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Lessons in life: a reflection on my birthday

First off, thank you to the awesome people in my life. Thank you for reminding me that kindness exists every where. Thank you for lifting me up. Thank you for brightening my life every single day. Thank you for being honest & straight forward with me. Thank you to my family, friends, my mentors & colleagues. Thank you for showing me a thousand ways to love & live in every moment.

I saw this video a couple of days ago and since today is my birthday and I am stepping into 37 and staring the big 4-0 in the face – it seemed like a good time to take a look back on what has been a rather interesting journey so far.

It’s been 7 years since I started blogging. Putting my thoughts out into the open, for others to see, comment on and debate. It’s scary. Very scary. Mostly because I had this hang up on an unconscious need for approval. As life happened, I learnt that I really don’t need the approval or validation of others to be awesome.

I am a round peg in a square hole and maybe I don’t fit in because I am supposed to help create a new world. And I am – in my own little corner of the world, in my immediate sphere, I am making a difference and that’s enough. I am kind (mostly), considerate (maybe too much), empathetic (again, too much), loyal & protective (but these are things that I never want to change about myself).  Most days I manage to retain a sense of humor – someday’s its more sarcastic & dry and that’s ok too.

I know in my bones that even though the night is darkest right before dawn, the sun will inevitably rise. There is a light at the end of the tunnel and all I have to do is to continue putting one foot in front of the other, to keep moving forward. I have learnt to say ‘no’, draw my boundary and roll with the punches. I know that no matter how many times I fall down, I am capable of picking myself up, dusting it off and going on.

You never know when it might be the last time you speak to someone. As I lose more people who I love, I have learnt that death can come for any of us at anytime. It’s very important to tell the people you love that you love them. Let people know when you appreciate something about them. Give others compliments – genuine, specific compliments. Let people know when who they are, and what they do for you, lifts you up.

Love with gusto. I don’t get how people can love in half measures with a generous sprinkling of caution. That’s like saying I am going to the pool but I am not going to jump in, swim around or get wet in anyway. If you are going to love something, love with all your heart. I consider myself very lucky to have incredible people in my life, who care for me and show me that in a thousand ways.

Half measures & half-hearted efforts yield mediocre results. To cultivate high quality relationships takes time (sometimes years), sincere effort, devotion, honesty, integrity and most of all genuine kindness. You can’t do any of this in half measures, whether it’s your work or your people, give a 100% and more. Let go of attachment to results. The destination is important but it’s more important to enjoy the journey.

Be Grateful, cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Give more than you get, spread kindness, happiness – the world will always need more of that. When someone helps you out, thank them. Smile at someone who isn’t smiling today. Say good morning, thank you, ask how are you & really listen to their answer. Sometimes we all need a ear and a shoulder for support.

Life isn’t black or white. Choices aren’t straight forward. Decisions shouldn’t be rigid. Be prepared to change as things changed. If you are stuck in a position, take a break. Breathe, walk, come back later with a cooler head. More often than not, I find that it makes me more willing to take a look at the opposing perspective. No one is all good, all bad, no decision or action is a person in their entirety.

Bad things happen to good people all the time. And that’s ok too. Being hung up on good, bad, fair, unfair only creates discontent and dissatisfaction. Take life as it comes, instead of resisting, flow the way water flows around a boulder on a river. Death isn’t fair and sometimes it takes the one’s who are too young or too loved.

If you let people screw you over more than twice, then I am sorry but you really are a moron. And I have been moronic – too trusting, too giving, too sympathetic, too forgiving. Funny thing is, I don’t think I lost anything. I gained lessons. I learnt to lose people and sometimes to kick off the one’s that hang on and suck my soul dry. I am ok with living somewhere in the shades of gray but I know now that some things can never be compromised on. I have a better idea of what my ‘deal breakers’ are.

Success is mostly hard work, with a tiny sprinkling of luck. The harder you work, the more your luck improves. However, there IS a big difference between being smart, working smart and just being hard-working. Sometimes the lazy way to get things done, really is the best way, it leaves one with more time to do other things.

Be open to new things. It really is amazing to stay open to new opportunities, adventures, places, people, culture, food, experience. Test your boundaries – life begins at the end of your comfort zone. Be alive while you are still living. My places to see and things to do list is ever-expanding. At this rate I have given up on any hope of being able to tick it all off. However, every time I do tick off something, I do my victory dance – the cross between my chicken dance and pointy dance. Find your rhythm and do your funky dance, celebrate your victories & success, celebrate people & their kindness.

I have learnt the value of quality over quantity. It doesn’t matter whether it’s clothes, shoes, handbags or relationships. It’s better to have few very good friends, who lift you up, sing you the song of your soul when you have forgotten it. Then to have hundreds of friends whom you rarely, interact with. Small talk is over-rated. Don’t change yourself to fit with others. You are an original and it’s worth more than a copy. So be you, be awesome, be totally weird!

Commit to things but make sure that they are really what you need. We tend to confuse our wants with needs. I want a knight in shining armor who will ride off into the sunset with me, so we can have a house in the country with white picket fence and 2.5 kids. What I need is someone who will let me be the monk who meditates for a month in a remote mountain in solitude. Or go off in a grand adventure around the world with my friends. See the difference? Huge! What I think I want is what I have grown up with in fairy tales and the social expectations heaped on me. What I need is what my soul demands, the wanderlust in me who begs to be set free.

Don’t listen to other people’s advice, nobody knows what they are doing. People mean well – at least sometimes they really do. But if I wanted to run like the wind, I wouldn’t go to a turtle for advice. We are unique human beings and each one of us dreams of something very different from the others. If you listen to other people, they’ll either tell you what they have done, what has worked for them, or how you should or shouldn’t do what you want to do. So if you are going to take advice, better make sure that the people who advice you ARE where you want to be.

 Avoid toxicity – at all cost – in everything. You only have one life to live, one body to live in, one mind that will be with you for the rest of your life. So be kind to yourself, to your body, your mind. Avoid toxic people, junk food, negative thoughts. They take out more than they put in and in the end, it’s really not worth it. Cut out the crap, exercise, meditate, take long walks in nature, hold hands and hug your loved one’s.

The only person you should be competing with is yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. You don’t really know what they are going through. Also, you may not really want their life if you knew. What others have to say about you is none of your business – it’s a reflection of them, not you. Also what others do is none of your business unless it has direct negative impact on you (like a physical threat). In which case – hit first, hit hard, neutralize the threat and remove yourself from the situation.

Discard labels. Tags and labels are for stuff – clothes, shoes, bags, accessories. Not human beings. Do not allow others to label you – beautiful, smart, stupid or whatever. Good or bad – your life’s narrative is your own. You decide how you want to write it and do it your own way. If you don’t, others will. Choose your words wisely – the way you describe yourself – verbally out loud or silently within your own head – is what you project out into the world.

If you are stuck, keep hammering at the door to new opportunities. If it stays closed, then sneak in through the window. The only one who can really help yourself or change your life for the better is you. Pick your heroes and mentors carefully, they do shape who you become but even they can only show you the door, the decision to walk through is exclusively yours.

Be awesome, be kind, charity starts with yourself and in your own home. Be the best version of yourself.  Be your own best friend. Learn to love your life and be comfortable in your own skin. Believe in yourself and stop being your own worst critic. 

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My first ink – a symbolic commitment to myself. The phoenix symbolizes rebirth, courage – the strength and resilience to rise from ashes. Among the Chinese, the phoenix (fèng) is also the symbol of good fortune. The word on top is Meiyo – Honor, it’s from the code of Bushido. Warriors have only one judge of honor & character and that is themselves. Every decision is their own responsibility and how it’s carried out is a reflection of who they truly are. The word in the bottom is Yu – heroic courage, again from code of Bushido. It denotes the difference between living life like a turtle hiding inside its shell vs. living life completely, fully and wonderfully. Courage that is not blind but intelligent & strong. The word on the left is Ga or Hagane – meaning Strong as metal. The word on the left is Chi, meaning Wisdom. Honor is leading, therefore on top; courage is the power coming from deep down, and strength and wisdom are the qualities needed to tackle life, therefore under the Phoenix’ wings.

Happiness = love + grace + gratitude

Sufism: love & acceptance

 

I have always been attracted to Sufism for its openness, its loving, accepting nature but also partly because of the most celebrated Poet and Philosopher, Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī. I have quoted him in my blogs and devoured his book  “Maṭnawīye Ma’nawī“.  I wish in my search, I could say that I have walked away sated, instead it’s like a thirst that refuses to be quenched. He talks about the madness and calmness of longing for one’s beloved, of doing what is right even when it’s not so clear that the path you are on is in fact ‘right’. I am mesmerized by his faith in the Lord, in the fact that our relationship with the Lord is a direct one, that if we search, we’ll find God wherever we will look. His longing, his devotion, his love comes through in his writing in such a way that it pulls you in and takes you on a journey too.

And then there’s such devotion in Sufi music and I am specially loving these two songs right now (took a while to find videos with English translation)  🙂

 

 

No age barred for love

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Unexpected death

Death is inevitable. A fact of life. Yet every time someone close to my age passes away, it shakes me to my core. It makes me question everything.

This time, I am questioning ‘why her?’ She’s a beautiful person, inside out, loving, caring, a gentle soul. In love with her husband, excitedly waiting for the arrival of her child. So why now? why her? why this baby who is wanted so much? and so lovingly?

Part of me is angry at the injustice of it all. The part that questions ‘why?’

Part of me is weeping at the loss of two beautiful souls.

Part of me is praying for the family left behind, may they find the strength to bear this unbearable loss.

And out of this reminder of how short life really is, part of me is thinking ‘if I die tomorrow, will I die happy with my life?’ Have I done everything that I want to do? Have I lived a life of no regret? Have I lived while I am still alive?

Since this is a question that I ask myself quite frequently, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. If I die right now, right here, there will be no regrets. I have built myself a good life, I have tried to do good, I have done my best to give back – to my family, friends and others.

There’s only one nagging irritation somewhere in the back of my head – for far too long – I have allowed myself to care about people who are more concerned about what they want, what would make their life easy & keep them happy, then what’s good for me. I guess the time to do some spring cleaning is long overdue.

All is fair in love and war… or is it?

This semester at the university, I had a course “Gender & Development” and for the term paper, my group of 4 and I decided to do our paper on “LGBTQI & Development”.  The paper itself was interesting to put together but far more interesting was what I learnt along the way of secondary research.

As a die-hard romantic, somewhere deep down, I truly believe in all the Disney portrayal of love and relationships. This despite the fact that I also laugh at how dysfunctional those relationship would be in real life.

Now imagine my surprise, despair and distress at having to immerse myself in the difficulties of same-sex love, relationships and the screwed up institutional bias against the same. If ‘everything is fair in love and war’, then what’s wrong with this love?

Who says that only a man and a woman can be in love with each other? Who decides who your heart will fall for? Which logic dictates how you get to conduct your love affair?

Love for me is a very intimate affair between two people, the state, the law, the society, has no business butting their nose in there. As long as it doesn’t harm anyone else, why should anyone else have a say in it?

I understand parents loving their children and wanting the best for them. But I don’t understand it when parents & families kick out their kids because they are LGBTQI or when society/family pressures drive these people to take their own lives.

This doctor in the UK chose to take his own life, despite the fact that he was in a relationship for 13 years & was professionally successful. His mother told him to seek treatment to cure being ‘gay’ and I guess the pressure got to the point where it didn’t make any sense to keep fighting his family. So he ended it. Whose loss was that? Given the choice, would his family really choose to have him dead, rather than being gay?

While the doctor’s family is muslim, this gay teenager who committed suicide had devout christian family, who performed an exorcism on him to cure him of his ‘gayness’. Below is quoted from his suicide note:

‘My pain is not caused because I am gay. My pain was caused by how I was treated because I am gay.’

‘To my friends you gave me life and love, never think this was your fault…To Lady Gaga, you have been a fearless relentless proud LGBT advocate…’

These cases are far too common, in fact, the opposite is rare. To be able to come out to your family, to be accepted for who you are, to be celebrated for the person that you are, instead of being persecuted is rare. So rare in fact that the news below became quite a sensation.

Best birth announcement ever!

The world is screwed up, society is screwed up. We need more lovers and less war. Love and relationship are not guaranteed happiness for heterosexual couples. I cannot even begin to imagine how much more difficult it must be for homosexual people. So why can’t we all just take a chill pill and relax and be supportive … after all … All is fair in love & war.. right?

At some point in time, during our presentation to the class, I may or may not have, cheekily stated that while my first reaction to being ‘bi’ or ‘gay’ would be ‘yayy… more fish in the sea for me’… this wasn’t in any way meant to discount the anguish & distressing experience of thousands of people who had to ‘come out’ to their family or the society around them. However, if you are reading this and if you belong to the LGBTQI community, I want you to know the following:

YOU are beautiful exactly as you are

YOU are enough for yourself

No one and I really mean no one, no religion, society, family, is worth more than YOUR life

God doesn’t care.. he wants YOU to be a good person inside, in your actions, in your intentions.. I doubt that there’s any loving God who will denounce you based on your sexuality. He created us. If we were not what he wanted, you wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t have free will. Period.

So if I may… “live long and prosper” … and leave the naysayers in the dust where they belong.  Enjoy the holidays, kiss the person you are in love with and love truly and deeply.

Babe…. my unsung hero

Babe was my 14 year old germanshepherd who passed away on the 5th of June 2014. I wrote about some of her qualities and the things I learnt from her which has stood me in good steed last year here: https://corporateskirts.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/life-lessons-my-dog-taught-me/

Her passing away has not been a great shock, she had significantly slowed down and slept a lot more. She was too tired to play and could barely muster enough energy to stand around anymore. In this heat and humidity I didnot think that to be odd. She had grayed around the muzzle and the chin, her eyes had the glazy look of blindness setting in. What she has spared me though is the agony of having to make the choice to put her down to sleep. She passed away peacefully, mid morning, with full dignity. She had never troubled anyone in life and in death she was equally considerate.

I don’t know what I felt more when I heard the news. Loss. Grief. Lost.

I have been thinking of writing this post for 2 days now. I finally forced myself to sit down with it. But I have no words for how much she meant to me or what her loss really amounts to. All I can think of is the last time I met her, the last time I hugged her, what she looked like when I brought her home at seven week’s of age 14 years ago, her funny walk, her soft fur, she had the wettest licks, the warmest hugs with the patience of a Saint to boot. That is how I will always remember the one who taught me how to be a better mother, a better person, a loyal person.

 

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Luck and Success – by chance?

Let me clarify this first – I do not believe in LUCK but I do believe in HARD WORK.

And I believe that when we want something, really really want something, the universe aligns itself to give us what we want.

If you believe in God, then you probably also believe in some corner of your heart or in the back of your mind, that God will provide. Whether it’s in the Bible or the Quran or any of the other holy books, I believe that God has clearly and repeatedly mentioned that you cannot stop at believing, you must toil to get what you want.

God definitely provides, He’s given me things that I didn’t ask for but definitely needed. He didn’t give me courage, He gave me circumstances that I had to rise above. That took courage that already exists in all of us.

Our wants and needs are two different things and our frustration stems from our confusion of the two. What you need and what you want – are not the same things. You need a place to live, what you want, maybe a mansion. Both fulfill the same basic need and function, yet, if you had asked for a mansion, you will be frustrated with living in an apartment. There in lies the difference in attitude, between being frustrated or grateful.

We chose to be either lucky or unlucky. Grateful or ungrateful.

We can blame others for all the things that have gone wrong in our life or we can stop playing the victim of circumstances, of birth etc, and take responsibility for our own actions.

You are only as lucky as you think you are. You are only as successful as you think you are.

To constantly compare yourself to others. To have to find excuses to justify your failures, whether to others or yourself, is to give over the reign of your life to someone else. It is no longer your own life that you live by your own choice, when you do that.

As the year draws to an end, the internet will be flooded with articles on how to make better resolutions, or how to stick to your resolutions and make your dreams come true. Another year ending seems to bring about all these in people. Yet I cannot help but ask, why didn’t you ask yourself these questions every day? You had 365 days when you could have done so. Why did you wait for a year to end to look back and realize that you have wasted yet another year? That you are no closer to your dreams, your aspirations, your very own definition of success?

Luck, is when you decide that you are lucky anyway. Luck is when you realize that while you have an apartment, someone else is sleeping on the streets tonight. Luck is when you decide that you can afford to finance another child’s education beside your own. Luck is when you know in your bones that empathy is priceless and decide to cultivate it on a daily basis. Luck is when you realize that love is not the selfish gratification of your own needs but the fulfillment of the need of another being. Luck is holding the reigns of your life in your own hands and the innate knowledge that your potentials are unlimited and only you have the key to unlock them.

And in that sense, as yet another ‘successful’ year draws to an end, I wish you ‘luck’ and may you keep finding and giving the best of yourself 🙂

You want heaven? practice this!

To those on my FB list, who keep posting about how you MUST copy and re-post that you love God, or say Allahu Akbar when an atheist blogger is killed, or any such religious extreme messages…. copy and paste this… not on your FB status, but in your heart and mind. The greatest Jihad is that which you engage in within yourself.

Next time you are feeling malicious, DON’T. Next time you want to treat someone else as less than human or less than you because they have a different religion, race, etc… DON’T. Next time you want to break a heart, flirt a little, kiss a lot… DON’T. Next time you are tempted to raise your voice on your parents because they just don’t understand, DON’T. Next time you forget to give someone or something (yes even animals count) less than your best… DON’T.

THAT would be you practicing religion, any religion, the way they were meant to be practiced. Religion was sent to make people better human beings. It was not meant to divide. Lets not forget that if you are muslim and a follower of the prophet, then by his own teaching, you are required to respect and love the other prophets who brought the word of God – Jesus, Moses & Abraham. You are required to love them and respect them and their followers too.

In the Judgement day, you will be judged on your actions, not your uttered words or FB status. You will be judged on the way you treated others, even in your thoughts. You want heaven? Make sure that you are creating a little piece of heaven right here in this earth with your words and actions, for your parents, your family, your friends, your neighbours, your community. Your existence should make other people’s life better, it should benefit and bring peace, are you doing that?????

No doubt we all know that pride and hatred are sins. Yet how many of our youngsters are led astray by people advocating exactly that? pride in their religion and hatred towards those following other paths.

It is not religion that makes a man. It is the character of the person that makes him/her a better human being. It is the continuous practice of sympathy, empathy, love, respect, honor, responsibility, tolerance for difference, patience etc. that makes the character of a human being. Work on your own character first before you point a finger at others.

 

 

There I think I can safely get off my soap box now 😀

Caught on camera: acts of love & kindness

Caught on camera: acts of love & kindness, making the world a better place one-act at a time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

and if you need some ideas on what to do….. watch this:

 

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