That Moment…

That moment when you’re watching a movie and a character starts to speak your mind…

Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life.  Well, valuable, but small. And sometimes I wonder… do I do it because I like it or because I haven’t been brave?  So much of what I see reminds me of something in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t want an answer. I want to send this cosmic question to the void. So, good night, dear void.

 

But I do like my life, so I really don’t care why it’s this way or where it’s heading…

Just out of Curiousity

I’m a curious person, so curious that I could go to any lengths to know something, I could even surprise myself

Now, let’s suppose, just suppose – Not that I’m actually addressing someone or anything- that there is something I want to know and you refuse to tell me

Then I say okay, I don’t want to know, I don’t care

Then suddenly I find out that I still don’t care but I do want to know

Well, I won’t ask you, I’ll just do something even I didn’t imagine I would do which will make someone else come and tell me what I want to know without me even asking

In the process of devising that I entertain the idea whether I should or should not ruin your life while I’m at it, but then I discover I’m better than that, not because you don’t deserve it but because I’m not that evil, 7aram…

But of course all of this is just a supposition, we’re just supposing things

A Writer’s Schizophrenia

There’s no way I’m writing about this, it’s basically unwritable

It’s tempting, could be a good idea

Well it might not be a great idea but I don’t care, I want to get it out of my system

I’m so excited!

Ugh, I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t go through with this

This is awesome, I’m a genius

Who’s gonna read this junk?

This might be a good thrill

I’m probably gonna be grilled but it doesn’t matter

I don’t want to do anything else but to sit down and write this

Now what?

This is even better than I thought it would be

I want to cry

 

 

 

The Bustle in a House

There’s something about the morning after death. Everything sounds so quiet as if life came to a halt and the earth stopped going around; paying respects for the dead. And although you know that people die every day, you only feel that way when death hits close, someone you know, someone you care about. And then you realize that nothing has stopped, because life doesn’t stop for anyone, it’s because you’re living in that intense moment that you can’t process how life just goes on.

And really, it’s amazing how life goes on, but you’ve got to think when you’re in the middle of the ordeal, how do we just go on about our lives, laughing and going to work and doing all kinds of mundane stuff pretending that we’re not going to die? Actually we’re not pretending, we know we’re going to die but we just can’t believe it, it doesn’t register in our minds most of the time and we choose to foget it; because if you realized this fact, I mean if you really understood that one day you and everyone else will be dead like you realize it the moment you see the dead body of a loved one pass by, carried by 5 or 6 men to be laid down 6 feet under, if you really don’t forget that fact for one moment, how do you expect life to go on without people turning into hermits or losing their minds? Or maybe, just maybe, it will be a Utopia, but the human race has proved throughout history that we’re not perfect so, I guess the Utopia is a far-fetched possibility. So yeah, as we always say, thank God for the blessing of forgetfulness, but at the same time if you overdo it you might one day find that you didn’t make use of your days as much as you should’ve, just when it’s too late.

You know what’s a blessing too? Selfishness. Imagine that each time a person dies around the world your heart aches and as it does when it’s someone close to you. Nobody will be able to get anything done. Yet it’s a blessing in moderation, abusing it could really backfire.

And it makes you think, is anything really worth spending your days away from those you love or doing things you hate? Is anything worth fighting over? And then you think, why are so afraid of taking risks? What’s the worse that’s going to happen? I’m going to die? We’re all going to anyway…

Death is fascinating.  It brings you closer to God and to people. It brings families together. You know, one of the best things about a condolence house is when everyone leaves and close family members come together, talking about their memories of the deceased, or how they all should cooperate to support his family in every way they can, or to just have a few decent laughs after 3 days of exhausting grief. So don’t let the chance go by, if you feel the willingness to get closer to God then act  on it because you never know if or when it will come back again, and if you feel the willingness to let those you love know it then let them know it, because you never know when or how you’re going to part with them.

As someone told me a couple of days ago: Death is not the moment of departure, it’s the feeling of loss that you develop day after day when you miss that person and you realize they’re not here anymore. That’s why when we were discussing how to break the sad news to my 6 year-old cousin, I suggested that we don’t. Let him realize it at his own pace, little by little, and hopefully he’ll finally make peace with it.

So after the ceremonies are over and people go back to their own lives, because they’re not the one who’s dead, then comes the cleaning up and turning the page. This is when you have to sort out what’s left of that person, down to their most trivial positions that they will never use again, the bustle in a house as Emily Dickenson put it in her poem that keeps coming to mind year after year.

The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth, –

The sweeping up the heart,
And putting love away
We shall not want to use again
Until eternity.

The Bustle in a House

The Morning after Death

Is solemnest of industries

Enacted opon Earth –

 

The Sweeping up the Heart

And putting Love away

We shall not want to use again

Until Eternity –

 

خايف من شو؟

إحنا متربيين في مجتمع بعلموك فيه تعمل كل شي بدافع الخوف. بندرس عشان خايفين ما نلاقي وظيفة، وبنشتغل عشان خايفين ما نلاقي مصاري وما نلاقي تقاعد لمكبرنا، وبنتجوز عشان خايفين ما نلاقي حدا يناولنا حبة الدوا بس نمرض، وبنخلف عشان بنخاف ما نلاقي حدا يحن علينا بمكبرنا، وبنضيع أحلى سنين عمرنا واحنا بنعمل أشياء بنكرهها أو مع أشخاص ما بنطيقهم عشان خايفين نعيش لحالنا لما نكون زهقنا الحياة من أساسها… ووبيقتلنا خوفنا من الحياة قبل ما نموت، وكتير أحيان بنموت عشان خايفين من الموت

بنعيش عشان خايفين نموت وبنموت عشان خايفين نعيش

أنا عن نفسي قررت أحاول قد ما بقدر أستبدل الخوف بالتجربة. إذا بدي أعمل إشي بدو يكون في وراه هدف، تغيير إيجابي في حياتي، ورح يكون تجربة… إذا اشتغلت فهي تجربة، وإذا نشرت كتاب فهي تجربة، وإذا تزوجت فهي تجربة، وإذا خلفت اولاد فهي تجربة… مش ضمانات مستقبلية عشان ما أخاف من المجهول، لأنه اللي بدو يخاف رح يخاف ولو عمل شو ما عمل، لأنه كل شي بتعمله ممكن يخرب، ممكن  أي مشروع يفشل، ممكن إذا تزوجت تتطلق، أو تترمل، ممكن اولادك يقلبوا عليك…  فلا تعمل إشي إنت مش قدو و مش مستعد إلو لمجرد إنك “خايف” وإن كنت مؤمن فلازم تعرف إنه التوكل على الله هو أحسن تأمين مكن تامنه على مستقبلك، والتوكل على الله يشمل إنك تعمل الإشي الصح، للأسباب الصح، مش بسبب الخوف أو قلة الثقة وغيره
رأي شخصي، وكل واحد عقله براسه بيعرف خلاصه

How to Survive Valentine’s Day for Dummies

Yes, you hate it, you think it’s stupid, but the fact remains that: It’s everywhere! Wherever you go you’re faced with those little provocative ugly teddy bears carrying little vulgar red hearts, not to mention the ginormous amount of PDA and those blood-curdling teenage status messages on Facebook that make you just want to SCREAM BLUE MURDER! Or maybe red murder for that matter…

So, for all of you out there who think Valentine’s day is just a sad excuse for a hoax to fool people into buying over-priced red roses and make you feel unloved and unlovable, here are some tricks to help you pull through the day with hopefully minimum damage. For some people those very tips may come in handy on other occasions too, say, your birthday.

Now for your first line of defense you’re going to need a set of prescribed ideas to keep repeating in your head in case you were stung by that seasonal feeling of dramatic loneliness. I expect you would agree that these are quite rational and valid statements too.

1- I’m better off alone

Oh, of course you are. Of course it could be for all kinds of reasons like if you have intimacy issues, privacy issues, your cat died when you were 5 and you swore you wouldn’t get attached to another oxygen-breathing creature again, you can’t stand to be controlled, etc. OR maybe it’s simply because you’re insufferable. Surely enough there must be a reason behind that but, who wants to change it anyway?

2- Love makes you weak

Which is a euphemism for: nice and less selfish. Yeah, who wants to be like that? I mean, imagine if everyone became nicer and a little less selfish, what would happen to the world as we know it? Now, shake that image off, shake it off, there you go.

 

3- Nobody understands me

And Einstein is dead, so…

4- Love doesn’t exist

And this feeling you claim to experience is basically a flow of chemicals to the brain. You call them “butterflies” I call them “Nerve Growth Factor”.

5- All the good ones are taken

Which, I suppose, makes you one of the bad ones. A horrible, horrible person that no one can love.

6- Remember: Valentine is meant to celebrate the “Love of Humanity”

And keep reminding others of that too. Even if you’re usually a selfish capitalist or a social climbing sociopath, it probably wouldn’t hurt to assume the “we are the world” attitude for one day.

 

7- [New!] How can you celebrate love while there’s so much hate in the world?

Yes! Shame on you

 

Enough with the self-pity, now let’s move on to another technique: Emotional Eating. I wouldn’t really recommend that as it makes you feel greedy and repulsive and all kinds of bad feelings which could lead to more self-pity, but who doesn’t do it from time to time? So I’m not going to get all preachy about it, I’ll only say this: White chocolate is NOT chocolate.

 

Things to avoid:  Social Media especially Facebook, TV, Radio stations, Teenagers, newlyweds, public places, people in general… pretty much everything and everyone, just sleep it off.

And you especially want to avoid romantic movies for all the false hope they commercialize. You know, it doesn’t often happen in real life that 2 hunks are fighting over you and you get the better one at the end while the other one remains a good friend. Ya 3aini 3al ketheb.

You also need to face the facts. Stop weaving fairy tales out of thin air and drop misconceptions like “He’s being a jerk because he likes me” Oh really? Let me break it to you then: If he’s being a jerk, he’s not interested. If he’s avoiding you, he’s not interested. If he acts like he’s not interested then he sure as hell is not interested. However, if he’s sending mixed signals then YOU better not not be freakin’ interested. What are you, 13?

That’s pretty much about it. If this didn’t ruin the mood for you I don’t know what would. Enjoy the day!

The Five Stages of Writing

Contrary to how it may sometimes look, writing is really no picnic. I mean, it could be a picnic once you get started and just go with the flow of words and thoughts, but the road to that point could be quite bumpy. Sometimes it seems like a wild adventure, sometimes it’s like a war of attrition. In short, writing could be heavy, a weary business, but the thing is: it’s worth it, whether it pays off or not., because it always pays off in some way.

The way I see it, writing consists of several stages before, during and after.

 

1- Provocation: It’s that moment of anger, enthusiasm, excited curiosity or any other emotion that boils inside you wanting to erupt and pour out on paper. You can only guess where it will lead or how far it will go but you better seize that moment because it has a tendency to fade away with time and in that case the story will end before it even begins.

2- Hesitation: To write or not to write, that’s not even a question! But as with everything else the mind starts playing those dirty games where it find any excuse imaginable to hinder you and keep you from writing. “Nobody will read it”, “It will probably suck”, “I don’t have much to say about that” and so on of this nonsense, and that’s exactly what it is: pure nonsense. Just go ahead and write it, and if you don’t like it you know where to find the recycle bin.

3- Starting: That’s the hardest part of all: to actually start writing. It’s hard because you often feel like you don’t know how to start, hence comes the saying “it’s the start that usually stops most people”. This is where you need some tough love. Force yourself to sit down and write, you’ll be amazed how it unfolds.

4- Second guessing: This is where you start asking yourself questions like: “Did I get it right?”  “Is it worth reading?” “Is it plausible enough?” “Does it read good?” Some of these questions are valid because they help you improve on what you wrote, while some are nothing but a big nuisance, just ignore them.

5- Euphoria: The great feeling of almost inexplicable joy and liberation when you’re done. It could put you in a trance-like state or make you want to go and hug somebody. It also boosts your self-esteem and gives you a burst of exploding energy.

 

Happy writing!

 

The Decision

He wanted to surprise her. He came holding a big collection of books, most of them he doesn’t recognize but he managed to make a mental note of them as she mentioned the names of books and authors here and there. But that wasn’t everything, he also told her that he brought himself a sleeping eye band, so that he can sleep while she’s reading, and she can read all she wants. She smiled, but inside she was torn by two considerations. She appreciated the gesture, the way he respected her interests, but that gave way again to that nagging voice in her head that she should run for her life.

Tell me a Story

As much as I love watching nature and wildlife documentaries I’ve recently developed a tendency to get drifted in thought while watching them and consoling myself by thinking “at least I’m enjoying the beautiful, relaxing scenes”. But you know, the real consolation is that sometimes these ideas turn out productive, at least on a personal level, just like the thought that led to writing this post.

It goes like this; I was watching the 1984 series The Living Planet by the legend that is David Attenborough. As he went on with his soothing voice and his British accent, talking about distant islands and curious creatures as if it was something he did everyday (which indeed he did), my distraction of choice was a pipe dream I’d like so much to happen that I almost believed it would in someway. I though, “If I’m to win a date with a celebrity, I want it to be with David Attenborough.” I imagined  We’d watch some of his documentaries together while he tells me inside stories about them. Or maybe we’d just go for a walk and he would keep talking and talking while I’m listening intently unable to stop smiling, which is usually the case when anyone is telling me a fun story about something as ridiculous as swallowing a fly by mistake so imagine how much more I would look like a complete goof if David Attenborough was telling me about how he felt standing by a herd of hungry komodo dragons devouring a carcass.

Anyway, not to drag you into that fantasy world, one thought led to another and now I was thinking how much I love to hear stories. In fact one of my regrets in life is not having listened to more stories from my grandfather before he passed away. Some of my fondest memories too are those where my father used to tell us stories about his childhood in Palestine or my mother’s stories about her mischievous childhood in Jabal Et-Taj. I tried to write down some of these stories because I believe this is where stories should go, they have to be written so that they hopefully won’t vanish into thin air with time.

Another reason I have this passion for documenting those stories is that I’m better at writing a story than telling it. Sometimes I’d get so excited while telling a story that I’ll be at loss for words and people would give me the look that of “it’s okay, relax, take a breath” not to mention that I’m a fast talker. Thankfully though, a couple of months ago I had the great and genuine pleasure of meeting Nesma, the Egyptian young woman who made me understand perhaps for the first time what it means to be a natural story teller. In fact it wasn’t very surprising –in retrospect- to learn that the nature of her job was to tell stories, as she works with less fortunate children in refugee camps and in the slums to help them tell their own stories. And it wasn’t only for the amazing stories she told about these children or the stories from Tahrir Square as she was there day in day out, bearing witness to history in the making. No, the stories were breath-taking but it wasn’t only that. Nesma has this air of tranquility about her, and a face so peaceful that you can’t get tired of smiling at. She told her stories in vivid details, with a calm yet clear voice that is sure to captivate anyone. Nesma made me realize that telling stories is an art in itself.

And that makes me think again of the need to master that art. In fact I’ve always thought of bed time stories I would tell my children. I remember when we were kids a certain story that my father used to tell us at bedtime. Only when I grew up I realized he was making it up as he goes. It was a series, each night he would tell us a part of it but it was never completed for some reason. He called it مدينة الأحلام  “The city of dreams” and I remember the last part he told us, which ended with the boy and the girl walking through the city of dreams and the dolphins jumping in and out of water. Believe it or not, I’m approaching 28 and I still would like to hear the end of this story, which I don’t think my father even remembers now. Actually as I write this I’m tempted to write it all over again myself! Anyway, back to my hypothetical children I think I might be telling them real stories they probably won’t hear at school or anywhere else, mostly real stories like that of the Dodo: “The Dodo was an extremely tame bird that European sailors were able to kill it with bats and it was exterminated 200 thousand years after it had been discovered. Moral of the story: Don’t be naïve.” I know what you might be thinking; maybe it’s not such a bad thing if I never have children as to spare them this agony!

I wish bedtime stories were a tradition for adults too, that’s a thought to entertain, but for now I have enough David Attenborough documentaries stacked on my nightstand, and he has many stories to tell…

Drama’s Most Consumed Opening Lines

Disclaimer: the author of this post does not by any means exclude herself from having fallen into the trap of using one or more of the below rhetorics at some point of her life. The author also has no idea why she’s speaking in third person.

We all had that particular skeleton in our closet. We’ve all at some point felt victimized by society. It’s pretty normal to feel that way, but while some people may shake the idea off and actually resort to logic and reason to solve their problems, others may find it the ideal chance to indulge in self-pity. But don’t feel bad for it, I mean it’s okay as long as you only do it from times to time, you know reach the bottom to get up again and stuff, preferably locking yourself up at home as not to take it out on poor innocent people, but I think we all agree that some of us just blow it out of proportion.

Usually there are common signs for Dramatic Indulgence, so to speak, among which are those lines that have a natural ability of brining your blood to a boiling temperature. Those lines include but are not exclusive to:

1-  “Nobody understands me”. Well, in all fairness many of us find ourselves sometimes in an environment where we are the square peg in the round hole. You might even be born in that kind of environment where you’re the different one or even the black sheep, and it’s quite natural to feel that nobody understands you, in certain circles that is, but to say that nobody in the whole wide world understands you? Well, get a life. There’s a thin line between not being understood and shutting people out. Actually it’s not a thin line, it’s a whole universe.

 

2- “Nobody loves me”. Oh, aren’t you the cutest miserable thing? Give it a rest. I’m sure someone somewhere is crazy enough to love such a wet blanket like yourself.  I mean, even Charlie Sheen had someone to love him as he was blowing his life away on national TV. How bad could it be?

3-  “I’m lonely/ I have no one”. Well, there are 6 billion people in the world, sort yourself out. Not working? Then learn how to be happy alone, loneliness is grossly underrated.

4-  “Nobody cares about me”. Try turning your cell phone off for a day or two. Somebody always cares, even if for the wrong reasons!

5-   “I will never find my other half”. Newsflash: you are not a half, you’re a whole person. Nobody complements you, they just add to your life, or eat away at it for that matter. It’s a matter of the right person in the right time, which might take some time according to probability laws (Right person, right time/ Right person, wrong time/ Wrong person, right time/ Wrong person, wrong time) See? It’s a 25% chance so chill.

6-  “My life sucks”. Maybe because you suck?

7-   “I wish I’d die”. Yes because you’re going straight to heaven, no? Enjoy it while it lasts.

8-   “It’s just my bad luck”. Seriously, don’t even get me started! The best excuse for failure.

9-   “Why does this happen to me?”.  Well, why not? Good things, bad things, good people, bad people, it doesn’t matter. THINGS HAPPEN, deal with it.

Be positive, and grain of salt isn’t such a bad thing too!