The ability to read, write and to love the written word is perhaps the greatest love affair that I will ever have in my life. As a bookworm, the greatest gift I can be given is in the form of a book that opens the window to a different reality, a new culture, a different way of thinking, of knowing, of feeling and making sense of the world that we live in.
A book can transcend boundaries. It is the ability to travel without leaving the comfort of your home. It is music to the heart and window to the soul, bringing in fresh air and getting rid of the cobwebs that build up in the corners of our hearts and minds.
If we read, not with preconceptions but with an open mind to understand others – what would we find? What would we discover in the religious books of others? In the historical accounts written by natives and not by conquerors? How would we judge cultures, civilizations.. if we learnt about them from the people who practice them?
Would we be as bigoted? as ignorant? as harsh in our critique of the ‘other’? would there even be an other? cause what is the other but one that is not ourselves, and yet, the more I travel, the more I see that we are all alike underneath our superficial differences.
Perhaps the love of traveling sprang from my love of reading. I know my passion for the African continent was fueled by stories I read of ancient Abyssinia, the Queen of Sheba, the fierceness of Zulu & Masai warriors. I know I will forever be fascinated by tribal lore, shamans and healers, ancient knowledge and traditional medicine, of oral traditions that trace back history to generations long since gone.
When I look at my continent, our own history, I no longer see the narratives set by British conquests or how we were described in western narratives. I see what existed, what flourished for thousands of years even as invaders of all types came, went or assimilated. I see civilization that has evolved and a lot that has managed to remain the same. Holding on to some things are worth it, even as we fight to change others.
But for now … these quotes are dedicated to my love for the written word… that express things like nothing else ever could…
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:
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 🙂
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.
When we’re ashamed, we can’t tell our stories, and stories are the foundation of identity. Forge meaning, build identity, forge meaning and build identity. That became my mantra. Forging meaning is about changing yourself. Building identity is about changing the world. All of us with stigmatized identities face this question daily: how much to accommodate society by constraining ourselves, and how much to break the limits of what constitutes a valid life? Forging meaning and building identity does not make what was wrong right. It only makes what was wrong precious.
What do we do with the worst things that has happened to us?
Live with shame? Lose ourselves in what could have been? Live with a lifetime of regret, anger, hurt, shame, betrayal, inability to trust?
Or could you take all that and build for yourself something more – something that is bigger then what could have been, had ‘it’, the hurt and pain, not happened. What do we appreciate more? The things we easily achieve, or the stuff for which we have had to struggle for long and hard?
Rebuilding a life anew from the ashes of one in which I had sacrificed and lost everything that I thought gave meaning to my life, I am no stranger to struggle or building new identities. Some days I still wake up and have to remind myself that ‘today is all there is and tomorrow is promised to no one’. Each day comes with 24 hours and each hour comes with 60 minutes. It’s a deposit in your bank that you cannot save for tomorrow, neither can you borrow from what’s to come – so all you really have are these moments in which you are still alive. What we do with that is really who we are choosing to become.
Our words shape our narratives. The one we play on a loop inside our head. The one we verbalize or project to others. Instead of worrying about what could be or what was, the question that plays the most in my head is “am I doing the best I could do in this very moment?” Am I being who I want to be? consciously and unconsciously do my words and actions align with my core being?
We humans have searched for meaning through out time with the most basic question of all “why do I exist?” and in this beautiful talk Andrew presents some brilliant insights into how we come to be who we are – by persevering through all of life’s ups and downs.
Writer Andrew Solomon has spent his career telling stories of the hardships of others. Now he turns inward, bringing us into a childhood of adversity, while also spinning tales of the courageous people he’s met in the years since. In a moving, heartfelt and at times downright funny talk, Solomon gives a powerful call to action to forge meaning from our biggest struggles.
So at some point in time or other, we all get these body image issues. Too fat, too thin, not enough boob, too much boob, jiggling in the wrong places … you name it, either you got it or someone you know does. What doesn’t help is the media portrayal of women who just look too damn perfect! Perfect skin, hair, make-up, figure.. everything is just too perfect!
It’s enough to cause bulimia and anorexia in teenagers. It’s enough to cause any women, regardless of age, body-image issues. In fact, if we could take our mental picture of us and compare that side by side to how others see us… we would be startled at how beautiful people think we are and just how critical we are of our flaws – real or imagined.
Everyone has some feature that others envy. Trust me! Sadly, I have yet to meet a woman/girl/teenager who thought they were perfect the way they are. What does that tell us? So here’s a ted talk from someone who is PERFECT! really! she is! She’s smart, beautiful and has a rocking body. She’s been a model for 10 years now. She’s literally admitting her privilege and pointing out both the biases and superficiality of the fashion industry (which can severely affect the body and beauty image of young girls everywhere) and the way people judge others based solely on physical appearance (RACE, gender, weight, hair color etc).
The first part to fixing a problem is letting it be known – in this case that happens to be that ‘LOOKS’ aren’t everything 🙂
And here’s a talk that shows the surprising impacts of low body and image confidence—from lower grade point averages to greater risk-taking with drugs and alcohol. And then shares the keys things all of us can do to disrupt this reality.
This post is related to another one I wrote on girls & images: Caught in between lies & half-truths.
I love meditation 😀 I love the feeling of peace, security, acceptance and over all lightness that I experience in my meditation sessions. As an introvert, my inner world is supremely important to me, in fact so important that from time to time, I like to set dedicated hours apart to ensure that my inner house is in order.
Knowing who I am and what I am has been quite a journey. In this journey of self-discovery and learning, I have found meditation to be quite a tool for inner discovery. Most of us look outside when we want company, happiness, comfort… not quite realizing that everything that you need already resides within you. However it’s almost impossible to find your inner resources when you don’t have the best relationship with yourself.
We all have that little voice that nags us at the back of our head. Maybe a forgotten voice that belonged to a teacher who called you ‘stupid’ for failing in math or a family that thought you were too ‘naive’ or ‘angry’. All those labels that people we have forgotten, labelled us with and that subsequently became part of our personality. The voices that say that things aren’t quite how they should be, that you could always do better, etc. and you keep beating yourself up over your perceived failures. It’s a never-ending nag! Had this voice belonged to someone else, you would have probably resented their negativity and pulled away from their social circle. But since this is the voice in our head, most of us, go through life oblivious to it.
This is exactly why I love meditating. It puts me in touch with me. The me, who already has everything that she needs. The me, who is happy and blessed. The me, who knows what is right for her, in her gut, in her mind, intuitively. This is the inner me, the fat happy cat that purrs near my feet, light as a feather, happy as can be.
So given the recent onslaught of questions on finding resources on meditation, I have found quite a few sites which I love.
These Buddhist monks who have started a Peace Revolution are amazing, head over here: https://peacerevolution.net/. They have a free 42 day program to guide you through your journey 🙂
If you want something more scientific, try this site: http://marc.ucla.edu/ The UCLA MARC has an array of information, including free guided meditations.
And if you have an interest in Buddhism (you don’t have to in order to learn how to meditate), head over here: http://www.how-to-meditate.org/ They have an array of videos on lectures and techniques, along with the underlying principles.
So go on ahead… enjoy!
p.s. Other posts were I have written about meditation are:
If you have ever struggled with getting your priorities right…
If you have woken up too many mornings wondering how you will drag yourself through the day…
If you have looked at your life thinking I need to change something but I don’t know where to start…
Then this Ted Talk is for you 🙂
You can read the full transcript here.