Just me

A rambling post about training

I’ve started training seriously. Not that I’ve ever not trained seriously. It’s just that I’ve ramped up the seriousness level a few bars. It’s not going to be easy. Not that it ever was.

One thing I’ve noticed is that my anxiety seems more under control (I’ve had mild undiagnosed anxiety for years). I don’t know if this has anything to do with my new training program. What I do know is that I sometimes wake up in the morning feeling anxious, but that seems to go away once I’m back from training. It’s nice not feeling anxious all the time.

I’ve been getting recurrent injuries that have held me back from training the way I’d like to. Running gives me shin splints. And I’ve had on-and-off knee pain. The last time I got knee pain it stuck with me for weeks. It was bad. I gave my body the rest it needed to get back to being pain-free, while still swimming and gyming to keep a certain level of fitness. And then I decided to go to the experts.

I’m now working with a triathlon coach! It’s so interesting working with someone who actually understands this stuff. We had many email exchanges, a few phone calls and we went together to a physiotherapy center in town that treats British Olympic athletes. The physio examined me at length on two separate visits and then wrote a very long report about all the things that are wrong with me (there were a lot). It took a lot of self-pep-talking to see the positive side to that report. It’s obvious that giving birth to four children has affected my body. Falling off my bike and dislocating my shoulder has also. (more…)

The hatred is everywhere

I’ve learned to numb myself to most of the horrible news we hear almost everyday now. I try to avoid the details and only have a general idea of the goings-on. I convince myself that these events, no matter how frequent, are really only rare. It’s only because we’ve become hyper-connected that we hear about every bad thing in the world. I tell myself that bad things have been happening in the world since the world began, but that good things and good people are what make up the majority on this planet. I tell myself that the voice of evil is just very loud while the voice of good is apparently meek, otherwise we’d all have a very different perception of our world.

I watch the news, find out about the terror attacks, the wars, and the dirty politicians and pretend that I can still live a good life without having to deal with all that. If I told myself otherwise, I’d just feel so helpless. No. I already feel helpless in a way. I’d feel too helpless.

I can numb myself to the news. I’ve been fortunate enough for most of the bad stuff to be at least an arm’s-length away from me that I can I just get on with things.

I can numb myself to the news. But I am completely incapable of numbing myself to the hatred, intolerance, bigotry and encouragement of or incitement to violence I now often see from people I think of being “just like you and me”. There seems to be so much of it and it’s everywhere. Social media has opened up doors to what’s really going on in the minds of people. It’s like it’s opened the floodgates that previously held in check all the crazy thoughts people hold inside and try not to let out in public.

There’s so much hatred. There’s so much anger.

There is a context to the hatred and anger. They aren’t borne of nothing. But that hatred and anger aren’t solving the world’s problems. They are fuel to the fire. Why can’t people see that? (more…)

Is change on the horizon in Saudi Arabia?

Only recently did I realize that it’s a country I love to hate. I have a lot of baggage with Saudi Arabia and I so wanted to remain angry at it. But even as I got on my first flight back to the country in around 15 years, I found myself unable to quell the little bit of mounting excitement that I felt about going back.

I first went to Saudi Arabia in the 70s. I went to the 7th and 8th grades there. Before that we lived in the US. We returned afterwards to the States but went back to Saudi Arabia, where I spent my last year of schooling (11th grade) before I went off to university in Cairo, Egypt. My father remained for most of the rest of his life. He only left when his health no longer allowed him to continue teaching at university, many years after the typical retirement age.

My story with Saudi Arabia is complicated. I think I actually liked it as a young girl. During my younger years, I thrived on change. I’ve never been able to relate to children or their parents who worry about changing schools and leaving friends behind. My way of thinking was that my friends would remain my friends for life, no matter where I ended up in the world. Moving somewhere else only meant that I got to make even more friends.

Saudi Arabia was so different from anything I ever knew. But it was an adventure. (more…)

Immigration and complicated relationships with “home”

I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been in the same position realizes just how much people give img_2541up to immigrate to another country. Sometimes, perhaps always, even immigrants take years before they realize how much they’ve given up.

People immigrate for so many different reasons. Some immigrate for a better education for themselves or for their children. Others immigrate for economic reasons. Others leave their countries as a result of political conflict, insecurity or war. Yet others may just need a new beginning.

Whatever the reason, I’m willing to guess there’s a certain amount of trauma involved in uprooting oneself to try to settle down somewhere that could be significantly different from what one has known.

I know I have been traumatized by the circumstances in Egypt post-revolution and by my decision to leave and try to settle in the UK.

It’s now been five years since I’ve started going back and forth between the two countries and two-and-a-half since I officially started settling in the UK. Only a few weeks ago my husband said something about one day settling down in Egypt again. My response was visceral: “I never ever ever want to live in that country again.”

After spending last month in Egypt, I think my relationship with my country may slowly be on the mend. (more…)

The contradictions within me

What is it about human beings and all our contradictions? 

I’ve been feeling a bit mellow the past few days. A bit itchy. Yes. Mellow AND itchy. I feel down. I don’t want to do anything. But I’m really really itching for an adventure.

Just now, after flicking through my Facebook feed, I thought, “All I want to do is to go somewhere where I can completely distance myself from other human beings.” Yet only 30 minutes earlier I told my husband, “I need to get out and go somewhere where there are other human beings.”

Yesterday I was watching Come Dine With Me on TV. One of the contestants lived in a beautiful old home in the English countryside. She had her own lake in her back garden. So I thought, “I’d love to have a grand old house in the English countryside with my own lake.” The reality is that when my husband and I got serious about buying a larger home, I ended up feeling completely overwhelmed, I couldn’t find anything that lived up to the much smaller house we currently have, and I was the one who decided that we’re fine just where we are. So it was mission abort.

I love beautiful things. I love walking through the shops and looking at all the wondrous things that have been created by my fellow man. Then I look at the price tag and realize there was no way on earth I’d be willing to spend that kind of money on something no matter how nice it was.  (more…)

The colliding stories of Egypt and Argentina

As horrible as this may sound, today (and sometimes other days) I blame my father.

I blame my father for what often seems to me an illogical attachment to country and people.

I blame my father for instilling in me (I’m certain it was deliberate) a very strong sense of national identity, long before I ever even visited the country.

I’ve been reading a book about Argentina’s desaparecidos – the thousands who disappeared during the country’s military rule from 1976 to 1983. It’s a heart-wrenching narrative of real events through fictional characters. And it pains me to my very core that I can relate in some ways to the events and the characters in this book.

I don’t know if I’ll ever come to terms with what has happened in Egypt in the past few years. I’m one of the extremely fortunate who have managed to come out of it unscathed, if not for an expected amount of post-traumatic stress disorder. My family is all safe for now. The vast majority of my friends are also safe, although I have a few who are very dear to me who are in jail; one with a death sentence on his head.

So many of my friends have left the country, a few literally fleeing it. I left for many reasons, mainly because of my personal family circumstances. But underneath those obvious reasons I know that part of me just can’t deal with what Egypt has become. And another small part of me fears it.

It pains me to have the luxury of sitting comfortably in a nice little house in northern England, drinking my tea and blogging about my all-so-important feelings, while there are so many people back home in Egypt who want to leave but can’t – either because they don’t have the means or because they are literally incarcerated. But because I’m the center of my own world, what probably pains me even more is that I am this fortunate yet I still have an illogical longing and pain for a country and a people now so far away.  (more…)

The “mental” triathlete: understanding the craziness

I admit it’s not an easy thing to understand.

How I look is exactly how I feel here. This is just after finishing what was probably my first triathlon last year.

How I look is exactly how I feel here. This is just after finishing what was probably my first triathlon last year.

Why do it, if it causes you so much anxiety?

Why do it, if you don’t seem to enjoy it?

Why do it, if it comes with so much pain?

Yesterday, as I headed out the door to go on my weekly longish bike ride I felt like I wanted to cry. I was feeling cold and I was sick of the cold. I’m generally burnt out (I’m in desperate need of a holiday) and tired. I’d much rather just laze about under a warm blanket and watch crap TV on my comfortable couch.

This morning I forced myself out of bed, got dressed, foam-rolled my legs to try to wake them up, and instead of taking my time to say hello to the world by eating breakfast in my robe and getting some caffeine into my system, I ran out the door to do my medium-length weekly run.

When I was cycling across Europe two years ago, I blogged a lot about my daily anxieties; so much so that a friend asked, “Are you sure you should be doing this?”

The answer is yes.

I can think of a few reasons why.

Most importantly, I refuse to allow anxiety and an inner tendency towards laziness to take over my life.  (more…)

My magic-bubble treatment for PMS and anxiety

I hate what PMS does to me.

In recent years, probably over the past decade, I’ve become a more anxious person. I’ve learned coping mechanisms to deal with anxiety, but it’s an exhausting state to be in. PMS takes my base anxiety levels and shoots them through the roof.

The good thing is that I’m aware of this and that helps me mentally manage it. The bad thing is that I have to live through a state of inner turmoil caused by high-wired chemicals and hormones.

How does one explain what it’s like?

When I’m PMSing, it feels like there’s a small electric undercurrent moving through my body. I feel the slightest bit nauseous. It feels like something bad is about to happen. Since I don’t know what that bad thing might be, my brain wants to identify something bad for me so that I can put logic to the way I feel. That means my brain starts acting all stupid. It’s like a computer is turned on in my head that starts sifting through all the data of the things happening in my life and it then lights up certain data in particular, deciding these three things must be the cause of how I feel.

When I’m not feeling anxious, when I’m not PMSing, those three things won’t even catch my attention. But when I’m anxious and PMSing, they turn into huge issues that need to be dealt with and need to be resolved.

The good thing is that I’m usually conscious of all this so I do my very best to process the data and put it into its proper context. (more…)

A day in the life of a PMSing triathlete

Today, Nadia woke up with full-blown PMS. Her energy levels were below zero and her brain failed to function. Even so, she managed to make herself breakfast, drink her morning cup of tea, and write an overdue article – barely.

Nadia had much more work that needed to be done, but the overdue article turned out to be the

I'm not the most attractive when I'm triathleting.

I’m not the most attractive when I’m triathleting.

limit of her work-related ability for the day. So she slumped onto her favorite (only) couch and turned the television on to Come Dine With Me.

Nadia was certain she’d have to send her personal trainer a note, apologizing for not being able to make her 1:45pm appointment at the gym. “There’s no way that’s going to work,” she told herself.

But like a robot, at 1:15 she forced herself off the couch, up the stairs and lazily got into her gym clothes.

At exactly 1:30, she opened the house door, gym bag in hand, and was shocked to find the car wasn’t in the drive.

FUUUUUUUUUUUCK! she yelled to herself. You see, Nadia had forgotten that she herself had taken the car to the mechanic just the day before.

“I DO NOT want to have to walk to the gym on a day like today!” she proclaimed. She had no energy! She was PMSing! The whole world was conspiring against her!

She threw her duffle bag on the floor and decided, “If I’m fucking going to have to walk to the gym, I’m turning this into this week’s short run. I am not wasting all that energy for nothing!” And so it was. Nadia ended up running to the gym (it’s a short run). (more…)

Inner musings on identity

I spend a pretty decent amount of time thinking about “identity”. I often have a one-to-one conversation

Me with my contemplative look on.

Me with my contemplative look on. (Not really. In this picture I was just happy to be sitting in the sun).

with myself, trying to establish who I am and who I want to be. I think it’s healthy to do that every once in awhile. It’s too easy to find yourself being what others want you to be, regardless of your own feelings and thoughts. It’s easy even not to have thoughts about who you want to be. It’s easy to just move with the flow of dictates from parents, family, friends, and whatever society you happen to find yourself in.

I find the whole topic of identity a fascinating one. I’ll often ask people that question: What do you identify yourself as? People identify themselves in terms of where they are from, where they feel at home, what religion they follow, what they do for a living, what gender they are, what sexual preferences they have, what social class they feel they belong to, what education they’ve had, and the list goes on and on. Some people identify as being many different things. Others only strongly identify as belonging to one group, tribe even, or another.

I was born in the U.S. to an American mother and an Egyptian father. I grew up in the U.S. until I was 15, then moved to Saudi Arabia for a year, then spent the major portion of my adult life in Egypt. I am now in the U.K. I studied medicine then journalism. I work as a science journalist. I’m a wife and a mother. I’m a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a niece, and a cousin. I’m Muslim. I’ve travelled all over the world and I have a few hobbies.

But if you ask me: What do you identify as? I’d tell you first and foremost I’m a mother. Secondly, no matter how much I sometimes try to avoid it, I identify very strongly as Egyptian even though cognitively I feel like a citizen of the world. (more…)