Category Archives: Life

On losing weight

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A lot of people asks me how I did it–how I lost so much weight. Well, there is really no tricks or magic here. It’s all hard work.

Most of my life, I’ve been overweight-borderline-obese. I’m short. With my 5’4″ height, I used to weigh a hefty 92 kilos–yes, I know that’s a lot.

I tried everything I could to lose weight. I would go on one fad diet to another. I tried going to the gym, cutting carbs out of my diet, I tried going vegetarian, then Pesco vegetarian, then I tried some weird soup diet, then fruit diet, basically anything I can find on google when I search for ‘how to lose weight.’ After a while though, I see no result happening and I would just feel heavily disappointed, thus, leading me to fall off the wagon.

The problem was that I kept wanting to see results as quickly as possible. I kept wanting my extremely excess weight to disappear like poof, magic, gone!

It takes a lot to understand that it doesn’t work that way.

I used to eat excessively to the point where I can finish two family size pizza, plus a tub of ice cream in one sitting. I binge on junk food and boy do I love McDonald’s. Chocolate and cakes were my best friends! And I didn’t think that anything was wrong with that. I honestly thought there is nothing wrong in eating whatever I desire. On top of that, I was a couch potato too, I spent hours and hours with my eyes glued on the tv screen, and I thought that it was ok too.

I think it was April last year when I found myself face to face with my weight issues. I just gotten sick of it and came to a decision that I wasn’t getting any younger. I need a 360 degree turn in my life.

The decision I made 11 months ago has finally paid off. Now, I weigh 55 kilos and I am very happy about my weight. I don’t plan on losing anymore, I just want to maintain it as it is.

So, how did I do it? Obviously, It didn’t happen overnight. It took a lot of effort and hard work and a strong mind set.

It all started with me accepting the fact that I wasn’t healthy and that I was far away from looking healthy. When I started acknowledging this problem, I was able to do something about it.

I started going to the gym at least twice a week, for an hour and a half each session. I spend the first hour lifting 3-kilo weights and doing various squat positions since my arms and my legs are my problem areas. The last half an hour is spent on the thread mill.

Apart from going to the gym, I dance salsa three nights a week for at least three hours. That’s equivalent to nine hours of cardio every week.

I watch what I eat. I’m quite lucky that Egyptian cuisine offers a wide array of healthy options. Most of the food I eat are tomato based. I eat more spinach too. Whenever I eat meat, I make sure it’s lean. Another source of good protein is lentil which I can never get tired of.

I don’t drink beer. I drink fruit juices more. If I feel like having a soda, I go for coke zero or diet pepsi. I use skim milk all the time, and I get non fat yogurt from the shops every time.

It sounds like a serious diet, but really, it’s all about portions. I still eat ice cream every week. There’s always a non-fat ice cream sitting in my freezer! I still have chocolates, but it’s about consuming one bar of chocolates as opposed to six bars in one sitting.

And yes, I eat potato chips. Tell me one person who doesn’t eat junk food? But I have to say, instead of finishing a whole bag of chips in one go, I actually divide it into three portions.

I eat anything and everything that I want but in great moderation. Every now and then, I indulge myself to cheesecakes and cupcakes!

Now, about my lifestyle, I spend a lot of time swimming during summer months in Cairo. Whenever I am in Sydney, I run on a 6-km path every weekends. I do windsurfing and kitesurfing when I go on my holidays.

Keeping yourself active really makes a big difference.

The good thing about exercising is that you can do it without feeling as if you are torturing yourself. Do activities you love doing. In my case, salsa really helped me a lot.

Also, when you are trying to lose weight, you shouldn’t be feeling as if you are depriving yourself. I didn’t feel that I was depriving myself by any means because I’m still eating anything I want, the only difference is that I go for much healthier options and I watch the proportions.

I think everyone can feel beautiful no matter the size or the shape. Even when I was 92 kilos before, I still felt beautiful. But there is a fine line between a healthy weight and an unhealthy weight.

Right now, I am enjoying the benefits of being healthy. I can run on the thread mill for half an hour and still feel energetic. I can go 6 flight of stairs without heaving or feeling pain in my chest.

I feel much lighter and more comfortable, and shopping for clothes has become such a delightful experience! And actually, I feel much happier too with all the happy hormones I’m getting.

I don’t like it when people call me skinny because I’m not. I’m healthy, not skinny, but that’s a whole new subject that I will have to write about.

I support everyone who wants to keep a healthy weight. It will be a challenge but it is really doable. Set your goals and stick to it and find ways to make it easier and more fun by doing sports or anything active that you love doing or that you can be passionate about.

I guess, it is a gratifying feeling when you know that you have invested in yourself the way you never did before. We all deserve to have a healthy mind and healthy body, and put in mind that it’s never too late to start.

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The lost lighter

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About a month ago, I have stowed away everything that reminds me of him–I deleted all his messages, all the pictures, even the littlest things on Facebook that would rehash the past. Gone. Locked far away, never to be seen again. Not that I want to forget, rather, it was a way to make things easier. I think I’ve already tortured myself long enough that I have gotten bored of it. Isn’t that what we all want after a break up? A clean slate to start fresh?

I did very well in making sure nothing–not a single thing will make me think about him, but I wasn’t careful.

A few days ago, I was walking to a kiosk to get my packet of cigarette when the wind just blew all over, leaving dusts swirling in the air. It felt as if the wind was playing a joke on me: “tuck your hands in your jacket now, or I’ll freeze you like hell!”

Well, what choice do I have? It was as though the wind knew something that I was just about to find out.

Sure enough, in my jacket pocket was the lighter I thought I lost some time ago. It was the lighter he left me the very last time we were together. It was the very lighter we used to light the very last cigarette we smoked together.

And just like that, boom! All the memories came pouring in and out of my head. Maybe it is the girl in me who still remembers–who always attaches memories and stories to ordinary, everyday things such as a lighter. It’s funny how mere looking at it can bring back old memories that I have securely locked away in the dungeons of never again.

However, with the coming back of memories comes revelations–revelations of how I used to feel, and how I now feel.

I used to hold on to that lighter as though it was the only lighter worthy to light up a cigarette. I remember how I wouldn’t smoke a cigarette if it wasn’t lit with his lighter. Or how the experience of smoking is just different if it was lit by another lighter.

That day that I found the lighter, I was still holding on to it, maybe just out of old time’s sake. I am sentimental that way.

But yesterday proved that I have let go of everything attached to it. I lost it for the second time, and surprisingly, it didn’t bother me like it did the first time.

I guess it was because for the first time, I was looking at his lighter as an object and not a subject with emotions and memories enveloped in it. I didn’t even think about finding it. I just simply borrowed one of my friends’ lighter and to my delight, it felt good.

Today, I bought a new lighter and it will be the first lighter that has me all over it. It wasn’t given by a lover or an ex-lover. It’s a clean slate. I know that it won’t take too long before I get attached to that new lighter. Soon enough, it will have to be the only lighter that will light up my cigarettes. It will stay in my purse whenever I go out, or in my jacket pocket should I go for a run. That lighter will collect new memories, and later it will remind me of places I’ve been to, things I did, and people I met and went out with.

I know I sound silly when I say that losing his lighter for the second time makes me feel like a newly born phoenix. I feel that I can look through the past without crumbling anymore. But what is more satisfying is that I can now anticipate tomorrow and allow myself to be pleasantly surprised with whatever tomorrow has to offer.

Who knows, maybe one day soon, I will find his lighter inside my boots, or under my bed covers. Who cares? What I do know is that I will be able to look at it as a lighter and nothing more.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I deserve a cigarette break. 🙂

Date a girl who dances salsa

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Date a girl who dances salsa. She is feisty, driven, confident. She dances her way through life in a way that she can dodge a bullet in the most graceful fashion. She is strong–physically, mentally, emotionally. She has arms and legs made solid from hardcore dancing. She’s been stepped on countless times with a 4-inch stiletto, she has fallen face flat on the floor, but that doesn’t stop her from dancing. She knows that like dancing, life continues on with or without music.

A girl who dances salsa is not afraid to make mistakes because she takes every wrong turn as a learning curve. She is a girl with a curious soul and an open mind. She will try bachata or kizomba, hiphop, even rumba. She will say yes to a new form of dance even when she has zero knowledge about it because a girl who dances salsa is a girl who is thirsty to learn.

A girl who dances salsa gives and takes. She knows her favorite moves yet she will allow you to lead her from time to time knowing that in every dance she can learn something new. She is a good follower but that doesn’t stop her from being a good leader. She will tell you right in your face that you shouldn’t have pushed hard, or that you are out of beat. When she does that, be impressed because not everyone can be in-your-face honest nowadays. Even when you are leading her in the dance, she will find ways to make the dance extra special by adding her own touch to it.

Date a girl who dances salsa because she is a girl who has high appreciation for the arts and artists. She loves dancing salsa for its elegant art. She recognizes a good salsa song the moment the percussion starts to beat.

A salsera is a chameleon. She has rhythm within her. She blends in and makes fast connection with everyone and that is the same reason why she stands out. The moment she steps in a salsa event, watch her spend a decent half an hour just giving everyone a welcome hug and kisses hello. Everyone loves her around because she has a heart as big as the dance floor. She has good vibes and positive energy that will lift you out of your sorry mood.

When a salsera asks you how you are doing or how your day went, trust me, she really wants to know. Otherwise, she would not bother asking when she can just pull you for a dance without saying a word. So, take the time to let her know what you have been up to, for all you know, she is taking this as a window to know more about you.

A girl who dances salsa goes where the wind blows. She knows when to stand up for the love of her life, yet she knows when it is time to let go. Years of dancing salsa taught her that some people just comes and goes, the way it always does in rueda de casino. A salsera knows when to take a deep and rise from that deep. And believe me, she will rise to any deep much stronger than the fall.

It is easy to date a girl who dances salsa. Invite her for an 8:00pm dinner and she will be there right on time if not earlier. She won’t make you wait an hour or two because she knows how frustrating it is when a salsa event starts late. She values time. Every minute to a dance means a lot to her, so if you do ask her out on a date, be on time and see how much she will like you more for valuing her time’s worth.

A girl who dances salsa does not crack under pressure. She is in control and can fully take care of herself. She is composed and calm and she never loses herself. Dancing salsa taught her that feeling down doesn’t last too long. Sometimes, all it takes is a good salsa event to get her happy back.

A salsera (no matter how long she’s been dancing for, no matter how complex her knowledge is about the dance) keeps her feet grounded. She appreciates talent when she sees it. She has danced a bazillion times before but that does not get in her head. She is humbled by the fact that there is still so much to learn outside the dance floor. She is moved by the courage of beginners and takes pleasure in seeing them evolve and grow within the salsa scene. At the same time, she has high regards for dancers who have turned the soles of their shoes paper-thin from all those years of dancing.

A girl who dances salsa takes the time to know people. She knows that a salsa party is limited to dancing which is why she will ask you out for coffee where the environment is more chat-friendly. Better yet, if you meet a girl who dances salsa, ask her out for coffee or shisha. She will feel giddy inside and out knowing that you will go an extra length to spend time with her not only at a salsa party where meeting is just out of convenience.

It is easy to recognize a salsera. She is that girl in the gym who is listening to Dile El Amor in full blast while lifting three-kilo weights. She is that girl sitting at a corner with a huge bottle of mineral water because she knows she has to be hydrated if she plans on dancing for long. She is that girl with a spare bag where her dancing shoes are. A salsera doesn’t dance in knee-high boots, or 5 inch heels, or a Converse sneakers. She knows that a good pair of dancing shoes is essential to a good dance and a good party. Yes, she takes salsa seriously, because that is what a salsera does with everything she is passionate about.

When you meet a girl who dances salsa, ask her where the next salsa party is, if you’re lucky, she might even invite you to come. When she does, go. It means she wants you to have a slice of her life. Nothing connects people better than dancing. You feel the passion, the intensity, the chemistry, all these in a dance. You feel feelings. You feel when it’s right, and you can tell when it’s not.

A girl who dances salsa knows that at any second, anything can happen and change everything, and she will always be prepared for it. Nothing takes her by surprise. You can spin her around a dozen times, even more, but she will not get off balance. You can let her go for a freestyle and she will be more than happy to show you what she’s got. She knows that her favorite song will always come to an end and she will take it as a beginning to another dance, another song.

Date a girl who dances salsa because she can feel. She is an emotional creature and she is proud of it. One dance can express so much about a salsera. It exposes her being, her passion, her emotions. It’s easy to tell when she’s happy or sad–her facial expressions, hand gestures, and the way she sways her hips say it all.

Pain and vulnerability is something she takes pride in. These are the two things that makes her human. It satisfies her knowing that she is susceptible to hurt, and yet that won’t stop her from taking the leap. She knows that just like in a dance where she gets elbowed, and squeezed, and criticized and judged, life offers more and even harder challenges.

When a salsera says that she loves you, have no doubts because it is true. She knows that love can take away all her decision-making abilities but she will take the risk, knowing that most of the beautiful dances were never expected.

A girl who dances salsa understands that you are not superman, she knows that you can make mistakes and that you don’t know everything because she is a girl who sings and hums to Latin songs even when she doesn’t know or understand the words. She will accept your past and take you for your present, while looking forward more dances with you tomorrow. She is a girl who knows how to compromise. She knows that a relationship has the same theory as a partner dance.

A salsera is a girl who knows very well that love is and should be built in trust. You will see her dance with all the men at a salsa party but you have to know that there is nothing more she can ever want than to dance with you. In fact, she cannot even wait for the next bachata song to start so she could throw her arms around you already. You have to know that a girl who dances salsa will dance with everyone else but it is and will always be different when she dances with you.

A salsera is a girl who can make you feel different emotions in a span of thirty minutes–carefree in merengue, fun in chacha, sophisticated in salsa, passionate in bachata. That’s how she is, always enthused by the different flavors and tastes of life. She knows very well that some flavors she won’t like, some tastes she will detest but she will try it all with her head held high.

She understands that you can’t be with her 24/7 and that it is perfectly fine. Just like most salsa events that are scheduled, she knows you’ve got your own schedules too. She will give you time to be with your friends because she knows she needs time to spend with her girlfriends from salsa too.

A girl who dances salsa is never shallow. She is everything but that. So don’t worry, she is not quick to judge. First impressions do not impress her. No, it doesn’t work like that for our salsera because dancing has taught her that you cannot grasp someone’s personality or character even after months of dancing with them. She knows that salsa is a social venue where you meet people, but she is smart enough to know that real friendships are made outside the dancing floor.

You can tell that a girl dances salsa by that fact that she can’t stop talking about how much she would love to go to Cuba! If you got all the aces in your hand, she might even ask you if you’d like to go with her. If she does, do not hesitate. She wants you to be there at the happiest moment of her life.

When a girl who dances salsa falls in love, you will be her favorite dancer, you will be the most handsome Latino in her eyes even when you don’t dance salsa at all, even when you have two left feet.

A salsera will not push you to do what you don’t want to do because she knows how annoying it is to be dancing with someone who pushes his style and moves on her. At the same time, she knows that every dancer is their own person. She values identity, and independence, and differences more than anything else. You may not be her cup of tea but she will like you for all that you are because individuality is the very thing that attracted her to salsa in the first place. She will love you all the more for having your own sense of self, because you know what your strengths are and you can recognize your weak points when they’re shown.

Date a girl who dances salsa because when you are with her, it feels as though you are listening to an old song for the very first time. Love her because even when she’s danced with 138 different men, she is with you for the reason that she saw something in you that she hasn’t seen in any of those men. In a way, that should already make you feel good about yourself!

A girl who dances salsa is a girl who loves herself. She knows her worth, she knows what she deserves. She will not change for anyone. She will not allow anyone define who she is. She defines herself. You either love her for her totality or you don’t take anything at all. If you find that she is demanding, it is only because she will not let anyone, even the love of her life short-change her or take her for granted. She knows her rights and she won’t let anyone treat her any less. Rest assured, if a salsera loves you back, she will never short-change you, or treat you any less, or take you for granted because she knows your worth, she knows what you deserve.

Date a girl who dances salsa because she is the kind of girl who is beautiful inside and out. She knows she doesn’t have to prove herself–not to you, not to anyone–because she is her own woman. She is beautiful that way. There is something about her that remains attractive even when she has gone sweaty after three hours of dancing. Maybe it is the fact that unlike other girls who always try to look their best to impress, a salsera knows that beauty is never about make up or clothes. It is what is inside you. She is not superficial. She acknowledges beauty when she sees it but she knows how easily it can fade away.

A salsera is a girl who loves women. Nothing can be sexier than seeing a salsera admire another salsera. She treats every girl as an ally not an enemy. She believes in feminism and camaraderie. She knows that jealousy and intrigue and rumors and gossips exist only for the fascination of junior high girls. She sees beauty in everyone, no matter the size, no matter the shape, no matter the age or color. She knows that she doesn’t have to have a body of a latina to dance very well. She is comfortable in her own skin that she radiates no matter the beat, no matter the song.

A girl who dances salsa knows that life is not a fairytale. She has realistic goals, realistic dreams. She knows she can’t get or have everything she wants and she will not be disappointed. What do you think she does when not one of her favorite songs is played in a salsa event? You think she pouts her lips and throws a silly tantrum? No! She makes do of what she has. She is more than happy to dance in a new song. Sure, it might not be her favorite song, but that won’t stop her from dancing.

It is very easy to date a salsera. She doesn’t want a Prada bag or an expensive perfume. She knows that there is no way her dancing shoes and one liter water bottles will fit in a clutch bag. She knows that the scent of a perfume wears out just after a few dances. But give her your own mix of salsa music, or better yet, make a mix of her favorite Latin songs and see that look on her face that is priceless. She will hold the CD in her hands as though it is the world’s most expensive treasure. She will play it nonstop the moment she wakes up in the morning. That will continue throughout the day until she dozes off to sleep. And in between tracks, she will wish you are there listening with her if not dancing with her. Bravo, you just gave her the perfect gift she’s always wanted.

If you’re feeling a little bit extra cheesy, you don’t have to be flashy. Do it the old-school way. That Sneakers chocolate bar? It works like a charm everytime! It’s a no-brainer, she needs as much energy she can get for an all night of dancing. She will thank you for being thoughtful.

She won’t mind you dancing with other girls because she knows she can trust you. She doesn’t get jealous and there is no feeling of insecurity because she knows very well and will never forget what she means to you.

Is a girl who dances salsa worth it? Absolutely, in more ways than one! So when you find her, keep her. Don’t lose her with your insecurities or worse, out of jealousy, for when she says that she loves you, she means every word. After all, this is a girl who has met so many people at various salsa parties before. If she has chosen you, never let her go because you are more than lucky for the fact that out of all the men she has met and danced with, she fell in love with you. Thank the gods she didn’t choose that one awesome Cuban dancer, or that expat from Spain, or that sexy bachata instructor.

She must have seen something in you that makes her want to dance her way through life with no one else but you. And if you and her will have problems along the way, her judgement will not be clouded by what other people say. She loves you for who you are, not for who you can be, not for her idea of who you are. She loves you because you are you, right here, right now. She doesn’t need anyone to tell her you are not good enough, or that she deserves someone better. If you’ve been reading very intently, I think I have already stressed many times how a girl who dances salsa knows her worth and what she deserves. If she’s with you, she’s with you for a reason. You are someone worthy to dance with even when the music has stopped.

Date a girl who dances salsa. Make her feel that she is the best girl in the world. Let her know that she is safe, that you will catch her should she fall. Make her believe that no matter who she is dancing with or who you are dancing with, you will always be each other’s first and last dance.

Find a girl who dances salsa, because when you do, you’ll start living as though life is a dance floor. And with a salsera’s hand intertwined with yours, there is never a wrong turn. Only music in the background that has gotten much sweeter. And just in case you fall in love with a salsera, and you’re lucky enough that she falls in love with you too, congratulations! You just found yourself an epic partner on and off the dance floor!

The parable of the chocolate ice cream

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Below is a letter I wrote my best friend who is currently going through a rough time in his relationship. This applies to everyone who are still looking despite the fact that what they are looking for is just right in front of their nose. This also applies to everyone who has been in a relationship long enough to have passed the honeymoon stage and are now feeling doubtful, bored, unsatisfied. This letter can only do two things: shed some light or get you more confused than you already are. (Note: * not their real names.)

Dearest Monkey Potatoheadski,

Where to start? Last night I started writing something about obsession. I get obsessed with a lot of things and a lot of people. When I want it, I have to make sure I get it. I will do everything in my power to have it. If I have to cry or throw a fit or jump over a mountain or roll down a hill, I will, if that’s the only way I can have it.

Now, what does that make me sound like? A spoiled brat, right? Terrible.

I obsess when it comes to love. I am in love with love and romance which is why my life has become a huge romantic drama comedy movie.

But I want you to know that sometimes, I really like something only for the reason that I cannot have it. It’s the challenge of proving myself I can have anything and everything that I want. And then once I finally get it, it’s over, too late to realize I never want it in the first place.

I always tell my friends about my story of chocolate ice cream.

Imagine. All your life you’ve been eating chocolate ice cream. It’s the only flavor you know, the one flavor you ever tasted. You know the creamiest and sweetest details down to the littlest bits. You know how it melts in your tongue and how it can send you to moments of glory. One day you decide to go to the shop to get your chocolate ice cream and to your dismay, you find that there is none. Lots of other flavors are left, strawberry, pistachio, mango, vanilla, caramel. You name it. All new and exciting flavors are waiting to be devoured. Very tempting isn’t it?

And you start thinking: “should I just wait until the chocolate ice cream is available or should I just get a new flavor?”

It’s your call, but think about this: why did you go to the shop in the first place? Is it because you want ice cream? Or is it because you want chocolate ice cream?

If it is because you want ice cream, then go ahead and try all the new flavors you want. Two at a time, three at a time, get a dozen different flavors if you will. But if you went to get nothing else but chocolate ice cream, chances are you will wait until the shop restocks, or you will run to the shop, next block, to get the exact same thing.

Should you decide to try a new flavor, there are only two things that can happen, you will either love it and think that this will be your favorite flavor from now on, or you will regret it and feel terrible not getting your old favorite.

So, you like this girl and you think that if she likes you just the same, you will give it a try. *John, why do you like her? You said she’s the most beautiful girl you’ve ever seen on earth. That is a pretty big statement coming from you, and yet it is embarrassingly and undeniably shallow at the same time. Is it only because she is pretty? What else? How well do you know her? How well does she know you?

And what about *Lilly? The two of you have been together for what, seven years? You’ve been through the best and worst of times together, emphasis on TOGETHER!

Maybe, because she’s traveling to Asia for some months, it has been easier to entertain new thoughts and consider new feelings of liking. I don’t know how she treats you, I have no idea how she shows you or make you feel her love, and obviously, I only know little about how you make her feel that she is loved.

What I do know and believe is that when you are in love, you stop looking. There is a reason why, out of the blue, you started looking, why you started reaching out to a girl from three years ago.

When Hisham broke up with me last September, Chris, my ex-boyfriend from Michigan, started sending me a lot of emails. This was the guy I met when I was 21 and had a two year relationship with. I am very sure that at that time, I loved him deeply. It was real and sincere. Four years later, he sends me an email telling me he’s been in serious relationships with other girls after me, but he can’t take me off his mind. He knows that I am the one he wants to be with.

I guess if I was the same person I used to be four years ago, tears of heavenly joy would have rolled down my cheeks and I would have easily left Egypt and flown to the U.S., but I am so much different now, and I also know that four years would have changed him as well. He said he still loves me, but that is not quite true. Who he loves is his idea of me when I was 21 and I am no longer that person.

I don’t know what it is with being or staying loyal to someone, but I am the kind of person who can only be in love with one guy at a time.

When I am in love with someone, I stop looking. I never looked for anyone because there is a reason I am with a certain guy to begin with. I never experienced being confused or torn between two lovers when I am in a relationship because I know what I want, I know what makes me happy and I choose to be with that person that I want and makes me happy.

When I went to Australia last August, I was still dating Hisham then, I travelled to Queensland for a few days and met this Brazilian guy who looks like a perfectly photoshopped image, and to my surprise, he was interested in me. If I was single at that time, maybe I would have awkwardly flirted back, but because I was with Hisham, no one catches my eyes but him.

The same story goes with Ali and everyone else I have been with. Whoever it is that I am with will always be the best, most loving, most attractive guy in my eyes despite his dirty nails or the snot in his nose, or his snort of a laugh that is clearly unattractive.

It is not about being with the perfect person but being with the person who makes you feel that you are perfect.

I don’t know how *Lilly makes you feel. And even I have not experienced being loved as though I am perfect. On the one hand though, I know that whenever I love, I make that person feel that he deserves the best and that, to me, he is perfect. It is quite sad realizing that in all my relationships (at least the recent ones) I always have to beg for their love. It felt like a constant battle of trying to win them over and fighting not to lose them, which I now regard as half-assing myself.

Like I said, you have to be with someone who makes you feel perfect. Who will love you for everything that you are, and accept you for your past, present, and future. At the same time, you need to be with someone who you will love for everything that she is. Someone who can make you stop looking, someone who can make you taste different flavors of love and life even when she is just one person.

And about your century long relationship with *Lilly, you have to really clear your head and look at it in all angles. Why are you with her? Is it because you love her or just because it’s the right thing to do? Is it because it is convenient or comfortable for you? Who knows, maybe she’s also thinking the same thing, I don’t know. And how will that make you feel if you find out she’s having exactly the same thoughts as you do?

If there is one thing I have learned, you shouldn’t stay in a relationship because it is the right thing to do or because it is what is expected of you or just out of responsibility and obligation. You should stay in a relationship because it makes you happy and because your heart is in it.

So, think. A lot! Where is your heart, *John? If it’s with *Lilly, then no doubt, stay. We shouldn’t even be discussing this. But if it is somewhere else, then do your heart a big favor and let everything go before you cause yourself a serious cardiac arrest.

Whichever you choose, there will always be a consequence. Nothing ever comes easy these days! If you go, then you have to understand that *Lilly might not be back should you realize that the other girl is not what you want after all. And if you choose to stay, you just have to let go of your thoughts and the maybes and the what ifs and all the what-could-have-beens with this other girl. The unknown can be quite attractive but it can also turn to ugly once you submerge yourself in it.

Tough luck, Monkey, but I know you’ll get through this.

You know I’m always here.

I love you,
Lazy Daisy

PS. Why do you think the shop ran out of chocolate ice cream if it isn’t the best flavor there is? 😉

The Big “O”

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No, this is not about orgasm. Tricked you!

I obsess. That’s what I do.

I am the kind of girl who gets darn right fixated on things that I want. It’s not just a mediocre, so-so want, but the I-need-to-have-it-be-mine kind of want.

I get obsessed with a lot of things. And when I start obsessing, I will put all my will power and effort, and will even do back flips and cartwheels, if I have to, just to get it.

This obsession applies to both material and non-material.

There was a time in my life when I got so obsessed into diving that I lived in an island in the Philippines just so I can dive everyday. That lasted six months.

I have a two-year standing obsession with chocolate mint candies ever since I tried one heavenly scoop of chocmint ice cream from Baskin Robbins. I make sure I have a supply of chocolate mint bars in my cupboard to last me at least three months (in case the shops run out of stock which will be equivalent to when all hell breaks loose!)

My current obsession is dancing salsa which is not a bad thing at all considering how I am enjoying the company of good friends while doing something I have passion for.

And then, just as you suspected, I get obsessed with people too. All the men in my life? I obsessed about them, in the way that I want their attention all to myself. I obsessed about them in a way that I want myself to be their only source of happiness. Hallelujah, that’s a perfect example of the omniscient god syndrome right there.

The ugly thing about obsession is that it is awfully ugly. I guess that’s why no one will admit they are obsessed. The stigma attached to it is just downright degrading.

“Oh, she’s the crazy girl who wrote to her ex boyfriend for three weeks without fail, how desperate? Ooh, here comes the irreverent daughter who left her family just so she can indulge herself to diving leisure.” I can already here some people whispering behind my back.

Worse, someone might open my cupboard and all 24 boxes of choco-mint candies will fall right out leaving whoever-decides-to-go-in-my-kitchen for dead.

Obsession makes us go crazy, or look crazy and a little bit mental. It turns us (at least me) into this horrendous chocolate eating monster turned creepy facebook stalker.

But if there is anything that I learned about obsession, it is that some of my obsessions don’t last too long. Sometimes, the soonest I get fixated to something or someone is also the same rate the fixation fades away. There are also instances when I get so obsessed about something, drive myself to the core to get my fix, and then realize it’s not what I want after all. What a waste.

Now, the thing with obsession is that it is very tricky. Often, we commit the mistake of interchanging obsession with passion. How often do we hear people say “I love” compared to “I obsess?” There is definitely a line that draws the two apart, but oftentimes, that line easily turns to grey and we find ourselves torn between loving and obsessing. Which side will you rather be at?

Obsession, like passion, can make you marvel in a lot of things, the way I feel I’m soaring when I dance salsa. Or it can send you to a downward spiral just like how I felt with every failed relationships.

I think this will make me sound even more insane than what we have already established, but there is something about obsession that is just so delicious. It’s that feeling that you have a goal or a purpose. It adds meaning and direction, if not rainbow colors, to a once dull life.

Maybe, it’s true, no matter how strongly we deny it, that we love a good challenge. We always want what we can’t have. It gives us that feeling of adrenalin rush exploding within us. Maybe it’s about proving to ourselves, if not to everyone, that we are much better than good enough. That we are capable of getting anything that we want at anytime that we want it, at any rate, no matter the cost, no matter the means. Maybe getting our daily fixes of whatever we are obsessed with gives us that gratifying feeling of getting something we think we deserve.

All in a year of dancing salsa

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“Yo no se manana…” you know you have been dancing too much salsa when you start singing songs even when you have absolutely no idea what the words or meaning are.

February marks my first year of dancing salsa. Applause! (Queue Baila mi Hermano in the background.)

One year means I have danced at least 500 dances with at least 70 people, and met more than 200 people on at least 25 salsa events. One year also means at least 30 pounds lost and at least 50 liters of water if not diet Coke consumed.

Well, that’s not really accurate, but you get the idea.

I started dancing salsa in Manila on September 2010. Anna, one of my dearest friends was the one who dragged me to my first and last salsa class.

You know how it feels when you know that you are bound to be really good at something the first time you tried it? Well, I didn’t have that feeling. In fact, I didn’t like it at all. I couldn’t follow any of the dance steps and I just felt so inferior by mere watching other people dance gracefully and flawlessly on the floor.

When I moved to Cairo, I decided to give salsa a second try. My first ever salsa night was at Stiletto in Dokki on February of last year. I remember how I was so shy and felt alone. I came by myself. It’s quite frightening when you walk in a restaurant and just feel so left out and disconnected. Everyone’s dancing, everyone’s talking except you. Everyone knows everyone. Your eyes sweep the floor and all you see are awesome dancers who will probably put you to the hall of shame should you dance next to them. And then you are left with nothing but that feeling of wishing you are as good as them. You start dreaming that maybe one day you can dance as beautifully as they do even when you think it is very unlikely. That’s how it felt for me.

I sat on a table closest to the dance floor where there were a few ladies sitting. The first girl I met is Dajana, a German girl who, eventually, became one of my best girlfriends. She is a phenomenal dancer and she lit up the environment for me that first night. She introduced me to everyone and made me feel so comfortable. She brought out in me the confidence in dancing that I didn’t even know I have.

And it was through her that my first dance in Cairo was made possible. She introduced me to Amr, the first guy I danced salsa with in Cairo, and just like Dajana, he is also one phenomenal dancer. What is more admiring about him is the fact that he can make you feel that you are good enough in the dance.

It is only after a few months of dancing salsa that I will realize how there are certain people who wants to shine or showoff in the dance floor, but with Amr, I have always felt that he is the kind of dancer who wants whoever he is dancing with to shine brighter than he does. That, to me, gives him the gold medal!

So, that night, I had one dance and that was it. But I met new friends, who, even after a year, still remain to be my good friends. No time or opportunity wasted.

It’s interesting how the salsa community in Cairo is so small. There are four different places you can go to for a salsa party on different days every week and yet if you go to every single one of them, you’ll find that you’ll be seeing the same people and dancing to the same songs.

Eventually, I came to know mostly everyone who goes to the salsa events and they came to know me. I have become a household name, while salsa has become a slight addiction.

I started breathing salsa. I lived in it. I’m not being melodramatic or exaggerating when I say that salsa keeps me alive because it does. I have times when I feel worse than being sick when I don’t dance in a week, let alone in a couple of months. There is something truly inviting about salsa. It’s the way people sing to every single Spanish song without even knowing the words or the meaning. It’s the way people celebrate their individuality and own style. It’s about the people you meet, their characters and different backgrounds and how they own both the dance and the floor. I guess, most importantly, it’s about the dance itself, the way it can look so sophisticated one minute, and so street the next, the way it can lift your sorry mood and indulge you in moments of pure dancing bliss. I’m sure every salsero and salsera will agree with me on this.

I remember during my first couple of months, every time a guy asks me to dance I would have to say a disclaimer that I am a beginner. It’s quite nerve wracking especially when you’re thinking that this person you are about to dance with is bound for disappointment when he learns you haven’t even passed beginners level. That’s how I used to think and feel and it didn’t help me because it only made me more nervous than I already was, thus, making it much easier for me to screw up the dance. And then I will have to apologize and throw a pity party for myself afterwards.

But it’s really true, that old man saying that practice makes perfect. Through time, I was able to improve and dance so much better compared to when I was just starting. I guess it would be a shame on me if dancing 500 times throughout the year did me nothing good.

Remember what I said about just dancing once on my first night of giving salsa a second chance? Well, now, whenever I go to a salsa party, I come home really exhausted. I would be dancing non stop for at least three hours to the point where I have to politely say no to guys who are asking for a dance. On average, I dance about 25 songs on one salsa event.

So, what has a year of dancing salsa taught me? If anything, it taught me that I met some of my really good friends (and by really good I meant these are people that I also see outside salsa and the same people I trust, feel safe, and most grounded with like Katie, Lucy, Mana, Star, oh, they know who they are) at a salsa party. It taught me that I can be good at something even when I wasn’t good at it at first. I also remembered how I danced salsa on the streets of Zamalek one night in October, with my friends and we are positive that we are the first group of people who’s ever done it (at least in Cairo.) One year of salsa also reminds me that I used to be a beginner who felt so little about herself before, and that I shouldn’t have.

I think everyone who’s learning or trying out something for the first time shares that common feeling of being shy, embarrassed, and little.

I try to talk to them and bring out the confidence they don’t know they have the way my best friend, Dajana, did to me. I like to encourage new dancers and make them feel that they own the dance because they really do. I like dancing to beginners too. If it weren’t for the amazing dancers, who spent their four minutes to dance to a beginner like me a year ago, I would probably still be stuck with my two feet. I like to think that giving my four minutes to a guy who is just learning salsa will do him good eventually. Maybe it will give him the confidence to dance more, maybe it will make him relax and feel comfortable in the salsa scene. Maybe it will make him feel that he’s good enough and that he is accepted and that there is no need to feel shy or embarrassed or small. Maybe this is my way of giving back to the salsa community for all the good parties and events and workshops I had, for all friendships made, and for all the amazing dances and smiles, and bloopers and memories during the last year.

So, here’s to a year of dancing salsa and more!

I’ve written so much about my heartache already, why not talk about family for a change?

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Sometimes I like to refer to myself as the worst daughter in the world. What makes it even worse is that I can acknowledge the problem and yet do nothing about it.

I came from a broken family which is not a surprise considering how breaking up and legal seperation and divorces seem to be the trend nowadays.

My parents marriage came to a halting end when I was nine, my brother was eight at that time.

And when you are just nine, you really don’t have any clue as to what is happening. All you know is that you went to sleep the night before with their loud voices on the background, and you woke up the next morning with broken china on the floor. You ask your dad why there are broken vases and he just tells you it fell because of an earthquake that you didn’t feel while you were asleep. And you are left with nothing but acccept what the ‘big people’ tell you.

So, if they say sleep, you sleep. If they say you need to go to school, then you go to school, and if your dad says you won’t be seeing your mum again, you just inhale it as it is. No questions asked because how can a nine year old girl understand ‘big people’ problem?

When they separated, I was told that my brother and I have to go with my dad because he loves us. That goes to saying that my mum was the one who left us. They said she got pregnant by another man and that was the reason our family fell apart.

My brother and I really didn’t get to go with my dad because for the first year of the separation, my dad left me and my brother to our grand parents. No complains here because our grand ma and grand pa are the sweetest and loving people in the world (which is kinda surprising that my dad did not inherit any of my Lolo Pidoy and Lola Chita’s loving characteristics, just kidding!) We would only see dad on weekeneds when he comes to us bearing gifts like stuff animals or a new ball.

I loved those weekends with dad because he always takes us out to McDonalds and we would go see a movie and ride our bikes to the pier. That was like a weekend of heaven for us that it didn’t bother so much when we didn’t see him on weekdays. It was already enough for my brother and I to know that we will have another amazing time with dad the following weekend.

From then on, my mum was never in the picture. I never saw her, never heard from her or about her.

For that whole year that I was staying with my grandparents, I kept thinking that one day, my brother, my dad, and I will move to a new house, just the three of us, and we will have the best life even with the absence of a mother.

That day finally came when I was 10. I remember excitedly packing all our stuff from my grand parent’s house because my dad is taking me and my brother to our new home. But it wasn’t what I was expecting.

In fact, what happened didn’t even come close to my imagination.

We moved to a new house but it wasn’t just the three of us. There were another two people who were going to live with us. It was a lady and her six year old, obnoxious son.

I hated that six year old boy. He was my worst nightmare–always vying for my dad’s attention and always wanting this and that to himself.

Later, I will find out that that lady will become my step mom, and that her six year old son, that I abhored so much is actually my half brother.

Surprise! Someone, please, punch me on the face so I could wake up from this horrendous dream!

It wasn’t until I was 13 when I started doing the maths. Slowly, things are starting to make some sense. My dad’s ‘other’ son was six years old, so that meant he’s been cheating on my mum for at least five years even before they separated.

That was a lot to take for a 13 year old. Imagine living years and years in a lie believing it was reality when it wasn’t. I couldn’t take it. It was as though I was fooled. All the time I hated my mum and thought that she didn’t love us.

I blamed my mum for a lot of reasons. How come she never tried to reach out to us? I had to spend all my Values class in school crying when the teacher starts talking about family. I have to secretly cry in the girls bathroom when I overheard my classmates talk about how their moms are taking them shopping for their evening gowns for the prom.

I envied my friends who talk about their moms as though they are the world’s best friend.

That was something that was lacking in my life–a mum.

I didn’t get to have the chance to go shopping girly things with a mom. There was no one I could talk to when my first period came. There was no one to tell on about my crushes in school. There was no mum who would be so proud when I ace my exams, or win a singing contest.

I envied my classmates who complained about their moms nagging at them all the time. I’m like really, can you just stop whining already? At least you have a mum who nags. I don’t even have a mum.

I also blamed my mum for taking out years of my life when I was just hoping I could act my age and be a kid. At nine, after she left, I felt that I have the responsibility to be my brother’s sister and mother at the same time. I had to look after my brother, make sure he’s not fluctuating in school, that he has good friends, that he’s not out getting fuck drunk when he was 14. I thought that was a mom’s job but that job fell in my hands without my consent.

I only saw my mum like four times after the separation. The first time was when I was 18, I don’t know how she did it but she found me in the university I was studying in. The second time was when I was 22 and she was going through a stage one uterine cancer. The third time was when she was recovering after the operation, and the last time was just before I left for Sydney in 2010. All those encounters felt the same. Awkward.

It just felt like I was meeting a stranger. I don’t know anything about her, what she’s been through, how her life has been all those years. And she acts and treats me as though I was still the nine year old girl she left behind.

And on all those times that I saw her, I didn’t give her a chance to connect with me. I didn’t give her a chance to get to know me, to know what kind of person I have become. I didn’t give her a chance to give me the mom and daughter talk because at that time, I thought it was all too late for me.

Now, if you will ask me about my step mom, I’d say let’s not just talk about her because it will ruin my day. Enough said.

As for my brother, I think he took my parents’ separation much better than I did. My brother has always been that kind of person who always goes with the flow. He’s a chamelion. Throw him lemons and he will make amazing lemonades out of it. That’s one thing that I admired about him.

Let’s go back to my dad. He is a lawyer and law professor at the same time. And he will never admit that he is a ladies man. Yes, my dad has a lot of women and I don’t get it especially at his age. He’s turning 62 this year and boy, I can bet you my life he has girlfriends who are probably my age! (Ew, gross, right?) I do not agree with the things he did or still does, but I still love him, maybe because he was present the whole time I was growing up. Maybe because he provided me with all the things that I needed–good education, monthly allowance, holidays, whathaveyous.

I actually blame what happened to my family with what person I have become today–emotionally unstable, disconnected. I have a lot of intimacy and trust issues.

A couple of years back, my brother and I had this profound conversation about marriage, and I told him I would never want to get married. I said “why get married? Look at our parents’ marriage, it didn’t work out. So, why get married when you know it’s bound to end anyways?”

Like I mentioned, my brother took my family’s downfall in a better way. He told me that our parents’ mistakes weren’t ours, that we are our own person, and our life is different than theirs. That since we know the mistakes our mum and dad had made, we know what to avoid, we know what to do and what not to do, we know better.

My mouth was left open wide after hearing my brother. Damn it, I can tell you right now, that whoever woman my brother will settle down with one day will certainly have a trophy for a husband.

I guess with everything that happened in my family, all the drama, and endless arguments I had with my dad and my step mom and her little devil, I just disconnected myself.

I thought that I can prove to them that being by myself will do me much better than being in a problematic family. And at first I thought I made a good decision shutting them out of my life indefinitely.

Working outside the country was a quick escape from my family and all the drama. Like, I can just be on my own without the baggage. But, lately, I have started thinking about a lot of things, and evaluating my actions now and in the previous years. I guess this is what is popularly referred to as quarter life crisis.

At 25, I am having a quarter life crisis and I am still living far away from my family. My brother is now 24 and is a data analyst at an IT company in Alabang. My dad still remains as a ladies man and still have endless fights with my step mom regarding his ‘other women.’ I guess my step mom, of all people, would know very well about my dad’s interest in women. After all, she’s the one my dad cheated with.

Ok, but I’ll be a little bit nicer here, and tell you one (if not the only–just kidding again!) nice thing about my step mom. When she and my dad had the worst fight ever (that includes finding another woman’s underwear in my dad’s car, using foul, attention grabbing swear words such as ‘putang ina mong hayop ka sinong kinakantot mo?’ that can easily be translated to ‘son of a bitch, you animal, who are you sleeping with?’ for all our neighbors and security men to hear, leaving me no choice but cover my face when I go out of the house, and let’s forget about all those broken kitchenware that must have been thrown at my dad) she came to me and said:

“Jen, we know that your father is weak when it comes to temptation, but he will still need someone by his side as he gets older. I will be by his side no matter what.”

And so I think I should give my step mom a few brownie points and best martyr award for wanting to be by my dad’s side. I wouldn’t want to be at my dad’s side which is why I left the country. OK, bad joke, but just kidding!

And my half brother is now… well, can we just skip this part?

Whenever someone starts asking me about my family, it was only my dad and my brother that I always talk about. It’s only those two people I consider my family, but now, after a lot of thinking, I want to start opening my doors to my mum. I want to be able to mention my mum’s name whenever a conversation about family springs from anywhere. I want to be able to say that when I am coming home, I am coming home to my dad, and my brother, and my mum.

I want to know her and I want her to know me. I was so foolish to think that everything was already too late when I was 18. It is never too late. It’s only now I am beginning to see that a mother will always be her kids’ mother no matter what, where, when, why, or even how. Such a shame I had to wait this long to even realize how different it would have been if I stayed connected with her that first day she found me in the university.

I am 25 and I think it’s time to turn the tables around and knock off all those regrets one punch at a time. I can’t believe I am actually saying this, but I can’t wait to see my mum when I get back to the Philippines in September. I can’t wait to take her on a good 5-day holiday by the beach. I can’t wait to know her, and I can’t wait for her to know me. Maybe then, we will finally be able to have our first ever mom and daughter talk. Maybe then we can finally go shopping!