Its not selfish to….

Its not selfish to say “no” to others so you can say “yes” to yourself.

End of the day you have to live with yourself, even if no one else. So when you look over your life – as it is right now – are you content?

If not, what needs to change?

Do you want more time?
Then take stock of where your time is spent & re-evaluate how you spend it.

Example – you are too busy to have time for your family. Busy with what? Work/social commitments after office hours? Before you say yes to the next event, ask yourself..six months from now will it matter?

Actually thats a good question to ask in ANY circumstance. I ask myself that when I get upset / angry / depressed / stressed….. six months from now will I even care? If the answer is “no” then my energy is better spent on something else.

I haven’t blogged much this year but after much procastination I finally figured out why. Its because I am spending more time on things that need my time now. So the allocation of time & energy (or lack thereof) to this particular activity has taken a back seat. But this is not the only factor for lack of posts.

I had to reevaluate how much I want to share of my private life & thoughts … and how best to get across the reason of why I started this blog in the first place. The last 3/4 months have been draining in my personal life, betrayal & loss of relationships have left me empty.

Corporateskirts is about women & our lives as we juggle through the day with a million balls up in the air. My inspiration comes from my life & those in my surrounding. My downfall is the same..yet I find myself unwilling to air or propagate negativity. Finding the balance is easier when I have time & space to objectively or passionately address the issue of the day. And lately I haven’t had the energy to do much of that.

So here’s to a new year… and more posts (however far in between) of things that keep me optimistic & hopeful… of talking more on self-care & self-love & being your own cheerleading band for your life.

In that spirit … I invite you to share your experience of times & trials which you endured & triumphed over or maybe tackling or going through now.

May we take off our masks & be more real with the issues we uncover and find ways to deal with in this Year of the Monkey.

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The Hypocrisy of American Racism

Women Well Loved

I wrote this post a couple of months ago when 31 American states said they would refuse admittance to Syrian refugees.  This made me deeply angry, not only because states DO NOT have the power to do this (the Federal government decides who can and can’t immigrate to the United States, and refugees can move to whatever state they want to) but because I am ashamed to be part of a country where racism and selfishness have become something to take pride in. If we intend to stay a “super power” in the Aquarian age we’ll need to hold our morality to the same high standards that we do hold economic growth. 

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We are born onto this earth with nothing save for what our circumstances provide. For some of us that is quite a lot, but for most of us it is hardly anything. From that moment on we are making choices. The choice to fight or give up, to share or to withhold…

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Highlights of 2015 and hello 2016 :)

Last year was a lot of hard work and unexpected playful interactions when I least expected it. The highs were pretty high and totally awesome and the low points felt bottomless. My resolution for 2015 were several but the one’s that I did manage to stick to stood me in good stead.

I lost people in 2015 – one of them was a very good friend who was taken from us too soon. I still can’t speak of Cesare without tearing up, even when I laugh, there’s a deep sigh that comes up unbidden. I have lost people when I stuck to my resolution to treat people as they treat me. Some loved it, some hated it. It simplified my life. I lost the one’s who drag me down far more often then they pick me up.

2015 was the year that I learnt the meaning of what it means to be family. Most of us define the word family by the people we are related to by blood or marriage. Instead I learnt the following:

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Loyalty, honesty, integrity – in everything that I do, every relationship that I develop whether in my career or personal life, in my actions, words and thoughts continue to remain my guiding stars.

Through out the year as people and opportunities walked in and out of my life, I discovered that the one’s who genuinely care and want me in their lives will always prioritize and make time for me. My one month of working in Ethiopia gave me not only invaluable work experience, a totally different perspective on the role of aid in developing economies but also a family and new friends and colleagues whom I enjoyed immensely.

While 2015 ended in a bittersweet note, looking back there is nothing that I would do differently. In each moment I had made the best possible decisions, drew my line in the sand and stuck to my guns where necessary and it is that integrity and faith in choosing what is right that allows me to move forward without looking back. Knowing that I have done my best, given my best and I deserve the best.

I look forward to 2016 because this life is an endless journey were the scenery is constantly changing and along with the props, the actors change, bringing in new perspectives, lessons, knowledge, wisdom and yes, even love. There will be new countries to see, new cultures to discover, new cuisines to try, new friends to make, new ways of thinking that will challenge my current one’s, ideas to discover, challenges to conquer and victories to celebrate. I look forward to the highs and lows and while the first 3 months are already promising me to be hectic, full of travels and new experiences and learning’s, here’s a nod off to the highlights of 2015 :)

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Going places?

 

Nothing risked, is nothing gained :)

Cute things: St Bernards and babies

What a beautiful way to start the week :) Beautiful dogs and babies … and as someone said, makes me want to have one of each ;)

Impressions of Ethiopia – women, economy & climate change

I am on a month long work-exchange in Ethiopia, working with the Food Security team here at the Dutch Embassy in Addis Ababa.

I don’t know what I expected to be very honest but if I had any expectation, Ethiopia has certainly exceeded all of them. My first impression of Addis Ababa was that it’s huge!!! It’s a big city, spread out in what appears to be a valley or several valleys connected together. But with a population of 4 to 5 million, for a Bangladeshi like me, it’s very sparsely populated :)

The roads are busy but there’s none of the incessant honking that drives people crazy in Dhaka traffic. And I find that it’s pretty representative of the people here ….. Ethiopian’s are quiet, reserved people, very dignified & proud in their heritage (and absolutely rightly so). Unfailingly cordial and extremely polite, unlike the Bangalis they keep their nose out of other people’s business. One foot in the past – a long glorious heritage, yet one planted firmly towards the future – in progress for everyone. Though deeply religious, women here do enjoy a different kind of freedom.

What that freedom means on a day to day basis is that it’s absolutely possible to have peace & quiet in the middle of a crowd. You can sit quietly in a cafe and enjoy the view without being gawked at, commented at or imposed on in any manner. You can walk down the busy roads without people bumping into you every few feet. And as a woman I feel more comfortable & safer here then in my own country. Ethiopians also have more women parliamentarians then Bangladesh & the labour force participation is significantly higher.

Before I came, I read up on Ethiopia and was impressed by the fact that this country has never been colonised. I expected this to mean something, but exactly what, I couldn’t have said. Now that I am here, I do see the difference between a population colonised vs. a population who were always the master of their own destiny. Even though Ethiopians are very polite, you can tell that the color of one’s skin doesn’t impress here. In former colonies there’s a tendency to idolise white skin people, to give more attention, to try to impress, to cater to, we have not gotten over the ‘white master’ syndrome. If a native person makes a suggestion or give advice, we might shake it off BUT if a white person makes the same, people trip over each other trying to be the first ones to take it. It’s frustrating because it sidelines the suggestion & advice of people who know their country best AND has its best interest at heart. Here, the Ethiopians are very nationalistic & while they are open to advice, they also make it a point to accept suggestions on their own terms, in their own time. Sure it slows things down but it also means that local ownership is high. Which after all is more important in order for development activities to be sustainable.

The previous Prime Minister made a very public declaration that Ethiopia will pursue a climate resilient green economy. A tall order but a very commendable one. While the understanding of climate change, its negative impact on environment & stress on the livelihood of the population varies among various professional, the attention though continues to impress me. As the Native Americans say “we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children”. In our pursuit for economic growth we tend to compromise on that, and perhaps some compromise is inevitable, a trade-off if you will, at least here the choices are being looked at & deliberated on more vigorously.

IMF ranks Ethiopia among the five fastest growing economies in the world and in 2013/2014 the economy grew for its 11th consecutive year posting 10.3% growth. Quite impressive for a non-oil producing economy. However it is still far from its ambition to become a middle income country by 2025. With around 29% of its population living below the poverty line there is much work that still needs to be done. And the government seems to be on the right track with a stable political environment, progressive economic liberalisation  and high focus on green & equitable growth.

Quite an impression for the very first week in a new country :) I can hardly wait to see how much more there will be learn over the upcoming days.

The end product

Making or breaking relationships

We tend to think it’s the big moments that define, make or break relationships but as recent research showed we thought wrong. In this book, Mind Gym: Achieve More by Thinking Differently, exploring his research, Gottman looked at those “seemingly meaningless and inconsequential exchanges between people.”

And as he puts it:

These seemingly big moments are not the defining ones that make or break relationships. Rather, it’s almost always the small things, like that time two weeks ago when your friend asked you if you wanted a cup of coffee. How you responded to that question may have influenced the relationship more than you can imagine.

These apparently inconsequential moments determine the fate of relationships more than arguments. Psychologist John Gottman can determine the fate of a married couple with an accuracy rate in the 90s.

As meaningless as they seemed on the surface, at a deeper level, the exchanges were highly nuanced, emotional signals …

These emotional signals are what Gottman called “bids.” And it turns out that how we respond to bids is the key to successful relationships.

So this got me thinking – over what has been – successful or unsuccessful past relationships and the exact moments when they either went north or south. And as far as I could remember, it was these small moments – things that were said, either in the heat of the moment or in unthoughtful or thoughtful ways – that forever changed how I viewed that particular relationship.

There was that time when someone very close to me passed away and my best friend at the time made the comment, “but what did you expect? she was so …. “. Whatever else ‘she’ might have been, that was not a kind thing to say at a moment of intense grief and loss about someone who has passed away. My BF and I drifted apart as I noticed more and more how insensitive she can be and unkind. That relationship never did recover.

There was the other time earlier this year, when I walked up to a girl in my class and said “I want to interrogate you because I think you are an interesting person”. She could’ve been intimidated, she could’ve hedged, instead she said “sure, as long as I get to ask you questions too”. So we talked, very candidly, asking and answering questions that went well beyond the polite small talks we had until that point. A few months later, we are sleeping over at each other’s house, planning trips together and loving this new friendship that sustains us.

In both of these cases, the other person was a women. But I notice the same in my relationships with other men. Friends, lovers, colleagues, acquaintances. There is this collection of moments or rather a build up of many small moments, where a switch flips and it’s either a big yes or no. In the case of no, I have walked away, from the person, from the situation. I have walked away knowing that I am better off walking away then staying.

Do you think Gottman is right or wrong in emphasizing these small moments or ’emotional bids’ as the foundation of relationships?

Soft words and hard hearts

Words used to be hard but the heart was soft. The words clamored over each other hoping for the heart to be understood. In time, with life, the realization came that there will never be acceptance, as long as it’s very right to exist remains under question. When your existence is threatened you change – like the water that flows around the rock, you learn to adapt to whatever life places on your path.

You learn to adapt but in the process you do change.

Now the words are soft but the heart is harder. I have learnt the value of things from people who don’t value them. Ultimately I have learnt that my value is whatever I deem it to be. I have learnt to play with words, to make it softer and more amenable. After years of being advised to be less direct and more diplomatic, I have learnt the art of ‘tact’ and I have had some really wise men to look up to for that.

 

I have also learnt to enjoy sarcasm as I play with words. They are so malleable. specially in those moments when your sarcasm could be your reason for your untimely death. But really, who doesn’t like the play on words?

I still hate small talk and I would much rather have in-depth passionate discussions instead. But I have learnt that small talks are necessary evil, you can never quite escape them.

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Ultimately, our words are our paint brushes, the one’s with which we paint pictures of our existence, our reality, our everyday lives, our thoughts, our inner lives.

 

How to live passionately

Love this talk from a 71 year old woman who is amazing! Not only is it about being graceful, it’s about living in the moment, with humor, passion and freedom to be yourself :)

What have I gained? Freedom: I don’t have to prove anything anymore. I’m not stuck in the idea of who I was, who I want to be, or what other people expect me to be. I don’t have to please men anymore, only animals. I keep telling my superego to back off and let me enjoy what I still have. My body may be falling apart, but my brain is not, yet. I love my brain. I feel lighter. I don’t carry grudges, ambition, vanity, none of the deadly sins that are not even worth the trouble. It’s great to let go. I should have started sooner.And I also feel softer because I’m not scared of being vulnerable. I don’t see it as weakness anymore.And I’ve gained spirituality. I’m aware that before, death was in the neighborhood. Now, it’s next door, or in my house. I try to live mindfully and be present in the moment. By the way, the Dalai Lama is someone who has aged beautifully, but who wants to be vegetarian and celibate?

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