eyes I look at the people in my life.
I see so many faces, many have come and gone. Many are yet to come. Some are friends, some are foes. I see the children around me and as a friend once said they are the messages we send out in to the future. I see my elders before me with their wisdom and years to learn from as the oracles of the past. I see our differences and celebrate that for in our differences we are one.

When I close my eyes I desire a love to fulfill me.
I desire love in all its forms. A love that is pure like that between mother and child. A love that is undemanding like that between friends. A love that is energizing like that for life. A love that is consuming like that between lovers.

When I close my eyes I see my retirement.
A small hut set between trees with the surf a short walk away. The coconut trees casting a shade so lazy that you don’t want to get out of bed. A hut with windows looking out to sea. White linen curtains billowing in the breeze. A room full of books, a warm kitchen for all the good food, and an open living room that is always welcoming. Outside, a boat, moored on the shore for fishing. And when I don’t fish, I teach the children about language, about math, about life and laughter. And as the sun sets, I lay in my hammock strung up between two trees. And at night a fire on the shore to keep me warm my arms wrapped around my knees as I listen to the surf and look up to see a star filled sky.

When I open my eyes I see the world that I live in and strive to make it better place. I see the work that I do in development and education and it makes me believe that we do make a difference one person at a time. I see my life full of amazing people everywhere I look. And I see the love that surrounds me. As for my retirement I look forward to finding my little paradise and inviting you there.

But I want to ask you, what do you see when you close your eyes?

The new season has officially started, or have we bypassed this one for summer already? Well either way I know I have switched seasons because:

1-      My toes are free – well sometimes anyways.

2-      I have officially gone out for my first walk of the year.

3-      I have officially gotten my first migraine – triggered by the heat and pressure change.

4-      I have had my first popsicle

5-      I have seen the sun set from Books@cafe’s terrace

6-      I have seen the moon rise also from Books@cafe’s terrace

7-      I have opened my chest of clothing and pulled out some of my summer clothes

8-      The days are getting longer and we will switch to summer time by the end of this week.

So is it summer or spring? Who cares my toesy woseys are FREE.

                               free toes

OK so today is Mother’s day, last month we had Valentine ’s Day, there will be a flag day, a best friend day, a tooth fairy day even, but my question is … what happened to everyday? I am sick of all this man made constructs f days that are pointless. Let me explain, the person who invented mother’s day must have had a great relationship with his or her mother and decided to celebrate it on a larger scale. That person then built this expectation and spread it. Today, we have gone into a commercialized and overly hyped state of recognizing our mothers. And please feel free to replace the word mother with any other word that suits the occasion. 

So today I am forced to recognize something someone somewhere decided to celebrate and obligated to fulfill an expectation set by others to make someone happy.  You know what… if my relationship with my mother is such I don’t need a mother’s day to recognize her. If I like my flag and respect it I don’t need a flag day to remember I am a proud flagger. You get the gist.

I am who I am. My relationships with people and things are what they are. I don’t need a day to celebrate these things I do that when and if I want. That’s what I would like to see happening. But the sad reality is I got my mother a gift she didn’t really like, we went out to a lunch I hope she enjoyed, and I got symbolically the one flower stem that didn’t measure up to my brother’s big bouquet.  Hmmm is it me or do I just not get it? Oh well we will be back to it being everyday tomorrow and for that I am happy to celebrate tonight… care to join me?

This past weekend I met the youngest person I know. I met baby Melon, who is still a baby in the womb. I had the privilege of escorting the expecting mommy to her doctor’s appointment. I’m not one to get excited bout babies or child birth and anything revolving around this topic, but I must say this was exciting. 

As the doctor moved the machine around the belly we got to see the baby lying there sleeping. We saw its hands up near its face, its long legs (takes on after the father there :D). We also glimpsed the baby’s belly and its tinny tiny stomach. But the most exciting thing was its face, there it was with eyes closed, a cute little nose, its chin, a big forehead, and little lips. It was a cute thing sleeping in there. We even got to see the baby’s brain. That visit was the coolest thing I did this weekend.

As we left I look over to my friend and told her its funny, I cant relate to babies in general, but this one is different. My relationship with Melon has started before the baby has come out into the world, and I think that will make all the difference.


By the way we call the baby Melon because we don’t know what gender it is yet and that how it will be until Melon pops out and says hello with a big old scream.

Play poster

Friday night I saw a play being performed at the King Hussein Center. It revolved around two people and their confrontations with daily issues. It was in three acts. the play required a lot of concentration, which if you know me I lack after the sun goes down, especially if I am placed in a dark room in a comfortable chair. So I made sure I put the effort in to stay awake and focused, the result of which are the following impressions.


The play, to me, was a commentary on modern society and relationships at the very basic level. It was the give and take and confrontations of two lovers, a married couple. It was daring in a way I hadn’t seen before: in its interaction between the actors, the dialogue, the issues. They were everyday things that we never really talk about. I heard a friend say it was about couples and as single people we can’t relate. For in their portrayal they spoke of their neurosis and their issues, things we can all relate to. Even in their struggle between each other I could see the dichotomy that lies within each of us and how we struggle between two poles.


We are all part male and part female. We are all socially conditioned and predisposed to certain behaviors and opinions. We all adhere in one way or another to the socially acceptable ideas, norms and ethos. Yet at the same time we struggle against them. We struggle with our selves, our fears, our beliefs, our gender roles, equity among others. And it was all there, if you chose to see it. And like us and our lives, it was inconclusive.

 

I think the play was enjoyable with its satire, sarcasm and cynicism. The actors, while maintaining the conflict, were able to make us laugh on numerous occasions. They reflected us and when we laughed we laughed at ourselves too. I only wished I could concentrate more on what was being said, for both actors spoke at the same time most times. But that too is part of our communication style, internally our confused soul and its voices try to drown each other out. With others we just want to be heard and so we don’t listen, we just shout, talk, drown the other out. We only hear ourselves. This makes our lives, our issues, our strife inconclusive, despite there always being an outcome of sorts.



That evening was mentally stimulating and even taxing. I enjoyed it and it was worth the hour or so of my time. I look forward to more theater in our cultural scene.  

Is it better to love or to be loved? This is a question that as a young girl I always answered with the later; For to be loved is to be cherished, to be made a princess, to be the center of someone’s world. Who does not want to be that? But if I am asked today my answer would be the former. I would much rather have loved and even lost to love than not at all.

To love someone was and in many was still is an abstract thought. Not only was it abstract but it was elusive too. For you see I was a cynic. To me love didn’t exist. My standard statement was love is a series of emotional needs that you project on someone and fulfill with that person. So basically fulfill the needs and you have found love. If the needs change and the relationship doesn’t evolve with that change you fall out of love.  So for me it was better to be the recipient of someone’s affections. It was all about supply and demand, and if it was on offer and someone wanted to give me their attention love and their affection, then hey why not?!

But that all changed drastically the day cupid shot his arrow and hit a bull’s-eye. I was a casualty, still am, for I have entered a whole other world. To experience love is something I never imagined or dreamed of in my wildest, most cynical dreams. Something I theorized about, but never expected. And so the irony of ironies happened and the cynic became a fool. And to this fool, to love is to feel and experience the world at a whole other level. You go through all the colors of emotion. You become someone you never were. You ache in anticipation and pain, you soar in thought and fulfillment.

 

It doesn’t matter if you lose to love because, in the end, you become alive. Alive with every touch, sound, smell, taste and sight around you; the jasmine in the air, the silkiness of a cat’s fur, the sweetness of chocolate, the twittering of birds at sunrise, the sunrise itself all take on new meanings. You notice what was obscure. You emit an energy, a rosy glow that can only be love. To feel all that is to know there is blood coursing through your  veins, you are alive.

So if I am to be asked today would I love or be loved? I would say I want both, and for the person to be one and the same. But life doesn’t always give you everything you want, and so I would choose to love. I would rather be alive with the love of another than burdened with the love of another. 

 

Life is all about choices. There are many things we choose, and others that are chosen for us. In my life there have been many milestones and many crossroads. Some I have chosen paths less traveled and others I took the safe exit. At some I was led down the path and others I blazed the trail. There were some where I followed unconsciously and others where I thought long and hard about where I am going and how I am going to get there. Some of these choices lead to dead ends; others have me spinning my wheels in place, whereas some have me going around in circles. My favorite choices are the ones that open up more possibilities and expand my world.

Today, sitting back and looking at my world I can see that my complexities arise from the choices I made as much as the choices I didn’t make. For example some of my choices were my full time position over freelancing. Choosing to visit Sri Lanka instead of Turkey. Going to a dietician but opting out of my weekly exercise game. But there are other things that happen and you don’t choose, who you fall in love with, who falls in love with you. Who your parents and family are, among other things we attribute to fate. And those things add more complexity to our lives.

I think that regardless of the outcomes of my decisions and those taken for me, I wouldn’t change a thing. I even include the bad decisions I have made, and trust me there were many. I wouldn’t want to change a thing because the sum of all the good, bad and the ugly has lead me to where I am. I am proud of who I am, of my accomplishments, and even my failures because I know that I have learned from them. My choices and those of fate have morphed me into who I am and as screwed up and as complex as that may be, I wouldn’t change a thing.


Mind you there are things that I would like to change today, but those are choices I might make today. And to that end I choose to end this rambling now.  

I saw a movie, an independent Jordanian movie. It was short and tackled a very important topic. Femicide: the killing of female babies. This is a very important subject and I commend the two young ladies behind this film. However, I left more than disgruntled from the film. Now I know this was no documentary and had no illusions of trying to be one. But I really think that more could have been done to deliver the message, as I couldn’t see one.


 

The film’s story was weak, I really couldn’t understand why a woman, who happily discussed having boys and girls with her husband to be, later buries her daughter in the absence of her husband. Had there been a conflict between the husband and wife, an explanation in dialogue about the reasons for the practice, anything to explain the behavior other than an aunt wishing the woman boys and not girls, I think I would have left a bit more satisfied with the film. 


 

Bu the film did have text citing facts about the matter at the end, but even these were too fast and I could never finish one screen before the next flickered on the screen. I would love to see the dialogue or the plot reworked to include more context instead of a happy couple followed by a single woman burying a child, without conflict, strife, or cultural subtext. I say this because this is not a common issue in our society nowadays. It has no background here and to portray an incomplete picture I think does not do this topic any justice.

 

Finally I would like to commend the filmmakers on the positive imagery of women when they show the potential of each girl and what she can aspire to be, away from traditional gender roles. So well done on that Batoul.

The prices have gone up. We are all feeling the crunch. I noticed it immediately with the commute to work and how my transportation costs went up by at least 15%. I also eat out a lot and the prices there have gone up by at least 20%. The electricity bill has sky rocketed because we can’t really afford to buy diesel anymore and if we do we use it frugally. I have yet to go grocery shopping but I fear the worst there. Will this stop or is there more to come? And I haven’t even spoken about surcharges or taxes.

A lot of my behavior is going to change in the coming months. Things I took for granted and spending without thought are behaviors of the past. Today, before I open my purse I think twice and thrice. But I am still very privileged. I can make these choices. What about the poor?

I have heard stories of shoes being stolen from mosques to burn as fuel. I have heard stories of child prostitution late at night. I have heard grumblings from all around. I have heard of farmers who have given up on their crops because they cant afford to water them anymore. The result? Everyone is trying to make an extra shilling from everyone. People are even complaining about a difference of three piasters now; The three piasters may not hold a lot of value, they sure do make a difference.

We are in a situation that will explode if the people are asked to give one more thing. There is nothing left for us but to sell our souls, and hike up our skirts if anything else goes up. AND IT WILL. Something’s gotta give and I don’t know what it is. I am not an economist, but whether it is to divorce the weakening dollar, increase wages and not marginally and insignificantly, and infuse the economy in a way that does not depend on handouts, something’s gotta give and soon.  I don’t want to see our skirts being hiked up in anyway.  

I am a selfish woman, sometimes even very selfish. This, I know, is a very strong statement. Strong because we, as a society, view selfishness as a very negative trait. We are taught at a very young age to share. As Arab women, we are taught at a very young age to be selfless, and place others constantly before us. There is a high value on the happiness of those around us, and as young girls we see and learn that a woman who sacrifices and puts her family, friends, and others in general before her is a virtuous, good woman. Selflessness is a highly prized virtue. Well I disagree, and I disagree strongly. I think being selfish is a good thing. 

I regard “I am a selfish woman” as a very positive affirmation of all my accomplishments and life achievements. I think it is completely and utterly OK to place a high value on the things you want, your desired achievements, and to go after them. One’s own priorities may not match those that are around them, but let me ask you this: when someone asks you to take their needs into consideration first, is this not selfishness on their part? I think it is. So why is it OK for us to come last then?

I used to be very selfless. I would place a much higher value on the happiness of others and their needs. This usually meant that I came out last if I even got a turn. I was a pleaser. If decisions were being made everyone’s contributions, needs, and or feelings were considered, by me, before mine. Sometimes, actually most times, this left me feeling frustrated, angry, or just disgruntled.

Today, I have put my foot down. I won’t do things I do not want to do. If our interests are at odds then I place a high value on my needs first and then consider the others. I am the most important person to me. Just as you are the most important person to yourself. Each one our universes revolves around us. I recognize that and for that I am called selfish. It is a tag I have no problem wearing, because I may not come out on top every time, but I sure as hell don’t come last every time either. 


Finally, I would like to say that putting myself first does not in any way mean that respect, consideration, or compassion for others is thrown out the window. It’s just that now the parameters of how my life and my decisions are made are different, and for that I am a very selfish woman J.

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