family

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…)

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Lost and Then Found: My Breakthrough

I had a major breakthrough over the past couple of days.

Despite all my complaining, despite all my anxiety and worrying, despite the restlessness that hits me every couple of months like a locomotive train, despite a desire – sometimes – for more, I am content.

I am not even going down the road of comparing my life to that of others’ to say how fortunate mine is in comparison to all those suffering from poverty, natural disasters, major health issues, abuse, wars, etc. Doing that is not fair to me and it is not fair to them.

My life is good given the circumstances I was dealt and the choices I have had to make.

I am happy with my choices. Every single one of them. Even the bad ones. I am happy with them because I am the one who made them. I am happy with them because I have grown as a result of them.

I am happy with my choices because I have (almost) always managed to get my priorities straight.

I have struggled through issues of faith only to realize how important my faith actually is to me. (more…)

Cycling Europe Day 8: Missing My People

As the days go by, my perceptions of distance and degree of difficulty are changing.

Toledo, Spain

Toledo, Spain

After a misunderstanding between me and my GPS the day before yesterday that led to a 156km cycle through the mountains, today’s moderately hilly 75km cycle felt like a leisurely morning ride. Leisurely is probably taking it a bit far. It was cold. It was raining. I was absolutely drenched. I decided not to wear my rain coat because it was causing me to overheat. So I dared not stop otherwise I would get unhealthily cold. There were hills. The road went up and down for most of the route. But every time I saw the next hill I’d think, “Those are normal hills like the ones in Yorkshire. I can do those.” Never would I have thought that the day would come when I’d call the rolling hills of Yorkshire, England “normal”. I HATED training on those hills. I cursed at those hills. But that’s why they are such a good training ground for cyclists. Once you become accustomed to them other hills are normal too.

(more…)

Bring It On, 2014!

When you have a blog that you update semi-regularly and when there are a couple of people out there in this world who actually

Our 2013 Reminder Jar

Our 2013 Reminder Jar

read what you write, you feel a certain sense of obligation to your vast audience of two to write something special to bring in the new year.

I’ve been thinking of what my New Year post should be about for days, writing words in my head and then almost immediately afterwards erasing them (in my head too, of course. That’s how it works). Sometimes I begin writing great words of wisdom. And then I go back in my head and remember all the blog posts I wrote about how confused I have been this year and decide that is probably not a wise road to take. Other times in my head I write a summary of all the things that have happened to me, at me, around me, and in me and quickly realize how boring all that is even to me let alone to everybody else. I do want to write something, though. So I decided that I would do what I always do: I’ll sit down and let the words flow out of me. I’ll just be me.

At the beginning of 2013 my husband and I started a 2013 Reminder Jar. (more…)

Struggling to Find My Calling in Life

It has been a very long time since I’ve known what I want to do in life.  I’ve been racking my head over it now for months, probably longer. And I’m getting absolutely nowhere.

Yesterday I came out of watching The Hobbit thinking that maybe what I need to do is spend the next two years learning Kung Fu. Then maybe I could go back to Egypt and use my Kung Fu superpowers to save the country from the evil dragons that have taken over the country. I really did decide this was going to be my calling. Those elves and their martial arts really got to my head.

Two days ago I decided that spending so much time on social media was not helping me figure out my calling. Perhaps if I cut back significantly I would be able to spend more time figuring it all out. I have been using social media quite heavily for several years now and it has definitely not helped me find my calling; the evidence being that it has gotten me absolutely nowhere. I did go through a phase where I felt that communicating through Facebook and Twitter had become my job. My husband once asked me to put down my phone and to focus on the moment that we were in – we were travelling somewhere. I replied, “But Colin. This is what I DO!” I have definitely been through phases where I have thought that my Twitter and Facebook followers were hanging on my every word. When did it become so important for me to communicate my every thought to a virtual world? Two days ago when I made my decision to cut down on social media, a thought came to my head and I struggled with myself for hours not to write down on Facebook. I told myself that if I still felt it was important later that evening then I could write it to the world then. I didn’t. The status would have read, “The women at my gym in the UK show hardly any emotion when they workout while I grimace and curse the whole time. I wonder what they are like during child birth.” Clearly this is a completely inconsequential thing to say. Before the Internet, that thought would go through my head and it would then die there. Now it comes into my head and I have to tell the world. What is that all about? I must admit that I am now relieved it is out there in the world through this blog post, though.

But no. I have decided that social media cannot be my calling.

I have not always been at a loss like this. (more…)

Entitled to a Smile

Is this that I feel despair? Depression? Frustration? Loneliness? Just a general sadness? Or perhaps some combination thereof?

I find myself longing for normality. But I try to find my personal definition for what normality really is for me and I fail. Have I ever experienced anything remotely similar to what most people would call a normal living? Has anyone?

I look at my own life, my personal circumstances, and I see a story. I see a life full of drama, events, very high highs and very low lows. I look at my life and I see a unique story. Yet I know that every single person placed on this earth has a unique story of their own.

I am vexed by a feeling of entitlement. I am entitled to live a better life. I am entitled to find a job that I really love. (more…)

The Banes of Traveling with Others and Why Traveling Alone Can Be a Good Thing – But Only Some of the Time

I have travelled so many different ways. I have travelled with my whole extended family, with one of my teenaged children,

SOMEONE takes the worst ever pictures of me when we travel together. I think he does it to annoy me.

SOMEONE takes the worst ever pictures of me when we travel together. I think he does it to annoy me.

with all of my children, alone with my husband, with large groups of friends, with a small group of friends, with one friend, and with work colleagues. Every single one of those trips was enjoyable in their different ways. And every single one of those trips came with tremendous challenges.

You may live with people day in and day out and feel like you get along quite well generally. At home, you have your routine and each family member has space and time to do their own thing and to have some privacy. Families will do some things together and other things will be done individually. When we get upset with each other we stomp into our rooms, slam our doors, scream into our pillows, and eventually calm down and move on. It works. It’s fine. Put that same family together in very close proximity for two weeks on the same schedule and they are more than likely to exhibit mass suicidal or homicidal tendencies.

Here are some examples of problems I have had while traveling with others:

  • I am having a horrible nightmare that involves flashlights going on and off. I wake up in the middle of the night to find that my hotel room companion cannot sleep and is checking out Facebook on her mobile phone. The light, although emanating from beneath a blanket, is blinding me in my sleep. I ask her to turn it off otherwise I’ll never be able to sleep. She does so reluctantly. At 7:30 in the morning, my normal waking time, I wake up while my traveling companion is in a deep sleep. I turn on my iPad to get the address of the place I want to go visit that morning. I’ll be going alone because my travel companion has decided she needs more sleep. As soon as the iPad light comes on, I am rebuffed. “Nadia! You didn’t like it when I turned my phone on last night! Turn it off!” “That was in the middle of the night, for goodness sake!” I reply. “It doesn’t matter! I’m sleeping now!” she returns. I turn the damn iPad off, shower, dress, and leave in much less time than I normally would have taken. I want out of that room!
  • We fly into our transit airport – known for its great duty free shopping area. According to my calculations, I have at least half an hour for some serious duty free shopping before our next flight. According to my travel buddy’s calculations, we have no time at all and we need to rush to the gate otherwise we won’t catch our flight. This irritates the both of us to no end. “He always needs to get to the airport four whole hours before a flight,” I think. “She’s always shopping!” I’m sure he is thinking. (more…)

The Career Struggles of a Woman

I find myself – again – in a very difficult and uncomfortable position. I am unable to make the career choices and decisions I would like to make – that I NEED to make even – because I feel I need to wait for other people around me to make their own decisions first.

How many other women live their lives this way?

When I gave birth to my children, I made the decision not to work. This was a very conscious decision on my behalf. It was a very easy decision. My children were my priority. They were babies. They needed a parent to give them fulltime care for a certain period of time. That parent would be me, their mother. Their father would play the other traditional role of providing for us. I was happy with my decision for the first years of our marriage. But then the children started growing older and I realized three things: we needed more money as a family, I needed to be financially independent, and I needed to have something to occupy myself when the children started going to school.

This was when I made the conscious decision to start working. I was very fortunate to find my way into journalism and it became my passion. But I was always “limited” in the choices I could make because of my responsibilities towards my children. (more…)

26 Things I Learned in 2012 (and Thereabouts)

  1. Your family and your personal wellbeing always trump work.
  2. Your personal integrity is more important than a good salary.
  3. Love can be found on the tops of mountains.
  4. Never give up on the idea of finding your prince charming. He’s out there somewhere if you look hard enough.
  5. The very very hard times WILL be followed by good times so just hang in there a little bit longer. It will get better.
  6. Don’t worry too much about the details. Focus on the big picture.
  7. Sometimes your psyche and your body are yelling, “Give us a break!” Listen to them. Every now and then we need to give ourselves time to heal and to rejuvenate.
  8. Earth is such a beautiful planet. Make a point to see as much of it as you can manage.
  9. Earth is such a beautiful planet. It’s your responsibility to take care of it.
  10. Great friends are few and priceless. Hold onto them for dear life.
  11. Children are God’s greatest blessing. Treat them with respect and sensitivity.
  12. Be true to yourself. To do that you must know who you are. To do that, look within. Do not be confused by other people’s perceptions of who they think you are or who they want you to be.
  13. Value relationships with loved ones by keeping them strong. This requires lots of hard work. It’s worth it.
  14. To keep fit and healthy one must work hard and feel the pain.
  15. Don’t let the fitness of others demotivate you. If you continue to exercise, you can be as fit as they are one day.
  16. 70-year-olds who are consistent in their workout routines can be more fit than many 30-year-olds. These people deserve respect.
  17. Nothing bad will happen to you if you run in the rain or in sub-zero temperatures so just toughen up and get your jogging routine done.
  18. Live life. You only have one chance to do it.
  19. Don’t live your life through others. Decide what it is you would rather be doing and put together a plan to do it.
  20. There is nothing wrong with being 44-years-old and still not knowing what you want to be when you grow up (or wanting to be lots of different things).
  21. As you get older, your skin will droop and your hair will grow grey. Deal with it.
  22. When your country and your countrymen seem to be drowning in a sea of negativity, do what you can to be a drop of positivity in that sea.
  23. Democracy doesn’t come in 18 days. Hope and dignity do.
  24. Faith is a very personal matter. Do not let others tell you how your faith should be.
  25. Never dispose of common sense…especially when it comes to matters of faith.
  26. Do not allow others to dictate to you how your life should be lived, what you should believe, or how you should behave. They are doing what they want to do. You do what you want to do.

Going Home. But Do I Want To?

On July 1, 2012 I left Egypt for the UK to spend just over a month with my husband who lives there. I left Egypt only days after our first democratically elected president took the oath.

Since the revolution, leaving Egypt – always for brief visits abroad – had never been easy for me. While I was away I would obsessively follow the news and events happening at home. I’d feel a need to be back in my country. I always had an overwhelming feeling that my country needed me. I needed to be home.

This current visit abroad was different. Leaving Egypt was as difficult as ever. I am always reluctant to leave even when I know I am in need of a break. This time, though, I felt that I had stuck with the process, however ugly it was and however much I hated it. I stuck with it until the country had a president. It was time for me to take a well-deserved break and for the president to take over for awhile.

It was nice to shut off for once. (more…)