“What do you think of America, Mom?” a young man with Down’s syndrome asked his mother, the waitress who was serving us in the now almost-empty restaurant. “I think America is in a terrible place, sweetie,” she responded. My ears perked. I wondered if she might be upset about the economy. Maybe she didn’t like one or both of the presidential candidates. Perhaps she felt America was becoming increasingly racist. “We’ve left God. ‘One nation under God’. That’s what it’s supposed to be. But now we’re just one nation.”
I felt uncomfortable. My husband and I were the only two people left in the restaurant located in a small town in Illinois with a population less than 9,000. We were blatantly foreign, my husband speaking with his Scottish accent and both of us walking around while holding iPads, kindles and a man bag. I had just asked the waitress’s daughter if the red things in the mashed potatoes were bacon bits, because if they were, I couldn’t eat it. She told me they were potato skins.
Had the mama waitress answered her son so loudly in order to make a point? Or maybe I had become hypersensitized to America’s God-speak and it was starting to get on my nerves.
It’s everywhere. The Bibles in every single hotel room, the signs in front of churches telling me I needed saving, the four older creationists sitting with big posters at the start of a trail in the Smoky Mountains, the country singers ending their show in Nashville with a gospel song, the tour guide announcing all kinds of religion existed in Nashville: Methodists, Baptists, Catholics…you name it! (more…)
I thought I had been on this long, tortuous (anything-but-spectacular-now-that-I’m-where-I-am-now) journey and that I’d learned the greatest lessons of life, reached the age of wisdom, and I could deal calmly with anything that was thrown my way.
I don’t know what happened or when exactly, but I was really really wrong.
Now I find myself asking me: “So what’s the deal? I knew life was always going to have its ups and downs. I figured that part out. I lowered my expectations completely and started enjoying whatever it was I did have. But I thought I had learned self-control. I thought I had gained inner peace. WHERE THE FUCK HAS THAT GONE???”
Does this mean that just as life has its ups and downs, self also goes through uncontrollable rollercoaster-rides of emotions? But why?
Or is this just me bolting right into pre-menopause? I have to warn you now, if this is what my menopause is going to be like, if I have to go through this for several years, you will all want to run out of my way starting now. Because this ugly. This is really ugly.
And then I think, “Why has God made women’s hormones so difficult to deal with? I mean: this is God we’re talking about. G O D. God can do anything. God gave us tornadoes and tsunamis and poverty and asshole dictators. (more…)
Nadia’s best friend Arwa: “Save it! Just don’t let it bother you!”
Nadia: “But I’m not bothered for me. I’m bothered for the sake of all of humanity!”
It was at that point in the conversation that I realized I was properly PMSing.
I’m not aware when exactly it happened or how long it’s been going on, but at some point in time I appointed myself savior of all humanity (in Egypt only really because saviors need to be realistic about their goals) through Facebook.
I could go on joking about this and making fun of myself. That would be easy. But I won’t. Because no matter how silly and superficial it sounds, “it” isn’t silly or superficial at all.
I’m not sure when the messages started rolling in. It’s been at least two years now. Maybe three. Perhaps four? Complete strangers, almost all of them Egyptian, started popping up in my Facebook inbox asking if I would listen to their story. So I listened. At first I was receiving one message every few days. Then, for a long time, a year or two, I was receiving around two messages a day. Recently I posted what I thought was another one of my “normal” statuses but for some reason it went absolutely and crazily viral. That day and for a few days after I was receiving tens of messages from complete strangers. All needing a listening ear. (more…)
As the days go by, my perceptions of distance and degree of difficulty are changing.
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.
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…)
Sometime around my early to mid-thirties, I decided I needed to make some changes in my life. I was a fulltime mother and housewife at the time. And I was more than happy to continue doing that indefinitely. I absolutely loved, and still do, taking care of my children and managing the household. But I had come to the realization, observing my and my siblings relationships with my own parents, that children grow up and go on to have their own lives. If I didn’t find something to occupy my time, in addition to my children, a day will come when I will feel very alone. I was also feeling a need to be financially independent. At the time, my thinking on the matter wasn’t feminist in the slightest. I wasn’t thinking that I needed to be my own independent person and part of that independence was my financial independence. I simply wanted to have enough money to buy a nice shampoo every now and then without my husband complaining about how I was spending “our” money. And I wanted to be able to get my children nice things when I wanted to.
Shortly after I came to these realizations, I began to work. Becoming a career woman radically changed my life. (more…)
The first time I heard about the hijab I was a little girl around the age of ten. I was growing up in the United States, the product of an American mother and an Egyptian father. My father and I were walking somewhere, and he mentioned that Muslim women start to cover their hair after they perform the Pilgrimage to Mekka. He may have been avoiding talking to me at this young age about menses and that in Islam, it is actually at the age that a girl gets her first period that she becomes accountable to God and should start wearing her hijab. Or perhaps my father just did not know this at that time, and because he witnessed so many women come back from the Pilgrimage with their hair covered he assumed that this was the rule. My father did not grow up in Egypt with women who covered their hair. Pictures of him and his classmates in Cairo University show women wearing stylish short dresses, sometimes above the knee, with hairdos that were common in the 1950s all over the Western world. Back then, even the wives and daughters of many of the Muslim Brotherhood did not wear the hijab.
I clearly remember my reaction. “Well, I just won’t ever perform the Pilgrimage then. Not at least until I’m old,” I said. The concept was so foreign to me it did not register as something I would remotely consider doing.
There’s nothing like the death of a parent to smack some sense into you. Or maybe, rather, to smack confusion into you. Or perhaps it’s more like smacking you into realizing
Michelangelo's Finger of God
you need to confront the confusion you already had but did not want to face.
My father taught me almost everything I know about religion; i.e. Islam. I did my own readings, of course. I had a phase of about six years while studying medicine in university when I became a bookworm of Islamic knowledge. Just the other day I decided to organize my personal library at home. I thought I’d organize my books according to subject. I came across the books I bought during that time and I was horrified. Besides a number of books that guide one to the best methods of preaching Islam to others, and other books about how to purify oneself to a place of high moral and ethical standards according to Islamic philosophy, there were books such as Leadership and Following in Islam, Dying with Passion, and The Methods of Ideological Invasion. My books were chosen usually as either required or recommended reading by Muslim Brotherhood “sisters” and “brothers” who were mentoring me at the time. It was pounded into my head that one should not stray from books written by certain authors so as not to have my head messed with, basically, by writers following a non-pure path of Islam. And since I was still young, impressionable and pretty much ignorant and incapable of making up my own mind for myself – or so I was made to believe – I was instructed to follow the advice of those brothers and sisters who were more worldly and knowledgeable than me.
Many years later, I now clearly see how cult-like that part of my upbringing was. My head became lazy. I turned into a person who resorts to certain authorities on religion, i.e. Islam, rather than figuring things out with a mind open to all possibilities.