Friday, April 21, 2017

if you want your kids to remember you one day, be a monster (apparently)

This evening, as I sat with my daughters at the dining room table, engaged in post-dinner conversation, with the occasional interjected order of mine toward the older one to eat her vegetables, the question arose about how faulty human memory can be.

Do you have any memories from your younger years? Maybe around the time you were four or five or so?  I asked my second-born, Nini, who just turned 13. She shook her head, pulling her face into a clueless expression.
I remember something! Lee exclaimed, pushing away the carrots I had heaped on her plate.

I was excited to go down memory lane with her, when she revealed that the only vivid memory she seemed to be able to produce was when I supposedly almost choked her as a 6-year-old. I was mortified! I did no such thing! I practically shouted. Nini chimed in, apparently making the mnemonic connection immediately, from just hearing that one sentence. They both then recounted the story of how I once decided that Lee, the eternal "meal-refuser",  needed to eat the ravioli I had prepared, not via any stern or demanding commands, but by apparently grabbing her mouth and practically forcing a piece of ravioli into it. I found that hard to believe. I was that worked up about ravioli?! Knowing myself, that thing was not something I slaved over by hours of dough-making or whatever it is one needs to do when making ravioli from scratch. It probably came out of a can. Not exactly a meal to be proud of. No nutritional loss on my child's side here. In fact, probably would have been a good thing not to serve them this stuff in the first place.
But, my kids insisted that I lost it over those raviolis. They were crying tears from laughter at this point, embellishing the story with probably imaginary details. I, on the other hand, was almost in tears about how monstrous this act seemed to me in hindsight. I apologized profusely and explained to them that I do not recommend exposing oneself to motherhood of small children and working full time without help. Living with little kids is like living with tiny schizophrenia patients. But, sometimes, it can be mom who just goes crazy from stress and exhaustion. .... Just make sure you have an adult (!) partner and the proverbial village, I lectured as I fumbled for another excuse which would, perhaps more successfully, make me feel better.

After a minute or so, though, I wondered --- so, you are telling me .... that you don't remember ANYTHING from your childhood ... the thousands of times I exercised patience when you wouldn't eat your food, or would tell me the meal I just slaved over for an hour tastes like curtain, ... THAT composure you don't remember? Or the fact that I laid down with you every night to read and sing to you and often wait until you fell asleep. You don't remember that? Or the weekly outings to the park or the family art projects, .... all the endless spoiling basically ... for nothing? So .. THE ONLY REASON you remember that it was, in fact, ME who raised you so far, is because I once stuffed ravioli down your throat?! If I hadn't given you this one horrible memory, you may as well have been raised by someone else cuz clearly I could be anyone. Just swap me out.

The kids could not stop laughing. And instead of producing one nice, balancing memory, they thought of another incident, when I apparently chased them into the room so I could spank Lee on the bum for whatever reason (knowing Lee, there probably was a reason, but that's beside the point).

Anyway ... so now I'm really wondering... wth was it all for,  if they seem to only remember the bad stuff? What's the point of trying to be a good mother?!!

The bad moments are certainly outweighed at 99% by good or normal/non-traumatic regular family stuff. And, even if it is just at 80%, it is still a pretty darn good childhood they're getting. But apparently, all my efforts won't matter, because what they will walk away with, is the memory of that one time when I force-fed Lee a piece of canned pasta.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

inner religious turmoil (but not really)

I am sitting here ... it's Easter Sunday, the weather is unbelievably perfect, all my windows are open to let in a beautiful, warm cross breeze, birds are singing, and someone is barbecuing. It's a thing up here in my hood. The moment the temperature goes over 60 degrees Fahrenheit, people are at their grills imagining themselves in the still entirely too distant summer.
A perfect moment, but I am huffing with frustration. My kid is being taken to Easter Mass against my will. It's not that I have a problem with her joining church services. She goes to Catholic School, after all. But, the thing is ... we're technically Muslim. And, wait, this gets more complicated.

So - despite the fact that I was raised Muslim and my kids consider themselves Muslims, we don't really practice the religion. Except that we don't eat pork (that's a lie - we all secretly sneak bacon behind each other's back, for we are all worried about each other's judgment. This is particularly interesting, when we are out to brunch together with non-Muslim/non-Jewish friends and there is a plate of bacon, which we supposedly don't eat, but are all dying to add to our pancakes.)

The fact that we don't practice created the problem that my younger daughter, Nini, started to not believe in God. This to me was horrifying, for I find it a necessity of life to have faith. She may not know this now, but things can get really dark and desperate in one's time on Earth. There were times that my God belief saved me or, at least, was the only comfort I had when everything around me was in shambles and I felt completely alone. Anyway ... I don't want to get lost on this tangent but, let's just say, I would like for my children not to be atheists.
Turns out, if you don't talk about God with them (or place them in some religious community/framework), there is a good chance they will be atheists. And so, I decided, Catholic School may be a good place for my little one (who, btw, isn't little anymore - she is 12). This school also happened to be the only good option in my neighborhood.
I want her to know the stories of the Bible, for most of them are also in the Qur'an, and I believe, knowing the main stories of the Abrahamic books is kinda common knowledge. That said, I also don't necessarily want her to believe them, literally.

Easter Sunday is big for Christians. I understand that Easter Mass isn't just regular church service. It means a lot. Urbi et Orbi and stuff. (My mom is Catholic; she, and by default - we, would watch the pope's blessing on Easter Sunday every year.). So, it's one thing if my kid has to attend the service every day at school, but it's another thing if she goes to Easter Mass with other people outside of school. (She had spent the night at a friend's house.)
I decided that I needed to counter-balance this event with some research on my part. Put the whole Easter thing in Muslim perspective for her. Just so she has a reference and her information isn't just one-sided. I felt, it's my duty as a mother. The reality here is, of course, that I am outsourcing her religious education and I need to figure out how to make sure she doesn't get lost over there. (Nini, btw, isn't really that invested. I'm most likely freaking out for no reason, for she just wants to hang out with her friends who happen to all be dragged to church by their more involved parents. ... "They just sang a whole lot of songs and gave us a bottle of holy water, which I forgot at my friend's house," Nini reported when I voiced my concerns about all this.). Nonetheless, I spent my Easter morning researching how Islam sees the whole resurrection of Christ story. Hence the earlier mentioned frustration. It seems impossible to find an unbiased opinion out there. Why can't I just get facts? Ideally, I would like historical facts, combined with direct quotes from the Qur'an and then a juxtaposition of this to the Biblical texts, explaining the differences and why such differences may have developed.

What I have learned from my hours of reading at various places on the internet are the following things:
 - Christians didn't really do Easter since the beginning of their time (it's a thing of the New Testament)
- The cross wasn't a Christian symbol (or, at least, there is a question about its origins)
- Muslims believe in Jesus (of course) but what I didn't realize is that they also believe in him as the chosen Messiah (Christ) who is said to return one day, in Damascus of all places. They also believe he is the only one of God's prophets who was without sin.
- Easter is heavily influenced by Pagan rituals (no news to most of us, as that's a historical fact ... combination of Christian and Pagan rituals to make the transition easier for people .. Easter bunny is a sign of fertility ... Christmas tree is a traditional/folkloric thing .. as we now know, Jesus was born in March).
- Muslims don't believe Jesus died on the cross but that God saved him

But - that's pretty much all I could find until I gave up. It wasn't enough information and, ultimately, just one belief against the other - so, nothing I could work with.

This whole excursus just reminded me of the fact that accurate accounts of anything are hard to come by. People twist stories the way they want to see things all the time. I believe, now we have a term for this: "alternative facts". Even when we have EVIDENCE to the contrary (e.g. video footage), people are still able to perpetuate completely fabricated "truths".
Now - what are the chances, man has been in the habit of doing this since the beginning of time?

Just sayin' ....

I guess, that's why we have to take all these stories with a grain of salt, or a big pinch of it, or, the whole salt shaker on occasion (especially, as it comes to religion).

I suppose, the best way to approach this is to find statements and messages that overlap or repeat in all the main religious stories. Those are probably the most accurate and worthy of consideration, if you so will. Also - the ones that speak to your inner compass. I think, we have all been equipped with it, but it can get corrupted over time and then those general rules come in handy (given, said people accept them as God-given laws).

 - Thou shalt not kill
                    .... steal
                    .... commit adultery
                    .... covet your neighbor's stuff (and wife)
                    etc., etc.
plus ....
- honor your parents
- pray
- treat people the way you would like to be treated (you know, ... the do unto others thingy)

Not bad guidelines to live by.

Btw. ... I totally gave my kids chocolate Easter bunnies yesterday, as they were leaving for the weekend. And Christmas is my favorite holiday of the year - mostly because of that pretty tree.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

you should do this

If someone were to ask you to describe the perfect day in a most perfect future, would you be able to do it? I've heard about this exercise and its seemingly magical power a few times now, but who finally convinced me to sit down and do, it was a guest on the Tim Ferriss show (if you're not listening to Tim's podcast, you're missing out on some truly deep and enlightening conversations).

Debbie Millman talked about not only her own success with this exercise, but also reports how many of her students, whom she has assigned said exercise to, reconnect years later to, incredulously, share how their perfect dream lives have become reality.

I already know how certain visualizations can manifest themselves, however, I've never gone to this specific extreme. I have to say, even though I was convinced I needed to do this exercise, I found myself at a loss of what my perfect day 5 years from now would look like. I suppose, it may have been due to fear of wishing for the wrong thing (like when I desperately wished to meet my soulmate, forgetting that I was already married. Not only did the manifestation of this dream ruin my marriage, it also "trapped" me in a deeply dependent love with someone who was highly dysfunctional and ultimately lost the battle with his demons, leaving me devastated and in grief for years.)
I also had just passed a paragraph in Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat Pray Love, introducing a character who, for several years prayed for nothing but an open heart and then received his wish ... in the form of open heart surgery. So, I was a tiny bit apprehensive.

But, the other day, I finally decided I'm just going to sit down and let it flow out of me, with care and consideration, but without fear. I ended up writing for almost three hours. I couldn't believe it when I looked up at the clock. Furthermore, I had immersed myself so deeply into the writing of my dream day of the future, that I actually felt the moments of the day. I experienced love and excitement, an increase in my heart rate, a warmth in my chest, a shot of adrenaline and dopamine. I was so deep in, that I found myself disoriented when "my day" came to an end and I put the pen down.

Even if nothing becomes true, it was an amazing feeling to write this perfect day of 2022. Even just for that, it was worth doing it.

Now - I wait and see, I guess. Wait and see and keep moving.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

charity is supposed to make you feel good...

I just finished organizing a charity event that left me entirely too bitter about the state of humanity. It was a free family portrait day at a Domestic Violence Shelter for Mothers and their Children, based on an idea called Help Portrait.

It's not that it didn't go well. Despite my occasional panic attacks leading up to the big day, it all worked out well in the end. I had four much-needed experts sign up literally hours before everything went into production and everyone who did come to volunteer was lovely, amazing, and grateful to be there! Not to mention, how happy the moms were to get pampered and have professional pictures taken with their kids. It should have made me feel good. And, it did. But my resentment toward the people who did not help was greater. Usually the glass-half-full, there's-always-a-silver-lining type of person, I could not get over the fact that a lot of my friends completely ignored my request for help.

I try to remind myself that this is just human nature. We care about the things that touch us.
A great example would be the story of a Facebook friend of mine getting attacked in front of his building a few days ago. The moment I read that he and his girlfriend were okay and nothing really happened to them, I moved on emotionally. To him, however, it was huge. He called several news outlets to get his story published, has been posting regular updates and surveillance camera pictures on Facebook; it consumed him and I could not relate emotionally. Nobody was hurt was all that mattered.

Nothing matters to us unless we can connect to it emotionally.

I guess, in a way then, I failed to make my friends connect to my cause.

This whole situation also reminded me of the fact that people are just people. Not everyone knows how to be a good friend (not out of malice but simply because they don't know any better or may just be too busy to engage). Some friends may need to be taught how to be of better support.

Instead of trying to cut out all the people I feel abandoned by (slightly immature and rash type of decision), it may be more productive to take the time and address them individually about their short-comings. They may have reasons or excuses. We may argue, but at least, we would be communicating. If there is one thing life has taught me, it is that some conflict is best weathered as opposed to being repressed.

And yet, I pathologically avoid conflict, which ultimately just hurts me, for it creates an internal hub of resentment that broods negativity, something I'm desperately trying to stay away from. So, in order to remove a more permanent state of negativity, I will need to endure small bouts of negativity (i.e. conflict). ... OR ... perhaps, there is one more option here...

I COULD JUST FORGIVE AND FORGET. ... That would probably be the most Zen thing to do in this situation.
Forgiveness also creates positivity within oneself and thus can remove harbors of resentment and negativity. So .. maybe I just need to forgive them for being human. Humans are (can be) self-involved, cold, egoistic ... and maybe less maliciously so: scatterbrained, busy, forgetful, and sometimes not compassionate enough.
Just focus on all the support you DID receive, I tell myself. But, instead of letting myself feel good about the generous donations by some of my friends, I focus on the cheap ones by friends I've supported for years and who make sick amounts of money. I almost want to send those $10 or $20 back their way. And then I try to remind myself that - AGAIN - this is not about me. It's about my cause. They don't associate me with my cause. They are not emotionally connecting with my cause and it's as simple as that.

... Spending money is an emotional matter. Inviting a friend for a cup of $5 coffee may be a pleasure, while giving that same friend the same $5 to buy cigarettes feels like you're giving up your life's savings.

Monday, January 02, 2017

what i woke up to this morning (straight from my head onto paper it went)

It is the last free day before school starts again and I will be returned to a forced schedule of daily 6 a.m. risings. I lay in bed with my eyes refusing to open, ignoring the commando of yesterday's self, which set an alarm for a reasonable hour as to slowly adjust to the harsh reality of the upcoming schedule change.

Over are the 3 a.m. bedtimes of winter vacation. No more sleeping til noon just cuz I can. Good bye, sufficient hours of sleep. Welcome back, rings under my eyes.

I am holding on to this last morning of leisure like a small child attached to its mother's leg, attempting to stop her inevitable departure into the work day.

Dreams and reality exchange secret, complicated hand shakes as I drift in and out of sleep. In my head, I create brilliant story snippets and paragraphs, which turn out to be utter nonsense when briefly examined during intermittent, awake moments. Turtle-esque, I retract my head back into the protection of my covers, escaping too much light and too much world.

At last, one of the children appears at my bedside.
- "Weren't you gonna get up early?"
- "Go away!" I moan melodramatically.

Fine. I capitulate. Sleep has lost. My dreams now only surreal memories, I reluctantly unravel myself from the sheets to seize the day (or, let's start with a humble bathroom visit first and leave the "seizing" for a bit later.)

Sunday, January 01, 2017

dreaming small for the new year

Last New Year's Eve I spent alone at home, convincing myself that I don't need no-stinkin'-body to have a good time. Well, .. while that may be true for almost every other day or night of the year, on NYE, it's just a pathetic statement which is clearly based on self-delusion. So, this year, I made sure to invite a crazy amount of people to my place to ring in 2017 with the proper amount of rowdiness and noise. I paid for that decision with hours of preparation, a deep reach into my pocket, and even more hours of clean up, but it was worth it.

Anyway .. that's not why I'm here.
I wanted to write down some goals, for one thing I have heard over and over again in the past few years of listening to interviews with successful entrepreneurs and visionaries, it is that one must write down or somehow visualize their goals and dreams.

I am experiencing some problems with this concept. It's not that I don't believe in the effectiveness of this exercise. I do! In fact, on occasion, I have found it work for myself, if I'm clear and directed enough. And this is exactly where my issue lies. It's that I am pretty content where I am right now. Am I too modest with my dreams? None of the things I really need are of material value and I have most of them. Health, a warm and happy home with two lovely children; my apartment isn't fancy, but it's got a pretty view and the sun illuminates everything from morning to evening; I have had true love in my life and now I'm at a point at which I absolutely love being solo (no dating frustrations, no relationship issues ... just real freedom). My kids are in good schools and I don't work for anyone (i.e. no drama there either).
As far as I'm concerned, I'm good. Thank you, God! And thanks for giving me a break. Because 2013 into 2015 were pretty rough.

But, I know, without the willingness to change, nothing will change. That sounds like a pretty dumb statement. ... What I mean is that ... progress is only possible through the agent of change and to fulfill one's potential, one should always dream big. So -- I've decided, I'm going to try to dream bigger this year.

I did write a list of these "big" dreams in my daily journal, but when I sat down to meditate on this first day of the year, I found myself praying for completely different things.
Instead of asking for financial success and career fulfillment, I found myself in prayer for help.
Help to ....

  • keep my mind clean and uncorrupted from the influences of mass media and the masses, in general
  • continue to remember what is really important in life (not materialistic things, but health, love, family, inner peace, time with friends, intellectual stimulation, connection with the divine, as well as our true selves.)
  • be not only generous but enthusiastically generous
  • serve my purpose on this planet
  • help others in need (hopefully via one of my callings)
  • stay healthy
  • be kind, always.
  • forgive, truly.
  • keep track of my priorities (children before everything else.)
Then I also found myself begging for the impossible. Peace on earth. Peace on earth. Chanting it like a mantra until I realized this may be impossible (like asking for a law of physics to change). A better thing to ask for, I decided mid-inner-chant, would be that all those who do have to suffer through darkness (war, loss, grief, or sickness) be given a little light in their days, despite their dire realities. Lord knows, such moments were what got me through my times of rock-bottom.

So much for my "big" dreams.  ...

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

gilmore girls spoiler causes injury to helpless mom

I've tried to refrain from binge-watching the recently released Gilmore Girls sequel episodes. I wanted to savor them. Watch one episode per week, so I could delay the withdrawal symptoms I surely would suffer from, once I was done with them all. Unfortunately, I live with another Gilmore Girls fanatic. One of my own creation, no less: my younger daughter Nini, who is now 12 years old.

The moment the new episodes were released, this kid proceeded to watch all four seasons over the course of two days (each season captured in a movie-length episode). From the moment she began her full-immersion experience, she needed to comment and gasp at every scene change it seemed. Needless to say, there was a lot of yelling on my part, ordering her from the other room to keep her reactions to herself! Not only was she not able to follow this order, she also felt the great need to more effectively share her excitement by running over to me so she could hint at what was happening on the screen. Since my ear-covering and humming loudly to drown her out wasn't effective as more than an interim solution, I had to escalate the situation to physical removal of said disobedient child. And while she found my shoving and pushing funny, I got actually hit in the face by a door edge in the process. A door I was trying to close on this little Gilmore Girls spoiler.

The problem is that I seem to be the only one who has been trying to savor the new episodes while everyone else has watched them like Nini did (i.e. immediately and all at once) and is already talking about them everywhere. So, I had to catch up and get with the program and am now almost finished with the last of the four episodes.

As I was watching the very first few minutes of "Winter" (the episodes are named after the four seasons), I was so excited. I don't recall being this excited about anything since childhood. It's ridiculous. And like with anything you're super excited about, there is always a let down, for the higher your expectations, the deeper the fall.

First of all, I really do enjoy seeing everyone again. It's like you get a piece of your past back. It feels a little bit like time traveling. So many things have stayed the same and I love it because I truly dislike change, an inevitable constant in everyone's lives. Following the camera as it pans over this familiar set, showing us characters we've met a decade ago, brings nostalgia and a sense of security, as well as contentment that all is right with this world.

Alas, things have changed. Rory's character has changed completely. She is now drinking hard liquor in the day time, lacks journalistic integrity or professionalism, and is having an affair with her ex who is practically married. Soap opera kind of material. It's like the writers were trying so hard to make her character of modern times, it became a bit cliché. We loved Rory because she was so golden and rare. A girl with principles, not without faults, of course .. but, generally, a good person with integrity and a strong moral compass. Someone we could admire.

Overall, the plot and dialogue isn't as strong as it was in the originals, but it has its moments. And, just like when I saw Twilight (which was awful and beautiful at the same time), I have too much love for the Gilmore Girls characters not to finish watching.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

is it wrong to combine smoke breaks with mediation?

I live by a fairly busy street and have grown used to the noise of passing cars, so it is particularly strange when it suddenly becomes completely silent outside because of an unpredictable traffic hole. I love this phenomena. I usually pause everything I'm doing, for the moment almost begs for attention. I was just presented with one of these rare moments. An opportunity to pause and listen to what remains - the birds, the sound of the wind in the treetops. A micro-meditation.

I've become accustomed to such mini-meditations, for I have decided a while back that I will settle for whatever brief pocket of time I can find in order to rebalance myself. Yesterday was so busy (although, I can't remember anything I did) that I combined my mini meditation with a cigarette on the fire escape. Is it wrong to combine Om-chants with smoking breaks?
I can't stand pan-flute music, but apparently it's a very hip instrument in the meditation music genre. So, I was very happy when I finally found this very basic Om-chant online.

I first learned about the ataractic physical sensation brought on by chanting when I was forced to go to a yoga class by one of my friends. She was actually teaching the class, so I had to be there for support. I used to despise yoga and thus it was a true friendship service for me to attend, particularly challenging in nature, for she included candle lighting by a picture of some guru and then - oh God - the chanting. However, I have to admit, to my great surprise, when I dutifully (and supportively) chanted along with the room, something happened. The vibrations of everyone humming together were incredibly realxing and left me liberated from the tension I had carried in my shoulders as well as, once again, reminding of the rewarding possibilities of opening up one's horizons.

Nowadays, I try to recreate this feeling of chant-vibration-induced serenity by sitting in front of a base-heavy speaker playing similar Om chants I find on Spotify. It's subpar to the real thing, sitting in a room full of people chanting together in unison, but it's like my micro-meditations: it'll do. it'll do.

Friday, November 11, 2016

making sense of things (and not)

I usually just write my own stuff (with a quote here and there), but this piece in New York Magazine really struck a chord with me and since nobody seems to have the attention span to read a long article anymore, I've pulled a few paragraphs to summarize Mr. Sullivan's point (or at least, my perceived point of the article):

"American democracy has been able to thrive with unprecedented stability over the last couple of centuries even as it has brought more and more people into its embrace. It remains, in my view, a miracle of constitutional craftsmanship and cultural resilience. There is no place I would rather live. But it is not immortal, nor should we assume it is immune to the forces that have endangered democracy so many times in human history." [...]

"In Eric Hoffer’s classic 1951 tract, 'The True Believer', he sketches the dynamics of a genuine mass movement. He was thinking of the upheavals in Europe in the first half of the century, but the book remains sobering, especially now. Hoffer’s core insight was to locate the source of all truly mass movements in a collective sense of acute frustration. Not despair, or revolt, or resignation — but frustration simmering with rage. Mass movements, he notes (as did Tocqueville centuries before him), rarely arise when oppression or misery is at its worst (say, 2009); they tend to appear when the worst is behind us but the future seems not so much better (say, 2016). It is when a recovery finally gathers speed and some improvement is tangible but not yet widespread that the anger begins to rise." [...]
"But the most powerful engine for such a [mass] movement — the thing that gets it off the ground, shapes and solidifies and entrenches it — is always the evocation of hatred. [...] And what makes Trump uniquely dangerous in the history of American politics [...] is his response to all [...] enemies. It’s the threat of blunt coercion and dominance.

And so after demonizing most undocumented Mexican immigrants, he then vowed to round up and deport all 11 million of them by force. “They have to go” was the typically blunt phrase he used — and somehow people didn’t immediately recognize the monstrous historical echoes. The sheer scale of the police and military operation that this policy would entail boggles the mind. [...]

[Trump's] movement is clearly fascistic in its demonization of foreigners, its hyping of a threat by a domestic minority (Muslims and Mexicans are the new Jews), its focus on a single supreme leader of what can only be called a cult, and its deep belief in violence and coercion in a democracy that has heretofore relied on debate and persuasion."


It's an older article but the analysis is still (tragically) on point...

Friday, November 04, 2016

on gratitude

Every morning, I sit down to write a bullet list of things I am grateful for, a good practice I heard about on Tim Ferriss's podcast a while back. It's hard for me to be grateful in the mornings. I'm not very happy (i.e. grateful) to be awake, nor am I particularly articulate. In fact, my children know not to tick me off in the mornings, for I am an animal of instinct when I've just woken up. This usually very composed and restrained mama will become a force to be reckoned with if poked in the early hours of the day. There is cursing, needless aggression over Nutella depletion or teenage clothing choices, there are non-sensical accusations and things are said that would never come out of my mouth at any other time of the day. So, at this point, I have trained my children well to keep things calm in the morning and not agitate me, for I will regress into something, which nobody in the house wants to deal with (including me).

But - other than my state of morning madness, I am pretty much grateful all the time. For everything. Okay, maybe not everything. But, a lot. I am so incredibly grateful so often during the day that I feel it is, perhaps, built in. Is gratitude part of human nature? Or is it nurture? So many people seem to not be grateful or appreciative at all. Or maybe, I just don't know that they are. Or could it be that they are, but just for the wrong reasons? Can there even be such a thing as a wrong reason for gratitude? Do dictators, ISIS members, and other atrocious members of our world experience gratitude? And, if yes, what for? Does it still qualify as wholesome gratitude if the appreciation is for something awful or selfish? Then again, isn't all gratitude due to some sense of selfishness? We are grateful because something is good for us. Although, we do experience gratefulness on behalf of people we care about, right? Question is, is that a true altruistic sentiment or is it also based in the "selfish" interest of making oneself feel good?

Monday, October 24, 2016

school dress codes: a form of slut-shaming?

After reading this (and watching all the embedded videos) ...

.... I had to take a moment to comment:

I have several things to say here…. as a female, a feminist, and mother of two teenage girls.

1.) A dress code isn’t teaching boys that it is okay to harass women/girls if they’re showing skin. Their upbringing, their character, and the company they keep will nurture or shun such Neanderthal behavior .. which brings me to point number 2...

2.) The last video snippet mentions, dress codes are *teaching* boys that they are “biologically programmed” to objectify women. No offense, but aren’t they (the great majority, anyway)? … They are biologically programmed to spread their seed. #facts

3.) I don’t understand in which way teaching girls how to dress more modestly (and with more awareness) is slut shaming. But honestly, I’m still not completely sure what slut shaming *really* is. Schools' clothing policies are just an attempt to reverse a different type of dress code. One that seems to be deeply embedded in most teens of today’s society: the hyper-sexual dress code imposed on our girls by the media, only that they seem to be so “brain-washed”, they don’t even know they are adhering to a code.
I can’t tell you the drama that goes on in my house about clothing choices every morning. Why? Why?! You are going to school. Throw on some jeans and a T-shirt. Done. It’s not a fashion show. You’re going there to learn...which brings me to point number 4....

4.) There are some disturbing comments being made by school administrators in these videos. ("Not all behinds look cute in leggings" .. ?!! Ehm, what?!) …. Not only are such comments distorting the message, but they are also insulting, thus creating a rebellious response.
This shouldn’t be about rebellion — it should be about education. The problem is that schools are trying to undo damage that has already been done. .. Or, let’s say “change” instead of “damage”, only that I still have to be convinced it’s the former and not the latter. I’m not a total prude, I swear, but I have lived long enough on this planet to know that it is NOT just a saying that “boys will be boys” … it’s a fact. And, if these boys/men have learned how to behave themselves, which many of them have, they’re still thinking things…. and this brings me to my last point…

5.) I would like to see some interviews with boys and men about the subject matter. All we are hearing here (in the videos) are girls’ opinions. Us wishing that most men are not driven by sexuality, is naive. They simply are. Most of them, anyway. Which is why women’s bodies sell products so well. Which is why female models, on average, make 70% more than male models. .. It’s sad, but it’s a fact. … And, ultimately, that fact should make you, as a female, want to cover up, for such an act will be truly rebellious, make your body yours (and I don't mean burka-style, obviously). Divert the attention to what should matter only — your intellect, your talents, your character. … But… yea, okay .. that’s wishful thinking, too. That’s never going to happen. People are entirely too superficial to not care about appearances. (big sigh)

PS: In the meantime, I am trying to package this message in a way that doesn’t result in me slut-shaming my daughters, who are vehemently supporting the ideas outlined in the above linked article. In the end, all I want is children that think critically, walk with self-awareness as well as self-respect, and who understand the basic workings of this world. I also want them to have the courage to change what they see as wrong and take a stand about the things they're passionate about. However, I’m not sure if this here is a misguided fight...What should be our/their target is the media and how it portrays (and dresses) women and girls.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

perspective ...

I got a $138 ticket for rolling through a stop sign WHILE looking straight at the cops parked on the corner. Apparently, I was too "high" on my 250mg of acetaminophen to react to the situation appropriately (‪#‎painmedsLightweight‬). Getting caught violating the traffic rules, is usually something that makes me angry. I know, it makes no sense, since it's my own fault, but sometimes we just don't make sense.

As the officers were writing me my fine, I sat waiting and listening to NPR and then simply became too sad to continue to be upset about this ticket. The story on the radio featured a refugee woman who watched the love of her life and a hundred other people drown after their boat was forcibly capsized. She also was given a toddler to join her on the flimsy little swim ring she was clinging on to and then had to watch as the child's mother drowned in front of her.

This just really put things into perspective and made it impossible for me to be aggravated by this traffic fine. In fact, it made me feel guilty to even have entertained the thought of feeding into my mundane aggravation. I had to hold back my tears about the story so the officers wouldn't think I'm crying about this stupid ticket, and I'm sad to admit, there have been days I have cried over something as ridiculous as a traffic fine.

Every day, I am grateful that we don't live in a war zone and don't have to know the unimaginable suffering so many people in this world today have to know. Every day, when I speak this gratitude I also ask and wish that the people in these terrible situations are given moments of strength, light, and hope.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

a true revelation

I have been struggling with a certain inability to get over someone I should not even be having to "get over." It is a guy who is 10 years younger than I, a total playboy (or f***boy as they call them nowadays), someone who drinks and smokes too much, someone I would have never thought I could fall for. And, I probably didn't, ..... but it feels like it.
And here is what I mean by that.

Let's call this (29-yr-old) boy Tiburon. The Spanish word for shark, which is what they call him out there, as he is known for his womanizing ways. I chose to hang out with T deliberately for these reasons. I didn't want a relationship or anything serious.  In the beginning of last year I had attempted to have one of those and failed miserably, for I was simply still grieving over J, who I lost in 2013.

T was perfect. He was honest, funny, and charming. And he danced with a special kick in his step.
In the summer, I took a break from him, because I noticed that I began to get emotionally involved despite the fact that we were in a completely open arrangement. I'm one of those people who runs away when they feel vulnerable (i.e. develop feelings for someone).
T stayed away but kept reaching out for months asking to get together. I finally gave in on my birthday. I was alone and thought, foolishly, that I could keep it at coffee and would be able to resist him otherwise. From that day on (back in October), he came over almost every single day. It was beautiful. We never fought - because we weren't in a relationship and made no claims over one another. It was nothing but positivity and carefree evenings together, followed by nights in each other's embrace.
There were a few strange elements - for example, Mr. Player who used to come over for nothing but sex in the beginning suddenly didn't want to have any at all for long stretches of time. He also used to kiss much more than he then did when we saw each other daily. But, somehow, our intimacy still grew stronger despite this lack of physical action.

By the end of the year - around Christmas - he had an emotional breakdown. And, I don't mean that in the traditional sense of the word. I mean, this boy, who never let me in emotionally (i.e. we never talked about us ... and especially not about what he was feeling), suddenly opened up to me big time. It could all have been the liquor talking. Or the smoke or whatever. But, what he said, he told me while holding both my hands with tears streaming down his face. He said that I was perfect, that he didn't deserve me, that he can't give me what I want (he may have come to the conclusion that I want a baby - my fault), but that he can't even go with other girls anymore because he feels guilty. Now, if that isn't honesty then I don't understand this world. But, the things he did say to me were later identified as three red flags in identifying a man who is about to run. (I have learned this because I spent weeks watching dating advice videos after we split - trying to [a] understand what just happened and [b] get the F over this pain I felt over the loss of a relationship that wasn't even officially a relationship!

Anyway, so - naturally, the baring of his innermost thoughts suddenly created feelings on my end. Or, should we say, revealed them, for I was not aware that I felt this way, at all. Two days later, my jealousy had become so intense that I told him this isn't working and cut myself out of the equation. Because, here I was, falling for a total player. Danger! Danger! So, I ran because I was afraid of getting hurt down the road. What I did instead, of course, was hurt myself (and maybe him?) prematurely and I totally didn't anticipate how badly it would affect me. How could I be this emotionally touched by someone who barely wanted to sleep with me?

T obeyed my wishes without a fight. A fight, I wish maybe he would have taken up. But, I guess, the lack thereof should be a testament on its own about the true depth of his feelings for me. Maybe he was just not that into me and whatever he said, he said because he wasn't sober.

But - whatever it may be - the separation was an agonizing struggle for me. To make matters worse, he had another chick in like a minute, something he didn't feel the need to be discreet about as he posted picture after picture of her on his social media feeds, which brings me to the conclusion that this may be more than just one of his many alternatingly used girls. I still see them together. Looks like he may actually like this one more than anyone else. Or, maybe he saw what a nice relationship could be when we were together and finally opened himself up to the real thing again. That thought feels better on the ego, so I'll go with that. Alas, it doesn't make the sadness any less intense.

What did take away some of my melancholy and obsession about this (or maybe not, since I am now writing about it) was a nearly spiritual experience I had last Friday. And this is why I am actually here. To document this strange revelation.

So ... this whole past week had been a struggle. More so than usual did I obsess about T, and then, simultaneously, spent time upset with myself that I was still m-f-in' thinking about him. It made NO sense! Why? He clearly had moved on. He clearly was never into me. We clearly had no future (for I have no interest in being with a self-involved player and yet another man who doesn't know he has a substance abuse problem.)
By Friday, after working until 1 a.m., until I literally couldn't look at the computer anymore, I stood there in my office room frustrated that I went right back from work focus to being sad about T. I ordered myself to stop thinking and decided to just relax, listen to music, and smoke (by myself, which is something I never really do but I didn't want to talk any of my friends' ear off  about T for yet another evening). As I sat there, the music's beat synchronizing to my heart, looking out the window, I noticed from the corner of my eye that a picture of my kids had fallen over on the shelf over my desk. I decided to get up and fix it and when I did, I noticed, that it had revealed my copy of the Qu'ran standing on the shelf. It was a copy that my ex-husband had brought into the house more than a decade ago and I had never actually opened it. I was raised Muslim, but I'm just not a religious person anymore. I believe in God (in an abstract way) and even in guardian angels (and that is a whole other story), but I don't really want to have anything to do with organized religion anymore. I believe it has its benefits but, I feel, mostly, it divides people when it should bring everyone together. ... Anyway ... this experience, even though it was religious .. ironically .. did bring all my friends of different beliefs together.. but let me not jump ahead of myself.

So - there it was ... this old, heavy translation of the Qu'ran. "This seems like a message", I thought to myself as I looked at all the other propped pictures on the shelf standing right were they were before. I dismissed it and returned to my futon to sit down. "Yea, but I don't want to read any heavy religious texts right now. ... I don't want to run into anything sexist that's gonna upset me .. I just don't want to ruin my high here." ... S! You listen when you're being spoken to. ... "Yea, but, I have my period anyway, and I'm not supposed to touch the Qu'ran on my period." (Something that I had learned when I was a kid and that kind of stuck. Like the not eating pork thing. Not religious anymore, just ingrained behavior.) ... -- Lame excuse. .. But, anyway, ... in case you haven't noticed ... you may be on your period - BUT - you have not bled ONE drop today all day. ... so, what is your excuse now?
I decided to end my inner soliloquy, for I began to feel guilty, and got back up to retrieve the book from the shelf. I sat down and opened it to a random page, starting to read in the middle of the page, and - I kid you not - this is what it said:

A direct response to my agony over how this didn't make sense but then again, maybe I had really fallen for him?! I was about to completely lose my way when this kinda set me straight.

T is not real love. It is all about self-indulgence. It is all about me, not him.
T managed to bring light into my life and make me forget, for just a moment, that there is a giant void left by J's death. T brought light-heartedness and hope back to me. He wasn't meant to stay and me now finding myself convinced that I must love him because I can't get over him, is a false conclusion.

I shared this passage with a few girlfriends and each one of them was able to relate to it in a different way as it applied to their situation, which made me think about how beautiful (but also dangerous then) it is what one can do with religious texts. Beautiful because it can be so versatile in its interpretation as to fit many different situations in life; dangerous because we all know what people throughout history have done with religious texts (interpreting them to their advantage). Let me not get started on this, because just the thought of this makes me upset. Extremist groups in the Middle East being some of the worst examples for this abuse of a guidance book that is meant to help people live better lives. And all in order to serve their own selfish desires. Ok, must stop now before I start an unrelated rant.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

fixed vs. growth mindset

Listened to a podcast the other day about the science of success. It's the name of the podcast, actually.
This particular episode was about the significance of our mindset regarding our general success in life. Matt Bodnar, the host, referred to a book called "Mindset" when he described a so-called "fixed" and "growth" mindset.

A fixed mindset type of person is someone who tends to internalize criticism or poor performance as a reflection of their own failure, as opposed to a growth-mindset type of person, who looks for challenges, and considers criticism or poor performance as opportunities for improvement and growth.

This reminded me of Neil DeGrasse Tyson's visit on NPR's show "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", during which he managed to answer every obscure question they asked incorrectly. When the host asked him if he feels bummed, being the smartest man alive and all, Tyson's answer was quite beautiful. "No," he said in a chipper tone,"in fact, I'm happy I didn't get any of the questions right because this means, I learned three new things today!"