Category Archives: Life

Everything I need to learn about love and happiness, I learned from children and the books they read

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At 25, I feel so dumb and naive when it comes to love and relationships. It’s like when I am in a relationship, I lose sense of everything and care about nothing except that significant other. I turn into this monster girlfriend who swears and nags. I turn into the ultimate drama queen who cries at every fight, no matter how serious or petty the root of the problem is. I turn psycho and paranoid. My actions start resembling that of a toddler who whinges and throws terrible tantrums when she doesn’t get her lollies.

I also become that person who is needy, clingy, dependent, acts like a spoiled brat, second guesses if not doubts herself. I become unfocused at work, I start pulling a no-show on my social circle because all I want is get stoned and high from love.

Simply put, I lose it. I get crazy.

It’s like 25 years of living taught me nothing more than be childish and selfish. It’s like when I am dating someone, the world just stops, my life is put on hold for that period until whoknowshowlong and I just tend to forget that I have a full life before I start diving in a relationship.

Yes, I dive in a relationship, I sink into it and it swallows me whole that I just start disappearing from everyone other than that significant other. Bye bye to everyone, Jennifer is out of service and cannot be reached.

Now that I am back to being single, all of a sudden, I have all these free time in my hands. I have time to see friends, write more, dance salsa, read, run, do art, play the piano, play with my god children, do art again, cook and bake, sing. Plan my holidays, talk to my dad. The list just goes on.

That doesn’t make me feel better though because it meant that for a time, my friends, family, and the things and activities I was passionate about just came in last.

It makes me feel as though “ok there’s no one to love, why not clean the house, or talk to my dad, or invite my girlfriends out?”

It’s embarrassing to admit that when I had a boyfriend, all my hours were spent on the phone, on choosing what to wear and putting make up on to impress him, on make out sessions that I can never get enough of, on Facebook, stalking and checking out my boyfriend’s profile.

It’s like all of a sudden, I’m back to junior high all over again.

Shallow. Foolish. Stupid.

It makes me realize how, oftentimes, I’m really not smarter than a 5th grader, and today is another day that proved how children think and act more grown up than I do.

Kids never fail to surprise me.

I usually spend my Saturdays with my god children–Jem, who is the most curious 6 year old boy, and Bella, the sweetest 3 year old girl on Earth, but when I started seeing Ali, I abandoned my role as their god mother.

I know, right. I’m guilty of being an irresponsible aunt.

Today, I tried to make up for all the Saturdays I went on AWOL. I spent the afternoon with them at a sports club playing tennis, and painting a bunch of ceramic art.

And then at night, before I tucked them in to bed, they asked that I read them their bedtime story.

Bella told me to read The Heart and the Bottle.

It’s this simple story about a little girl who has strong interests and liking in the world. She seats at her favorite chair everyday just appreciating the beauty of life itself, but as she grows old, she realizes that the world is not a safe place and so she decides to put her heart in a bottle. That’s when she starts losing interest and liking for the world, that’s when her favorite chair starts feeling empty. But at least her heart is safe.

Years later, the girl grows up to be a woman and here comes a time when she wants to get her heart out of the bottle but she cannot remember how to unlock it anymore, until she sees this little girl who has strong interests and liking in the world. The little girl takes the woman’s heart out of the bottle and all of a sudden, the woman’s favorite chair is filled with the beauty of life itself.

The Heart and the Bottle is just a 3-minute story, and as soon as I finished reading, Jem asked me:

“How did the little girl get the lady’s heart out of the bottle?”

And I said:

“Let’s say I am the lady and Bella is the little girl. When I get very, very sad, it feels like my heart is locked in a bottle, it can’t breathe, it can’t move. But when I see Bella and she says ‘I love you, Auntie Jen’ I don’t feel sad anymore. My heart feels happier because it can breathe again, it can move again. That’s how the little girl gets the lady’s heart out of the bottle.”

And with that, I gave Jem and Bella their kisses goodnight.

On my way home, I realized how much of a semblance the woman in the story and I have. She didn’t want her heart to be broken and so she kept it in a safe place, her heart was safe but her chair felt empty.

After Ali broke up with me, my life felt empty and unhappy. I lost interest and liking in the world. It is only now that I am beginning to realize that Ali is not the only person who can make my life full and make me happy.

Love and happiness doesn’t have to always come in romantic packages. It’s not always about the butterflies-in-the-stomach, jittery-fluttery feel. It’s not always about the kissing and the slightest touch that sends you off on a rocket trip to cloud nine.

When we are in love we tend to take for granted everything that we have and forget all the other emotions and sensations we were enjoying before the relationship was even there. Which is probably why when we go through a heartache, we feel as though we have nothing because we gave up everything.

Love and happiness sometimes come in the simplest and the littlest of forms. Tonight, it knocked on my door in the sweetest form of my god children and it was the sincerest form of love. It is the kind of love that makes your heart breathe, makes your heart move. It is the kind that is healthy and does not change me into something I am not. It is the kind that does not require me to nag, unless Jem and Bella are being extremely naughty.

I thought I was going to make up for all the Saturdays I missed out on my god children, and instead, they made my Saturday.

And when I got home, it felt as though my heart is out of the bottle and my favorite chair isn’t as empty anymore.

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How cheap is it to die?

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I am mad. Angry. Furious. Disappointed! Can anyone, please, come up with a better word to describe how I am feeling?

I am outraged. Egypt, when is it going to stop?

Today, at least 73 lives have ended in Egypt because of football. That’s 73 people who will never see tomorrow because of sports violence.

These people have names, and family, and kids, and wives, and husbands, and fiances, and whoknowswhatelse.

These are people who woke up this morning thinking they have midterms next week, why not go to a football game tonight before the tough week starts?

These are people who are probably getting married next month, or whose son or daughter is celebrating his or her birthday tomorrow. These are people who kissed their moms and dads goodbye tonight saying they will be home after the match and will not be late.

These are people who will no longer live another day, who will no longer take an exam, or see their moms and dads, or see their children grow up because of what? A riot? Sports violence?

How cheap is it to die?

And it is not just about the 73 people who died. It is also about the people and the lives they left behind. Imagine that 5 year old boy who will no longer see his daddy. Or that 37 year old woman who will have to start planning her husband’s funeral when they are supposed to be celebrating their 10 year marriage. Or that professor who will wonder why her student has stopped coming to class. Or that girl who just lost her brother and best friend and still does not know it yet.

These people are people who came to watch a football match to have a good time, to root for their favorite team. They didn’t go there to die.

The news says the cause of death for the most part is stab wounds. I cannot, in any way possible, imagine that some people would actually go to the stadium with knives or any sharp objects thinking “it’s kill fest tonight.”

That is just inhumane and it makes me so sick in the stomach.

What good is the January 25 revolution that we just remembered and celebrated a week ago if tragedies like this just keep on recurring?

On that revolution, the people who made it happen wanted change, they seek freedom.

Well, here’s what’s wrong about Egypt, it’s the people. But you already know that, don’t you? You want change? Be open to it. Change yourself, your attitude, your mentality. You seek freedom? Free yourself from ignorance and hate.

Don’t be a hypocrite. Admit your faults and start doing something about it. Stop blaming the country and start changing your views and actions. Only then will we see change, only then can we start being free.

A break down after a break up and how it did me good

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I don’t know about you. What I do know is that after a breakup, I break down. It is unimaginable, like being in a black hole. I don’t know if I’m floating or out of breath. I can’t decide if I am trapped or lost or both or somewhere in between. It feels as though I am carrying the weight of the world, yet everything is weightless at the same time. Bizarre.

I guess it is that feeling of heaviness that just forces me to stay in bed for some days. Yeah, even my feet gave up on that load I was carrying.

After a few days, the feeling of heaviness starts to disappear and is replaced by emptiness. Emptiness in the sense that I have probably already dried myself out from nonstop crying leaving not a single tear to spare.

And then a couple of days more and I start feeling lighter. Lighter in a way that I feel groggy and light headed from all those sleepless nights.

And when I start feeling groggy and lightheaded, it is only a matter of time before I start feeling as though something in me just died a bit.

I go to work like the walking dead. My body is physically present but my mind is somewhere else. My heart beats but I don’t feel alive.

Shortly, after the feeling of being dead, I start feeling nothing.

It is not a feeling of being numb but a feeling of nothingness.

I lose my sensations. I lose my appetite and desire for anything or everything that I am usually passionate about.

Even ice cream cannot cheer my palette. No salsa party can make the hurt go away. It’s like all of a sudden, nothing is feel-good. No movie or book or music or food can lighten my mood.

That feeling of nothingness is that feeling when I have no reason to smile or cry, to sleep or not to sleep, to eat or not to eat. It just feels like there is no purpose and meaning and should I need to do something, I have to ask myself ‘what for?’

To smile?
To live?
To cheer me up?

I have no reason, no meaning, no purpose, so, what for?

I hate that feeling of nothingness because it is in that feeling when I start being in deep–feeling sorry for myself, feeling worthless–who wants to feel that way?

I look in the mirror and it’s like looking at a stranger. It doesn’t even reflect half of who I am or used to be.

Weak.
Lifeless.
Unhappy.

That’s what I see–a woman in sorrow who has no self esteem, but full of self doubt. I see a girl who is clearly hurt and numbed by the pain.

But there is something good in feeling nothing. When you hit rock bottom, there is nowhere else to go. You can’t sink any further or go any deeper. When you’ve been in an all time low, you know that it is almost over, it will be finished soon and it will no longer hurt.

That’s when you decide to grow up a little and accept, let go and appreciate.

Accept that the battle is over. You gave it your best shot. You fought hard til the very end. It is now time to let go, let go of the whatifs, of the maybes. Let go of the person.

Just as it is the time to let go, it is also the time to appreciate. Appreciate the memories you had with that person you loved. Understand that things come to an end no matter how great it is. And even as it comes to a close, it doesn’t mean that it wasn’t real. Appreciate the other person, be thankful that you had those times when you felt so in love and happy. Appreciate yourself too for everything that you are–the good, the bad, your smart and your silly, your highs and your lows.

Today, I looked in the mirror and had this internal monologue:

“Stop it. It is now the time for you to let go. You have been in a relationship with yourself for 25 years and you, of all people, should know very well that no matter how many heartaches you have gone through, are going through, and will have to go through, you always have your back. Love yourself more, pull yourself out of that black hole and stop torturing yourself. You forgot that you are strong and worthy of everything. Worthy to be happy and loved in return. It’s about time you remember that you deserve more than what you have set yourself up for.”

I learned a lot of lessons from this break up, but the one lesson that really stood out is never to compromise myself or my happiness for anyone. I had to learn it the hard way. Now, I know that it won’t hurt forever. It can get scary and ugly for a while, but after that you just start to understand and see life and love and all things in between in a different light.

What satisfy you?

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January 27, 2012

Dear Ali,

I don’t know which is more bizarre-me, still writing to you, or the fact that after all that I’ve written and said, there are still some things left unwritten and unsaid.

I guess I am still used to how we were before. After all, you’ve been that person I spent so many hours talking to. I’m not sure if it is any comforting to you that I still feel I can write to you and tell you things.

I just got home from a night of salsa. My closest friends were there and it’s as if everyone’s asking the same thing–how am I.

I tell them I’m ok. But as though they’re not convinced with my answer, they would ask a second question: “are you sure?”

And then I would say the same thing:

“Really, I’m ok. It gets easier and better everyday.”

That is actually quite honest and true. It does get easier and better everyday.

Just after you left, I caved in. I thought that dealing with my broken heart by myself would be best for me. There are days when I don’t even leave my bed. I’m just lying down, thinking of you, staring on my wall and still be thinking of you.

My closest friends were asking about me, sending me messages and trying to drag me for lunch or dinner or shisha, and yet I refused to go.

I don’t know why I did that. I don’t know why I thought that mending my broken heart alone will make me much better. I guess part of the reason was out of embarrassment.

A few months ago, when I was dealing with my broken heart caused by Hisham, my friends saw me breakdown. They knew how hard it has been for me. You, of all people, know how difficult that time had been for me. I can’t afford them seeing the same thing happening again after just a span of a few months.

I thought I would talk to them when I am ready, but I realized there is no right time to be ready if not now.

In the end, I met with them and they all welcomed me with the warmest hugs. It was what I needed.

I needed to know that I wasn’t alone, that even when the person I loved shut me out of his life (in this case your life) my friends still have my back.

I needed to be surrounded by the people who loves me. And I did and it felt good.

I felt so much better about myself. I felt that the world is starting again. They are filling the gaps that you have left hollow. And slowly, I am starting to feel alive again.

I am not blaming you for this. Believe me, I’m really not.

I am realizing that it was partly my fault. It was my decision to depend all my happiness in you.

One of my dearest girlfriends told me that when you are in a relationship, it’s true that the two people involved become one, but they should be two halves that can stand alone.

That was my mistake, I wasn’t able to stand without you.

Slowly, I am learning that for me to be able to love someone better is for me to love myself more. I am in the process of loving myself more, I am in the process of knowing myself better–what do I want? What do I need? What makes me happy?

I used to say that you complete me, which again is another fallacy. How can someone love another when he knows she is not whole?

I need to be whole, I need to be complete, I need to be one person who doesn’t depend on someone or something to be complete or happy.

I don’t need someone to complete me, I need someone who will complement me.

So what makes me happy? At this very second, it is the strawberry cheesecake that is right in front of me and boy, it tastes so good!

Jennifer.

Who says roller coasters are fun?

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I don’t know why it seems that whenever I travel to Sydney, I always come back to Cairo broken hearted.

I have started concluding that traveling is my demise.

My friends who keep tab on me through Facebook think that I am happy. That I live well. I guess they are fooled. After all, I will not put pictures of me crying on social networking sites. No, they should think I’m one strong, confident, happy, insert-all-fearless-synonyms-here woman. So upload those pictures of me and my cute cocker spaniel puppy, upload videos of me playing the piano, upload pictures of me and my salad and a good book to read. Fool everyone including myself to thinking I am ok. I figure, I should leave all the drama to writing.

They think traveling back and forth Sydney and Cairo (which is part of my job) is all glamorous and fun, and it can be, except when I come back to Cairo and is given a cold hug of irreverent goodbye.

Most of my long time friends only see me from afar. They only see holiday pictures by the beach and other cool yet pretentious stuff like eating at a great cafe surrounded by new friends. Yes, my life is great, or so they think.

What most people fail to see behind all those smiles, is all the goodbyes and hard work that come with traveling.

I have said a lot of hellos and goodbyes to people that I thought are awesome but will never see again. I met a lot of great people that I would love to see again and again but because I travel back and forth, it is hard to stay in touch, or sometimes, I go back to the city where I met them only to find out they already left or moved to another country.

It’s a social roller coaster ride out there.

Before I left for my second trip to Sydney in July 2011, I was seeing this guy. I came back after two months and found him gone. Not gone-gone, it was more like “I met this girl and I want to see where it will go” kind of gone.

That was heartbreaking. I thought things have ended in my life, I felt miserable until November.

Yes, sweet November.

I started seeing a new guy and everything was just fantastic. (By the way, I decided to start this blog thanks to him. Probably 80% of the things I will write here for the next three months will be about him so bear with me.)

It was a new relationship and I was excited all over again, feeling jumpy and giddy inside and want to do cartwheels on the outside because my heart is too small to contain such a big feeling of being in love. Being in love? I recognized that feeling, I know it very well and have felt it before but it was as though I was meeting love for the first time. It was as though everything was new again. But then I had to go back to Sydney in December and that’s when things started feeling old.

We said we will celebrate Christmas and New Years, and our second month together when I get back to Cairo and we did. It was a beautiful night filled with laughter and passion and gifts and Iloveyous and Imissyous. Sounds like a happy couple? Well, yes, except for the part where he broke up with me three days later.

No reasons, no explanations, no nothing. So, now, I am left to endure what any broken hearted person has to go through–another hard and painful goodbye, tubs of salty tears, tubs of ice cream, sleepless and chilly nights, loveless mornings, whathaveyous. It’s like saying “hello, broken heart, we meet again.” And that was the last thing I need.

It is an emotional roller coaster ride, but luckily, my girlfriends are on an all out support as I go through all the loop the loops.

I am reminded that even as I say goodbye, my girls are always there for a hot cup of chocolate and more “he’s a loser” make-me-feel-good chitchats which is more than enough to keep me going through this heartbreak whether I’m in Cairo or traveling somewhere in Oz.