2021-A Year of Truths

2021… what a year it has been. To many of us, this year has been a lot of things, brought out the best in some and the worst in others. A year of gains & losses.

To me out of all the things that 2021 was, it was a year of truths.

Most of those who know me well, are quiet familiar with my mental health battles, I used to call them struggles, but I now choose to call them battles because they are encounters I go into with effort, fight, and determination, I win some and I lose some, but at the end of it all, I remained standing on my own two feet and despite how it felt like at times, I stayed alive through it all.

I call it the year of truths because there was so much that I learned, I faced, I discovered and I’m coming to terms with.

Some truths are ugly, some are painful, but the majority have been liberating.

The first truth I discovered is that healing is a longer journey that I thought it could be, that some days you will feel that you are healed, and that you have won, and other days you will get triggered by something and you will go back down the rabbit hole. I used to get frustrated when that happened, and I’d spiral, partially cuz I’m angry at myself for what I thought was weakness and at the world that I felt didn’t want to give me a break. Then I learned that these trips down the rabbit holes were lessons, the more you scratch the surface and heal, the more your mind and your body start bringing up your other triggers to teach you to dig deeper, because they crave more healing, more fulfillment, more stability.

It hasn’t been easy, and the reality is it never will be, but these battles are inevitable and the truth is, you need to accept that you can’t win it all; you will learn to be kinder and gentler to yourself when you lose these battles, so you can recuperate and start all over again.

I discovered that I can sometimes be my own worst enemy, that I can speak to myself ugly lies that I believe are truths, that no one sees in me but myself. I learned that the people around us generally are a lot more loving and forgiving towards us than we are towards ourselves. The truth is, we put ourselves under the microscope and under pressure to achieve perfection, but perfection is a myth, an invisible destination that you can never reach. Imperfection is part of who we are, we are even created with imperfections, to be reminded that this is what nature intended and that it is what it is.

I learned that I don’t have to do it all alone, and that going through life on your own might be perceived as a strength, but that the loneliness will kill you in the process. I learned that raising my hand and asking for help won’t make me any less of an accomplished person; and that it was fear and ego that had me willing to risk burn out than being perceived as incompetent or weak.

The truth was that when I asked for help, raised the red flag or said I’m not ok, people didn’t think any less of me, that they appreciated the honesty and sometimes you have to let people know you need them, and that life is a lot easier if you let people in.

I learned that my anxiety will continue to strike, that at times my depressive episodes will come back and that it is not something to be ashamed of. That if I am not able to explain to a person why I reacted the way I did or acted the way I did in a certain moment, it’s ok to go back and explain to them later. I used to beat around the bush cuz I was so ashamed to admit that sometimes I’m not ok; but now I know that if the truth will salvage that relationship (whatever form of a relationship it is) then I speak the truth and not be ashamed of it. No one is ashamed of a broken arm, or being asthmatic, this is just another medical condition that carries no shame in it.

The truth is, we are not defined by our traumas as adults; as children our traumas and circumstances shape us, but once we step into adulthood it is on us to change that narrative, it is on us to face our traumas, our mistakes and our demons and fight them. Our mistakes, our traumas and our past are part of the story- they’re an aspect of what happened to us, but they are not who we are.

I learned that you can love a person with all your heart, but at the same time not like them one bit and that as absurd as that concept seems, it is a normal feeling. I could love a person but dislike them for how they treat me or how they make me feel, and it is on me, to acknowledge that love, but understand that it is not enough and that if I have to love only one, it’s ok to love myself, to choose myself.

I have learned that it is ok to put myself as a priority, that I am not selfish to do so, and that sometimes it is ok to say no, or to have someone be upset when you choose your well-being over theirs. You can’t please everyone and there will never be a time where you will be loved by all, just simply as you don’t love or like everyone you meet; it is absurd to assume that everyone would love or like you when they meet you. Sometimes people just don’t click, not to a fault in either of them, it is just compatibility and chemistry.

The truth is you need to set boundaries to protect your well-being and that once these boundaries are put in place you might lose people and that is perfectly ok. That boundaries will scare you at first if you’re not used to setting them, that you would worry about the people you lose and think you’re over reacting, but you need those boundaries to protect what is most precious, to protect yourself.

The truth is that at 36 I am still learning and figuring out life. That there is no right or wrong, no manual, no guidelines. The truth is at 50 I will probably still be trying to figure out life and even to the years beyond. As long as we are alive we are learning how to navigate, because we are evolving and so the world around us.

So here’s to the truths of 2021 and the realizations that there is still a lot of work to do on a never ending learning journey.

Here’s to 2022 being a year of honesty, self awareness, self respect, self love and self actualization.

The Invisible Finish Line

A few days ago a friend of mine posted something on facebook that I absolutely loved. She said, life is a journey and not a race. That is something I absolutely love and relate to especially with everything going on around us these days.

I always used to tell my friends and family that to me living is about the experience more than about the destination. It’s about what happens to me on my path there. I am the kind of person that gets excited about the car trip or plane ride with her friends, and the experience of it, just as much as she gets excited about where we are going. I care more about the people I would meet in a job, and the things I would learn, and the horizons I would expand more than I care about the job title, or the pay. I enjoy the process of making a meal, just as much as I enjoy the taste of it, to me the journey of the senses is what makes life pleasurable.I care about the how, more than the where.

When the current circumstances started, and the pandemic hit, people around me started going into an insane over achieving race, that I have to admit, I got caught up in, at the beginning as well. Suddenly everyone was on a mission to get that perfect quarantine body,  perfect that head stand,people were posting home workouts and challenges like mad, they were the same people that were striving to bake the world, become the best homeschool teachers ever known to mankind and the Marie Kondo of their group. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not opposed to being productive, I am not opposed to taking your anxiety out by being active, I’m not opposed to keeping busy if that really helps you.

I am however, opposed to sharing all this so intensely on social media, creating an unhealthy vibe that unless you are achieving 90 things per second, and unless you’re using this pandemic to be super productive, then you are doing it wrong. That race to an invisible finish line that no one can see has taken such an unhealthy toll on some people’s mental health and self-esteem. Companies kept stating “business as usual” to every employee they had, and the reality of it, was no, it was not business as usual, and it could not possibly be. Even employees seemed to be in an invisible race of who could outwork the other.

After a  couple of weeks, this started taking a toll on so many of us, myself included. Suddenly, the days blurred into night, I started losing track of time, sleep became so disturbed and I always felt like there was something I was missing out on, something I had to do. Suddenly for someone who was home, saving herself the three hour daily commute to work, and the one hour commute to the gym and back, time was never enough. I was always running behind, and I felt like everyone on the planet was overlapping me. It felt like the pistol for the race went off and no one told me, and I started getting myself into a frenzy.

Because I was trying to do so much, I couldn’t do anything at all. I started stressing out about my workouts, was I working out enough, my group was doing an hour every day, they were posting so many videos, and all I wanted to do was do my hour of Yin Yoga and leave myself in peace; but I felt pressured, like I was underperforming on an invisible test, so I did, what I sometimes do when super stressed, and unable to balance, I quit both things. I packed away my yoga mat, put away my salt lamps, and put away my workout gear, I wore my gym pants, simply because they had no buttons on them, and were easier to sit with at home.

The frenzy at work, was no better. I work with some very hard working people, but most of them have been there well before me, so they’re more caught up than I am, they are also centralized, while I am remote. They know the ins and outs and all the sudden, I felt like such an underachiever, and if any of you know me, I don’t do well with that, I always take pride in making things happen. All the sudden, I felt like I was drowning, I felt stupid in some calls or meetings, everything was moving at such a fast pace around me, and no one seemed frenzied by the pandemic. I felt like a wuss, why was I so shaken, and drowning, and lagging, basically, why was I sucking. Thankfully I did not quit my job, like I did the other two. However, I do promise you that I must have tearfully resolved to quit about 15 times in the span of the first couple of weeks.

Every time my friends kept telling me that it’s just an over glorified flu, that nothing has changed, or my gym group said quarantine is not an excuse to stop working out, or at work they said business as usual, I wanted to scream at them, I wanted to tell people, no, it is not as usual, it is not the norm, and yes fear, anxiety, uncertainty all this is an excuse to slow down if you are not feeling ok. The sad part is, I felt like it was just me that was feeling that way, that the rest of the world had a better handle on this than I did.

Then all the sudden, and in a way I could not explain how or why, I just stopped. I literally just stopped. I stopped running the invisible race, I stopped pretending that I could get in the 1 hour workout, and the 1 hour yoga flow, and the 30 minutes of meditation. I stopped pretending that on the days I did all this, I can still spend two hours in the kitchen baking a cake, or cooking up a meal, and at the same time doing all the work I had, without ever saying that I was overwhelmed. I just stopped, slowed down, and did what I should have done from the very beginning of the pandemic. I started breathing, just to calm myself down.

I became honest with myself, this year, my only achievement, will be to stay safe, and to stay alive. Anything else that comes my way, are bonus points. A pandemic is not the time to overachieve, heck, a pandemic is barely a time to achieve. Any one that tells you otherwise, I hope they genuinely mean it, cuz otherwise they are causing themselves more damage emotionally than they can imagine.

I started understanding that my mental health, is something I would like to keep intact, just as much as my physical health. I took a step back, and started looking at things from a calmer perspective. You want to know that I saw?

My friends at the gym, they stopped posting with the same frequency, my favorite gym buddies were messaging me about how guilty they felt that they couldn’t keep up that same momentum as before, one of them even reached the point of physical fatigue. My chef friends, they sometimes opted to make a grilled cheese sandwich for lunch, because they got exhausted from all the food they were making, and wanted to catch a break. I realized that I wasn’t the only one at work that was overwhelmed, took a few honest souls to admit that, to realize that I wasn’t sucking at my job, I was still relatively new at my job and learning to navigate a relatively new and complex job at a time that is definitely a novelty to most of us. I realized that these people, just like me, are learning what to do. I realized that mistakes will happen at a much higher rate if I don’t raise my hand if I feel like I’m drowning. That it’s ok to say I’m feeling overwhelmed, or to say that I need help and that it doesn’t make me smaller if I say I don’t understand, what makes me smaller is pretending I do understand, being too proud to ask for help, and making everyone repeat the work.

The funny part is, as is the case with every mental struggle, we all thought we were in this alone. Each one of us shamefully hiding that they could no longer keep up with the invisible race to being the most multi-talented human being of 2020. It was an award that most of us learned that we cannot and do not want to win.

Some people are still being very active and are achieving the great things, and that is absolutely  fine. But the majority of us, realized that it is ok to be scared and that your fear will take up space until you process it.

For me, I understood that this is one part of a journey, that there is no finish line, no destination, no end achievement, except simply, staying sane, staying safe and staying alive. So I decided to slow down, to find my silver linings.

I took my mom and drove out of Cairo, to our place in Sokhna, because I decided not to lose sight of my blessings, and realize that I am blessed to have a roof over my head, and to able to go somewhere where nature prevails. As the world came to a pause, I took a break and started to revel in nature. To revel in the serenity of the sea, to watch the flowers bloom, and to allow my thoughts and emotions to be processed. I started reflecting on my priorities in life, 3 months of doing nothing, can really help you see what your true “life essentials are” and honestly, they aren’t much. I started taking time to reflect, to write, to pray, to medidate, to read, and sometimes, to enjoy the luxury that it is perfectly ok to do absolutely nothing. I started to accept that on some days, I will sit on my couch, or on a porch swing and stare in an abyss for hours, other days, I will go on runs, or practice some yoga. Some days I will be at peace with work, and other days I will want to quit at a rate of 20 times per second; and that is all perfectly fine.

When my friends call me these days ridden with guilt that they are not achieving anything and that they are losing control of their life. I tell them that there is nothing that they have to achieve this year, that it’s ok to lose control, we cannot control the universe. We are not God. Some things like a pandemic are out of our control, some things while unfortunate, like your business slowing down, or your salary being reduced are not the end of the world. At the end of the day, there is a much bigger picture to look at. When someone tells me they are scared, I don’t tell them they have nothing to fear, I reassure them that fear is normal, and that it only makes us human, but I also break down the fear with them, into what we can control and what we can’t, and we just talk it out. Sometimes, I just tell them that I’m scared too, and that it’s ok, and that we’re all in it together. I also tell them, that it’s one day at a time.

This year, there is no longer a norm, there is no “should be “ or “right way”, this year is about navigating new waters. It is about keeping my boat afloat, and trying as much as I can, to see the silver linings that surround me, because they always exist. I threw in the towel on the invisible race, and decided to take a stroll on this journey, I decided to once more, try to enjoy the journey without being so concerned with the finish line.

Find Your Tribe

As a person I am passionate and I am very highly driven. Most of the time I follow my heart and my emotions, but I am fully aware of the situations where I need to use logic more than emotions. I make my choices consciously and I embrace who I am, because I simply won’t have myself be any other way.

I dream big and I take risks and I refuse to be scared or to back down. I stand up for myself and I stand up for others, I speak my mind. I am vocal, I am assertive and I am comfortable in my own skin.

I know that I am different, simply because we all are. We are all unique and we are all different in our own ways. I understand that one size doesn’t fit all, and I believe that if I was created and came to be then I have a purpose.

I appreciate my talents, and I praise my strengths, I am aware of my flaws and I embrace my imperfections. I know that my flaws make me human, and that in the imperfections lie beauty and balance. I am real, I am true, and I am me.

Along the path I will evolve and I will develop, I will grow and I will change. Along the path of life my desires, my aspirations, my likes, my dislikes, my passions and my tolerances will vary; change is the only constant in this world, so why would I be an exception to the case.

I believe that how others treat me is on them, and that I deserve to be respected, to be loved, to be safe, to be appreciated and to be acknowledged. I have the right to exist within society and no one has the right to violate me. I am a woman, but that is just my gender, it doesn’t rank me in society as superior or inferior. It is simply a trait assigned to me like my hair color, my eyes, or my age. My gender is simply that, a gender.

I am not strong for a woman, or assertive for a woman, or smart for a woman or independent for a woman; I am just strong, assertive, smart and independent, that’s it.

The one thing that I am also fully aware of is that I haven’t always felt that way. This is a process that took three decades of mental and emotional evolution. It is a process that entailed me accepting so much that I should not have accepted, before I grew into my own skin.

Growing up as a female is hard work, I’m not victimizing us, but this is the reality of it all. I used to think that it’s just part of being an Arab female, but let me tell you ladies and gents, no matter where we are; the struggle is real, the fight is real, and the statistics don’t lie.

As women we are taught that our gender plays a much bigger classification role than it should. We are made to apologize for things that men don’t, we are placed in molds and boxes of society norms, cultural expectations and gender appropriations.

Out intelligence is undervalued, and we are taught to expect a different treatment, people constantly believe that they need to simplify things for us, and that there is this weird and rather unrealistic notion that we cannot handle tough situations. We are viewed as irrational and weak; sometimes told we are too “emotional” and that we need to “toughen up” like being in touch with our emotions is weakness, or that our physical appearance structure automatically places us in the weaker gender column.

Yet us women, are the same ones to blame for men’s inability to use their words and process their emotions when they abuse and beat us. The same women are the ones to blame when men feel insecure when their wives/partners make more than them at work or outperform them in sports and life. The same women are the ones to blame when men are incapable of handling their hormones and their emotions and sexually abuse women.

We as women are blamed for other’s insecurities, other’s incapability and other’s inability to express and handle emotions. Yet, we are the weaker sex and the inferior sex.

Somewhere along the journey of life we are told not to be too vocal, not to be too assertive and not to dream big. We are sold the notion that the biggest accomplishment of our lives is to be wives, and to be mothers and that as women on our own, we are not enough, that we need to be associated to someone, as their daughter, as their wife, as their partner or as their mother to be of value. The labeling was so essential to our upbringing at certain stages.

The first time I was violated, I was a child. I was a little girl in a supermarket aisle, this older man, as old as my father kept brushing up against me. First time I thought it was by mistake, but he kept doing it, and he whispered something about how I shouldn’t be wearing shorts. I was seven, I was a child, I was told that the reason this creepy person was violating me was my fault, because I was in shorts. Every time I was groped, violated or inappropriately touched, I didn’t talk about it, because I blamed myself. I would first go through a checklist of what was I wearing, what was it that provoked him, what did I say, how did I act. I always put myself at fault. We all know, that this is one small part of what happens out there in the world, I don’t need to tell you how horrifying the stories are or how painful it is to read about women being forced to marry their rapists, and even bare their children!

I remember when I started my career, my ex was still in university, it really wasn’t his thing and he just wasn’t graduating. Year after year, I started making career advancements, I started making more money, and I started investing more in my career because I loved the self-fulfillment and the growth, and because I was good at what I was doing.

It was during that period that I suffered most of the mental and emotional abuse out of him, it was the constant putting me down at every chance, the constant feeling of guilt because I was “working too hard”. Before I knew it, I was apologizing for my achievements, I was apologizing for my work, I was afraid to be vocal about my promotions and my advancements. I always felt guilty for developing my own career and my own life. The abuse progressed, and along the lines I always justified it, because I always felt that I was in the wrong doing for wanting a career, for wanting success, for outshining him. The height of it all came when I had to choose between him, and my career, two different choices that had nothing in conflict with one another, but to him, I couldn’t have both. If I wanted to be with him, then I needed to be a stay at home wife, I needed to forgo my dreams, my hopes and my aspirations, he said that I shouldn’t want anything more than to be his wife and the mother of his children. He believed that my association to him should be my biggest dream. Years later when we met and we spoke, he still believed that I was in the wrong for choosing my career, he believed that his abuse was justified and that I brought it upon myself.

I am not the first or the last person in the series of women who have been downplayed, degraded, or abused; and I’m also not the first or the last of a series of women who are taking matters in their own hands now and refusing to conform to the boxes and molds we are placed in. We are the women that are fighting to break through the glass ceilings.

To all the women out there that are fighting for their place in society, their rightful place, thank you. Thank you for being part of my tribe, thank you for inspiring women to keep fighting and for changing the current situations so future generations have it better than we do.

Thank you to the single mothers who decided that they can do it on their own, to the mothers who decided to embark on motherhood. Thank you to the ladies that taught us that it is ok to be single, and that it is also ok to be divorced or separated and to stand up for what you want. To all the women out there choosing careers, or motherhood, thank you for making a choice. It’s not what you choose that concerns me, as long as that choice is yours. To the mama’s raising their daughters to take no shit from people, I am happy to have you in my circle. To the female entrepreneurs and teachers, you are inspirations and guides that have touched more lives than you know.

To all the women who walked away from abuse, who put themselves first, and who chose their wellbeing over everyone else, thank you for setting an example, thank you for re-calibrating the bar. To the women who embarked on careers that were deemed “men’s jobs” thank you for breaking the stereo type. To everyone who pursued what is rightfully theirs, and was never afraid to dream big, I admire you.

They say find your tribe and walk with it, and when I reflect on the women in my life, the circle of women I associate myself with, I am proud to walk amongst them. A lot of the women I have worked with, I have trained with or I am friends with have proven day in and day out to be strong, to be independent and to be someone who has shaped me into who I am today. To all these women, thank you, thank you for walking along this path and not giving up, for getting back up and fighting every time you got knocked down. Thank you for all the lives you have touched and all the lives you continue to inspire.

Happy women’s day ladies! Happy everyday to you, and may you continue to grow, to prosper and to be successful till your last breath.

Once the Dust Settled

Towards the end of last year I started to become restless. I started noticing so many little details about people, about life, about situations that I hadn’t been noticing for a while. I started cleaning and de-cluttering my life. In the physical and metaphorical sense. I went through a massive cleaning of my room, followed by my wardrobe, my shoe closet and even my precious books. I started donating, gifting, and throwing things away and making room.

On a personal aspect, I did the same with habits, people and situations I found myself in. I started digging deeper into relationships I have (friendships, work relationships, romance, family, etc.) and I went through a tidying up process.

I tried to make amends with these that needed amends, voiced my concerns to rectify situations that didn’t serve me and didn’t make me happy, stepped away from things that were not my business, but I was somehow entangled in, pursued new relationships I wanted, and ended ones that were no longer serving me.

Initially I thought this was one of my “high” moods, one of my manic burst of energy and that they will whither in no time. 

A while later realized, thankfully, that it has not withered, that it was not just an episode, and that suddenly I’m more aware of all the things around me, and I want more, I have an appetite for life, I want more out of my day, out of my hours, out of my friends. I want to receive more and I want to invest more, in worthier causes and to use my time better.

I speak less, and I listen more. I suddenly have the ability, the time and the tolerance to be there for my friends. To listen to what they have to say, to be there for them more, to make things about them again when they need me. I went back to exploring my body’s limitations and abilities in sports, I’m trying out new fitness classes, I’m reading more and I’m investing more time, on myself before anyone else.I stopped occupying myself with what others do, or don’t do. I’m adopting the mantra of live and let live and, all the sudden, it’s like all this free space, extra time and energy found its way inwards.

The unrest I felt in the beginning didn’t  make a lot of sense, all these things I didn’t notice in the past couple of years, all these details that didn’t bother me, all these situations that I was fine with, and suddenly I wasn’t, confused me. What changed, what happened, why the sudden unrest.

I worried that I was being ungrateful, that I was being greedy by wanting more, and craving more, that I wanted so much to change, and I was not at peace with what I currently have all the sudden. Was I being bratty, entitled, ungrateful?I mulled that idea a couple of times, a lot of people said “just be happy with what you have” you’re in a good place. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not upset at what I have, I’m not sad, I’m restless, I want more, I want so so so much more and somehow, I can’t scratch that itch away anymore.

After a while, it dawned on me, I finally started to understand what happened. It took a lot of quiet mornings on my own, meditations, journaling, reflecting and really thinking for me to understand. I felt familiar again, I felt like me, the old me, the me, before the big grief (my dad’s passing); I was back to being the same me that wanted more from life than the things that didn’t serve her back in 2014; the same me, that uprooted her life,and went on one of the greatest adventures of her life.

I was back!

I came to term with the realities I couldn’t change, and as difficult as it was, I befriended my grief. I realized that I will carry it in my mind and my heart for as long as I live, but I also realized that we can co-exist. It’s sort of like signing a peace treaty and a co-habitation agreement.

It sits quietly and gently in a small corner in the back of my mind and heart. I let it be, and it doesn’t try to take over anymore. I came to understand that sometimes, the grief will come out to wander and take a small stroll, and I let it, I no longer fight it. It’s sort of this little miniature character that I personalized so that I can be able to befriend and live with, peacefully with minimal interruptions.

The dust settled, it’s as simple as that. Grief is like a sandstorm, it fills up all the spaces of the mind, it makes it cloudy and you’re unable to see clearly. The empty spaces are filled with sand particles, they don’t serve any purpose, they’re heavy and they simply take up space.

For three years, I was stuck inside the sandstorm, I couldn’t see clearly, I couldn’t breathe clearly, I was just surviving and not living. These are two distinctively different situations.

When surviving you make do with whatever comes your way, even if not ideal, even if not what you want, but it serves the purpose somehow, you settle, you accept, you don’t look for more. When surviving and navigating without a clear vision, you are afraid to take risks, to step outside the familiar paths, you go with the norm, because it’s safe, it’s secure and it won’t throw you off a ledge.

The truth is, I never believed that the “norm” existed. I don’t believe in chartered paths, and following in the footsteps of those before us (if you do, good for you, I’m not here to challenge your ideology; live and let live).

I always believed that life was a whirlwind of activities, adventures, and that we were put on this earth to celebrate the life we are given, and to celebrate what the soul, body and mind can do. I believe that so many places were created so beautifully because we were meant to explore them, to marvel at their beauty. I believe that I am a nomad at heart, meant to explore, to wander, to chase the stardust and yes, I believe in stardust and magical moments.

I stop to appreciate beautiful sunsets and I’m in love with cotton candy skies. I would rather starve than eat a bad meal, I’d walk miles to get to a bookstore I love, or to see a beautiful scene. I’d travel for hours, I’d explore, and yet I would sometimes be at peace with being absolutely still.

I learned that I am a dynamic character, I change and that’s not a bad thing. Some days I feel like following the noise, and exploring busy and bustling places; other days, I want to sit and turn my face towards the sun, read a book, or write, and enjoy the peace, and the inner voices in my head. I’m neither an introvert or an extrovert, I’m simply a mix of both, depending on what my soul and body crave at that moment. We were meant to think, to feel, to crave, to chase, so why confine my life in boxes of norms and should be?

Once the sandstorm of grief ended I understood all this, because I started gently sweeping my brain and my soul.Wiping away the sand and the dust to see things for what they really are, to notice the details, to appreciate the very good, and to work on the very not good. I started freeing up space, removing the unwanted particles that filled me, and I made room for new things to fill them. New adventures, new life, I made room for light within me basically and I feel lighter, I feel at peace.

The tricky part is, I now need to figure out, since the dust has settled, what comes next. How do I want to move, to fill these places, what do I want to let in, what do I want to pursue. It’s a fabulously exciting and scary phase to be honest.

It’s the good type of scary though, the scary that fills you with adrenaline, the scary that gives you crazy ideas to explore areas of your life you never thought of. I’m looking forward to what the next day, week, month or year even, brings. I realized that now that the dust has settled, I am no longer in survival mode, I’m in let’s celebrate the world, and let’s wholeheartedly enjoy life with everything it has to offer.

May you all chase the start dust in your life, find your light and may all your sandstorms settle, and the light find its way within you once more.I look forward to the next phase of my life, and can’t wait to share it with everyone.

Have a beautiful day.

The Greater Freedom-Book Review

Scrolling through social media I saw that Diwan Egypt (one of the most influential and prominent bookstores in Egypt, and a place I proudly worked for) was hosting an event for a book signing of “The Greater Freedom” by Alya Mooro. The title intrigued me and the excerpt they had on the post about how the book discusses the stereotypes facing Middle Eastern Women definitely caught my attention.

So on a Thursday evening, I drove to the iconic Diwan Zamalek, and took a seat amongst the crowd. It was a full house, the place was packed, and the crowd was interesting. So diverse; young females, older ladies, young men and a few older gentlemen were there as well.I went with intrigue, but to be very honest, I didn’t have very high hope that I was going to fall in love with the book. For some reason I went to the book signing thinking it was going to be some “angry feminist book” if that makes any sense. So why did I go? Because curiosity is one of my most prominent character traits ever since I was a child.

Then Alya started reading a small passage from the book and I was instantly hooked. Why? Her writing style, the way she read, it was like hearing my thoughts outloud!! She wrote in the manner I thought. She spoke the same written language as me. I involuntarily smiled as she read, I could tell that I would love the writing style and enjoy it very much, even if I wasn’t so sure about the content (remember this was still the very beginning of the book signing), so I decided, there and then, that I would buy the book.

Alya describes the context of this book as the greater freedom to not be oneself, to step out of the stereotypes and the cultural norms. I’m not gonna get into details about the actual content because I don’t want to ruin the book for you. She believes that this book is relatable to Middle Eastern women living in the western world, or outside what we call “home”. But I disagree with Alya, this book relates to every woman, period.

The struggles, the stereotypes, the realisations the author makes in this short, but irresistible read, are to me universal to all females. It speaks of the truths, the frustrations, the joys, the fears and the journey that is applicable to practically every modern day female.

The book took me by a very pleasant surprise. Mooro discusses the thoughts we are forced to internalise sometimes because of the cultural norms. She discusses all these “norms” we are taught as children, and breaks them down for us, explores them with us, and speaks the reality a lot of us wish to, but are afraid to say it, because we are scared of society judging us.

Females are always taught to be a certain way, since birth, regardless of our ethnicity, social class, education or upbringing. We are taught to be timid, we are taught to be non-sexual (publicly, but a man-pleasing seductive goddess in private), we are taught to be second in drive and ambition to men, we are taught so many “norms” that generations before us believed without thought, accepted with minimal fight and expected us to follow in their footsteps.

Thankfully, our generation is taking a more challenging approach (some of us, that is) to believing these norms. We now learn to question, to fight back, to push back, and we learn, not to settle. Alya in her book, speaks on behalf of most of us that are walking that walk, and it’s universal. She vocalises the thoughts that a lot of females in the Middle East, and other cultures are afraid to speak. She pushes the boundaries for us, covering relationships with partners, with parents, with our home countries, cultures and friends. She explores the consequences of certain thought processes, parenting styles, and personal boxes we confine ourself to because of our thoughts.

I was brought up in a very cosmopolitan environment, I was brought up with what is considered very liberal parents by Egypt’s standards. I was born and raised outside Egypt, and lived a free, independent life as a female. I moved back a few years ago, and I experienced all the things I “should be” according to my culture here. I first hand experienced all the stereotype that other females, thousands of miles away, who have never met me, or met my family or my circle of interaction experience in their parallel worlds. This is why I found this book relatable, this is why I believed that it speaks to more than just the Middle Eastern female mind.

To all the men out there as well, in case you’re wondering if you should read this book, I definitely recommend that you do. This book gives you a small window to see the world through your female friend, girlfriend, sister, wife, partner’s view. It gives you an insight on the world we live in, the struggles we feel, the liberations we’re after, and why some of us won’t settle.

So, thank you Alya for this excellent read, thank you for verbalising a lot of our thoughts to so many masses. Thank you to Diwan for this opportunity and supporting such discussions, authors and progress and bringing it forth to Egypt. Finally, thank you to every female who refused to settle, to fit in a confined mould that she doesn’t feel she belongs in.

I really hope you check out “The Greater Freedom”, and that you enjoy reading it as much as I did. In the meantime, to every person out there: Be inquisitive, be a challenger, be yourself, be free and never settle.

One of my favorite passages from the book

The Sea Salt to Your Cookie

My best friend and I were having a conversation, and somewhere along the line we got to discussing relationships, independence, etc. She asked me, but if I become so self-sufficient and so happy and content with myself, why would I date, what would that person be doing to my life if I’m happy without him already.

It took me a split second to think about it, and then I came up, with what to me was the perfect analogy, and not just because it’s a food analogy. Here are my thoughts on why we should pursue what we pursue in our life, whether they are relationships, friendships, adventures, work etc.

To me, we are all chocolate chip cookies. This delectable mixture of buttery and sweet and crispy on the edges and chewy on the inside. We are something so simple, but so intricate and can derive so much pleasure at once.

The thing is, we are good on our own, when we have all our components right, when we’re balanced and measured; and that for me is when we are self-sufficient and happy on our own., So where do the relationships, partnerships, careers, friendships and adventures come in? They’re the fine sprinkling of sea salt on your cookie. They’re that extra punch that elevates all the flavors of your life and who you are, they are what bring out your best qualities and amplify them. Without that sprinkle of sea salt, you are just great the way you are, but that sprinkle, when available, will elevate you to new levels.

That concept that we should always look for our second half, or for that adventure that makes us feel alive, or that job that just completes us, to me is a misconception. We are born whole and throughout our journey in life we are still whole. If you believe that you are lacking or missing then you will always look at relationships, work, adventures from a perspective of urgent need, and not because you want to be part of it. There will always be a part of you that feels obliged, trapped, like you are, to a certain degree, forced. To be that, robs us of joy and robs us of pleasure to a certain degree.

What happens when you pursue careers, friendships, relationships, adventure and life through the mindset of wanting to be part of all this, instead of the obligatory feelings of being part of all this?

It all boils down to freedom of choice. When you choose from the mindset that this is what you want, you become more aware of your choices, more aware of how they impact you, impact those around you, and more importantly you become more aware of the consequences that come with these choices.

The sense of being incomplete makes us irrational in our choices, it raises the expectations “that we will feel whole”, we depend on external factors for our inner peace and our sense of completion, which is an equation that simply won’t add up. We end up chasing through life frantically, with a sense of urgency that there is always something that needs to be added to make us feel more complete, another chocolate chip to our cookie, that without it we are incomplete.

Rarely do we have the self-awareness to pause and think of what the value added from these pursuits are, what do they elevate in me, what do they make shine, what do they enhance. That to me, should be the basis of every interaction, relationship, adventure and pursuit.

So as this decade comes to an end, I put together my intentions for 2020. This time I decided on intentions and not resolutions, because they feel more genuine to me. My intention is to work on my inner self, on my personal cookie, to make it the best it can be. To be in the best state I can be, by focusing on my mind, body and soul. To constantly be in the pursuit of that extra sprinkle of sea salt that elevates my life. To understand and fully embrace that I am whole just the way I was created. I don’t need someone or something to complete me. However, I choose to add relationships, careers, adventures, partnerships, friendships and interactions to my life because I want to add that extra dimension of flavor.

May you all find your sprinkle of sea salt through life, and may you always be someone’s sea salt as well.

Just always remember, that you are enough the way you are; no one and no object or situation can make you complete. You were not born lacking, you were not born missing. We all come with layers of flavors and textures within us, and with time they are more pronounced. Chase your dreams, chase your sea salt. You are in charge of your own wellbeing. Pursue life with the mindset of wanting to be in it, not the mindset that you are obliged. 

As 2019 comes to an end, I leave you with one final wish. In the words of the great Nelson Mandela “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”

Happy New Decade everyone, and may it be the beginning of a wonderful, delectable and sweet turn in your life.

Thank You, I’m Sorry, I Thought You Should Know…

I once watched a Ted x talk,where the speaker was talking about how as she was getting a massage, for a frozen shoulder, faces and images of old and repressed memories that she hadn’t thought about for years came zipping by her mind and she could see them. At the time, I shared it with a few friends and didnt think much about it, beyond the fact that I found it interesting.

Fast forward a few months later, I’m lying face down on a massage table, as the super amazing masseuse is trying desperately to work out the kinks and knots that have limited the mobility of my shoulders and back, soothe my painful ankle that always hurts ever since my accident, and working out the stress of my daily commute and basically my existence.

Suddenly I start seeing these faces, these memories and these emotions I’ve suppressed for years. People I forgot existed came back to me; asshole management from when I broke my foot, old abusive partners, wrong decisions, uncomfortable situations, awkward partners, you name it!

Throughout these 90 minutes, all this came back. In the begining, I tried really hard to suppress all this, after all, I was here to relax, why bring up these memories.

Then I realized that the harder I worked to repress these memories, the harder, the poor woman worked on the kinks and knots, telling me very softly to relax and let go, and I did.

I let go, and about a decade of choices, people and circumstances started playing infront of me. To be honest, in the begining it was all uncomfortable faces and feelings, and then slowly some good came into the picture. Some good people and situations that I also forgot about because I havent heard from or spoken to them in years.

Eventually, the 90 minutes ended (a massage is an amazing way to get ideas for blog posts, trust me, I now have at least 10 lined up)

I walked out, picked up a cup of coffee, sat in front of a green soccer field watching the sun set, and I picked up my phone, to write an overdue letter to someone; a letter, to one of the most resilient, courageous, adventurous and loving persons I have ever met. To someone who never heard enough kindness from me, who was often overly criticized and undervalued.

This person is my 20 something year old self. The more I thought of these past situations and how i treated myself, the more I wished I could go back in time and give that person I was, a hug, to tell her she is doing well, to tell her I’m sorry she wasn’t my first priority and tell her that, I, despite everything, love her and believe in her tremendously.

This past decade has been quiet a challenging and trying one for me. It was one that brought about so much loss, heart break, weariness, pain and change, but, it also brought about love, growth, adventure and joy.

I reflected back on who I used to be, what I’ve been through and how I handled it all, and I realized, with an absolute surprise, how resilient of a human being I am.

So below is everything I would tell my past self over the past decade if I could meet her now.

They are divided into three sections, “Thank You”, “I’m Sorry” and ” I thought you should know”.

So here goes:

Dear Jehan,

1- Thank you for choosing to go on living when it was the hardest of two choices. Thank you for carrying on and persevering. You are braver than you thought you were.

2- Thank you for being a responsible adult financially, for choosing to save, to invest and to think ahead. As someone who gets fidgety, and loves to explore and travel, you have made this possible. You’ve given me an opportunity to see more of the world

3- Thank you for going to therapy, not only did it help me, but it paved the way for me to be one of the biggest advocates amongst my circle for mental health awareness.

4- Thank you for your decision to go to Paris, to follow your heart and believe in your gut. This decision altered my life in ways you could never imagine.

5- Thank you for choosing to be with “Brody” in that wonderfully flexible arrangement you had. Because of that, I now understand that intimacy, relationships,and feelings, dont always have to be permanent, dont always have to be traditional, but always have to feel right. You have to choose the energies that resonate with who you truly are

6- Thank you for exercising, even when it felt tedious. It kept me sane, it kept me alive, it kept me going and it empowered me.

7- I’m sorry you felt pressured to stay in that engagment and relationship for as long as you did, because you were afraid of being labeled by this stupid society

8- I’m sorry you doubted your self worth at parties and social gatherings, and thought you weren’t interesting enough to talk to people unless you were absolutely hammered.

9- I’m sorry you had to stop yourself from dancing when you wanted to, because you felt dorky, fat and awkward

10- I’m sorry you felt so ugly, and took it out so harshly on yourself

11- I’m sorry you felt obliged to tolerate being discriminated against at work, because you were so afraid of speaking up, because you were terrified that management wouldn’t like you

12- I’m so sorry you tried so hard to conform and fit in, because you were never made to feel like you were enough, just the way you are

13- I’m sorry you were always so ashamed of your feminism, your sensuality, your opinions, and of your own voice

14- I’m sorry you had to downplay your intelligence and success in front of others because u were too worried that they will be too uncomfortable to share your success

15- I’m sorry you justified shitty friendships because you thought you would be too lonely without them

16- I thought you should know that life turned out to be quiet a good thing, that it has ups and downs, but you have learned to make it eventful, you have learned to make it worthwhile

17- I thought you should know that you dont have to be hammered to talk to people, you now go to parties and social gatherings and speak about the adventures and life you’ve had so far and people find you interesting and fun

18- I thought you should know that you finally started dancing like no one is watching, and man oh man is it a fucking blast

19- I thought you should know that you now walk away from people that dont make you feel good, that you refuse to settle, and because of that, your circle of friends is one that resonates and lifts you and cheers for you

20- I thought you should know that you will grow to love your looks, your mega fun big hair, your body, your smile, and your overall physical appearance. You thought you would never be pretty, but you have been, all along, and when you allowed yourself to accept praise, you started seeing how you are really seen vs your distorted perception of yourself

21- I thought you should know that you would go on to leave a very positive impact on every work place you work in; and that by testimonials, you turn our to be a pretty kickass manager. People will look at your career so far with fascination and it will feel fabulous

22- I thought you should know that you have always been right to follow your heart, because it takes you places that make you feel so alive

23- I thought you should know that you are more valuable and precious than the abusive partners made you feel. You are enough, you are wonderful, and God created you the way you are, for a very specific reason

24- I thought you should know that the world doesnt end with death of a loved one, a heart break, or a broken friendship. You find comfort in memories, love in other people, and sometimes comfort in your solitude

25- I thought you should know that you have an incredibly magical nephew that teaches you that the unconditional love can come from being an aunt and not just a mom

26- I thought you should know that all along I have always loved you, respected you and believed in you, even if I never showed it

27- Finally, I thought you should know that not only does the nickname Jay come back, but it gets doubled . Lol. You are now JayJay

Thank you for sticking it out, I’m sorry I wasn’t kinder and I thought you should know that you are resilient, courageous and beautiful.


Jay Jay

Somewhere along the line we turn into our own worst enemy, we are judgmental, critical, paranoid and afraid. But one of the absolute perks of growing older is that you start growing into your own skin. As we get older, we get more comfortable, we get kinder, and we become more aware.

If we were a person encountering our old selves, I believe we will be kinder.

If you had a chance to write a letter to your old self, what would you say?

What are your “Thank you”, “I’m sorry”, and ” I thought you should know”?

Each person has a story to tell, battles they have won and others that have pummeled them. However, each one of us, keeps marching thru life, we are more than we make ourselves out to be. We are beautiful creations, we are resilient, we are survivors and we all have a story to tell.

There’s No Place Like Home…

For as long as I remembered Kuwait was always home to me, I always missed it, I always craved being there and in my head, it was where I should always be. So naturally when I got a job that takes me to Kuwait often I was super excited I mean why shouldn’t I be; I was going home, right?
I landed and everything looked the same, a few tweaks to the roads here and there, but no substantial changes. Everything I grew up with was right there; everything was still so familiar, exactly where it has always been. I went to the office and I was back in the Kuwait corporate life, the structure, the efficiency, the hustle and bustle of it all. The office had a few familiar faces, people were courteous and accommodating, and it was all an environment I loved so much.
My high school best friend picked me up from work that day; I spent the day with her, checked in to my hotel, went out to all the familiar places, had one or the best quality meals I had in a long time and caught up with my friend who I haven’t seen for years.
I went back to the hotel that night, full belly, happy to see my friend, but for the first time ever, Kuwait stopped feeling like home. I realized I was not home anymore, and that feeling weirded me out. I attributed that feeling to being tired and decided to go to sleep, assuring myself that tomorrow, that familiar feeling will come back.
I got ready for work in the morning, arrived to the office in exactly 10 minutes, something that NEVER happens in Egypt, the office was in a fancy tower, the placed looked so proper and prim and sparkling clean. Everything was what you could describe as an upgrade from my 1 hour commute to the office, the hassle to park, the older office building, so why did something not sit right?
I saw another friend that night , someone super close to my heart; someone I love so much and we hung out and spent the day together. Once again, low traffic roads, good food, convenient shopping and good friends, why was I not feeling at home ?
I went back to my hotel and realized I was counting the days to go back to Egypt and I was surprised to say the least. Without going into a repeated account, the days went by, four nights of meeting people, catching up and with everyday my excitement to go back to Egypt was increasing.
On the morning I was going back to Egypt I was beaming, I was giddy and eager and so excited to go back. I wanted to go home, and for the first time ever and for a reason I didn’t understand much, Egypt was finally home.
I didn’t understand why, when or how Egypt has become home. But it did. My plane landed and I was joyous and excited. I stepped out of the plane, fully aware of the chaos that awaits me. But I was still excited to be back.
I responded to a few texts on my phone, and sent out two texts to two people. My mother, and someone else. Someone, who I wanted to be the first person I spoke to as soon as I landed. And when they both called (separately) I felt safe, secure and home and I finally understood it. Home is not a place, home is a person or a group of people.
To me, home was my mom’s security, her voice and her prayers for me at all times. Was my best friends, and after hour drinks with them, or quick bites. Home was the love of my life, who’s voice makes my day and makes me feel secure. Home is his smile, his reassurance that everything will be ok, and spending lazy mornings in the sun with him, or just hanging out talking about everything and nothing.
Home, became my support system that carried me through thick and thin, and celebrated everything with me. It was my friends that we would sit and just do nothing and be ok with that; my mother who no matter how old I get, always wants to make sure I’m ok. Home is also that person, who you call when you’re panicking, or when you’re happy or is the first person in the world to know you got a job you’ve been dreaming of.
Home became my nephew’s hugs, and chilling with my family. Home stopped becoming a place, a country and started becoming people. Home was reminders of my father, and the place that held his grave. Home , I finally understood is where I felt like I could be me, and be human. Where it was ok to be scared because someone has my back, or to panic, because eventually someone will help and I will not be alone. Home is where the joy of celebrations is multiplied by a 100 and the sorrow of pain is divided. I understood this morning as I saw a familiar face that brightened my world in a split second why Kuwait stopped feeling like home.
And to me, it’s the most liberating feeling in the world to know that home is not tied to a place, to understand that I’m actually home because I have all that makes me feel happy, supported, loved, appreciated and taken care of. In the famous words of Dorothy “There’s no place like home”.

Faith & Human Resilience..

From someone’s Instagram story..unfortunately I don’t remember who.

“Find safety in your faith.” I read this a while back, and I thought about it for a while. What is it that keeps us going? That makes us resilient, strong, and elastic to the point of stretching, displacing, but always coming back. Even if we are slightly damaged, we piece ourselves back together and keep going. What fuels that resilience? I believe it is faith.

Now, for me, faith and religion are two completely separate matters. Faith is defined as having complete trust in someone or something; religion is a spiritual relationship with a superior being, an ideology and set of behavioral guidance.

Your faith could be in whatever it is you want. You may have faith in a superior being, a God, whatever form He takes, that you completely trust; faith in a person, celestial energies, and science, whatever it is that gives you that sense of order and security; it is your faith. It is what brings about the calm after every storm, it’s the life-jacket you wear in the choppiest of waters, your safety net as you jump off. Your faith, is what breeds your resilience; and to me, resilience is the greatest human quality.

So what happens when you stop having that faith, or lose sight of it? What happens when you stop being resilient, when you stop springing back? You give up, you stop trying, and you believe, for however briefly or extensively, that your world has ended, that doomsday is upon you, and that life is no longer worth living.

You know these people, the ones that you see that smile in the face of every adversity, that no matter what they go through that breaks them, and no matter how much pain they go through still manage to come back up to the surface, bounce back, and eventually smile, and move on with life. These people are fueled by faith. Faith, that if not tomorrow, it’s going to be after, or after, and that eventually, whatever they believe so strongly in, will sort out their lives.

Generally, our relationship with faith, is not a straight line, but rather a wave, that oscillates between peaks and troughs, and if you’re observant enough, you will realize that after every trough there is a peak, and when that happens, the oscillations become less frequent, the relationship becomes steadier, and your faith is there, always.

When I was a child, my faith was in my parents, they were my superheroes, and I believed without the slightest doubt, that whatever it is that came my way, my parents will stop it, fix it. For the biggest part of my childhood, my parents and my family held true to that assumption. Then I grew up, and my problems went beyond booboos, scraped knees, bullies at school, or a broken toy. My problems turned into broken hearts, lost friendships, racism, discrimination and growing up. What they could do, was offer me advice, but they could not physically fix it, and that became the first test of my faith. I didn’t understand that their advice is the equivalent of a Band-Aid on top of a cut or bruise, and that it is their way of fixing it. Back then I didn’t understand that, so my center, my compass needle, my safety net, my faith, was shook.

Then came my first encounters with loss, I lost one of my best friends to cancer and once more my parents could not fix it, no one could fix it. Then the real encounters of life kept on happening, a heart break, a physical injury that lead to a slight but permanent disability, and I got scared, I didn’t want to think of the reality of it, and I lost my faith.

I didn’t trust that there was an up after the down, that my life hadn’t ended and that it will go on. I didn’t trust that there will be better days, and I lost my resilience, my oomph, my power to pick up and go on, to fall back into place after being displaced. I became a worn out elastic, with a very frail and weak point where it can snap and break, and I tiptoed around life, so terrified of this little part, that final worn out part of me snaps, and of the frayed elastic breaking.

What I didn’t understand back then is that it is ok if I snap, that if the elastic band breaks, and you tie it or fuse it back together, it doesn’t lose its elasticity. It might change shape, be slightly deformed in a sense, but it remains what it is, an elastic band. It will once more stretch, pull and spring back into place. That every time it breaks you can tie it and fuse it back together, until its time comes.

You cannot tip toe for life, and unless something is kept away from all elements of life, isolated in a vacuumed space, damage is bound to happen. That frayed part of you will snap, your weakest point will break you, and that’s absolutely ok.

When that happens, you have the choice, the choice to pick up, lift off and find it in you to tap into your faith, to understand that this is only one part of the cycle. You need to tap into your faith to find a better tomorrow, to see a future, even if on a displaced course, other than what you always dreamt of, it exists, it is there.

My perspective on faith has slightly changed, my faith shifted to be faith in the power of human perseverance. We are born to adapt, we are generally stronger than we give ourselves credit for. We’re powerful beings, with endless opportunities, no matter what the circumstances are, we have the power, if we want to, and if we have enough faith, to persevere.

To me, I find safety in my faith. I find safety in knowing that I am resilient. You need to understand that it doesn’t matter if you fall down a hundred times, as long as you try to get up one hundred and one times. You need to believe that if you fall for any reason from the top, then the higher your fall, the harder your drop, the harder and higher you will bounce back!

It doesn’t matter what it is that you choose to have faith in, as long as you always choose to believe, to have faith, then for me, you are safe. Always remember that we can endure much more than we think we can; all human experience testifies to that. All we need to do is to learn not to be afraid of pain, or change. Grit your teeth and let it hurt. Don’t deny it, don’t be overwhelmed by it. It will not last forever. One day, the pain and the fear will be gone, and you will still be there. (Inspired by the quote from the beautiful Frida Kahlo)

So have faith, be powerful and most of all, be resilient.

An Overdue Goodbye…

As I grew up, my parents slowly transitioned from being “just my parents” to being my best friends. I loved them with all my heart, not because of how they were related to me, but because of who they were as individuals.

I would go out for lunch or dinner with them because I wanted to, I would enjoy endless conversations, and I believed solidly in the advice they gave me. I went to the movies with them, and hung out with them and would have long conversations, because I derived joy from being around them. They were more than just my parents, they were my friends, the very best I had.

My father though, was in a league of his own for me. This man was brilliant in everything he did; in my eyes he truly was my superhero. Everything I see in me, is a reflection of who he is, I am a true chip off the old block. When I am at my best, I am my father’s daughter.

So the day he died, that was the most excruciating, heartbreaking and gut wrenching experience of my life. No matter how prepared I thought I was, no matter how strong I thought I was, or how much faith I thought I had, nothing, could have ever made this day, anything less than the excruciating and life altering experience it was.

Now remember how I said that my dad was more than just my dad and how he was my best friend? Well like all friends, we had a minor spat the night before he died. It wasn’t a fight, it was me being slightly bratty to him; and before we had a chance to talk it out in the morning, and me telling him in the morning how much I loved him as always, he died. I never got to say that sorry, I never got to say that I love you, I never got to say all the things I would have said if I thought, even for a second that this could be his last day with me.

For about three years afterwards since his death, all I could think of, was that last interaction, that last night, and, that guilt,consumed my every thought. The pain of losing my dad, was gut wrenching, but the guilt I felt every second of every day was soul consuming, and I went on a dark spiral of self flagellation, self hatred and feeling unworthy of being alive all together. I hated myself, and I felt cheated, I didn’t get to say all that I wanted to say. Then there were the million questions I asked myself every day: Did he know how much I loved him? Did he know how proud I was to be his daughter? Did he forgive me for that little argument? Did he die upset from me? Day in and day out, I couldn’t stop thinking about this and I couldn’t stop hating myself.

Between the pain of losing him, not saying all these things I wanted to say, and not getting a chance to say my last good bye, my last I love you, and all the million “lasts” I wanted, and the guilt on top of it all, I grieved for so long.

I couldn’t let go of the grieve, every time I would feel happy, or laugh, or for a split second forget the pain, I would feel so guilty. How was I able to have fun, was I forgetting dad? Was I being a bad daughter, how could I step outside my grief.

For years, every moment of happiness was followed by compounded moments of guilt and sadness, and that became my trend for years. For every slight peak of happiness, there was a steep decline of pain and sorrow. It went beyond my waking moments, I would feel the guilt and the shame even in my sleep. Endless nightmares of being crushed between two walls while my dad saves me at the last second, or carrying the weight of my dad on my shoulders and feeling like I was crumbling beneath it, and the nightmares went on and would not stop. They would increase in intensity, and as time went on, my pain and guilt were manifesting even deeper.

One day, the nightmares got too intense, the pain got unbearable, and I desperately needed my daddy. I had so much going on in life, so much I wanted to share, so much guidance that I was craving for. I wanted my daddy and it was as simple as that.

For a while, I kept on moping how he is not around, how I needed him and he was not there and I didn’t know what to do. Then this crazy urge rose within me to just go visit his grave, see him, be in his presence and I realized I haven’t done that, alone, since the day he died. For three years, everytime I visited my dad there were people with me, people listening to what I was saying, people telling me not to cry, people telling me we had to go; I never got to have a one-on-one with my dad in three years. I took a deep breath, arranged for transportation for the ride (he is buried in a different city) and went to sleep with a mixture of apprehension and excitement, for the ride that awaited me tomorrow.

I woke up at 6 that morning, even though the driver wasn’t arriving till 8, I was nervous, I was scared, I was excited, but one thing I realized I wasn’t is sad. I wasn’t sad. I was going to see my daddy, and that was never something to be sad about.

I got into the car, and we started the two hour drive, I was silent, lost in my own thoughts, until the roads started to look familiar once more, and I knew that we were approaching the graveyard. As we parked, I took a deep breath, opened the door, and with shaky legs made it across, to say hi to my father, for the first time in a year, and for the first time on my own in three.

I slowly walked up to his grave and saw his tombstone, and all the sudden I was reduced to a puddle of tears, that streamed down my face, and all I could say was Hi Daddy, I’m here, I’m so sorry it took me so long, but I’m here.

Eventually the tears stopped, and I was standing right there in front of my dad, I felt confused, what next? What am I supposed to do, I’ve been on the road for over two hours, now that I’m here, I realized that everything I thought I wanted to say, was gone. I was drawing a blank. For a split second, I wanted to turn around and run, it all felt too raw, too real and too intense. There I was, reading his name, the date he died, and for the first time in three years, I was face to face, with the one inevitable truth I was running away from, I lost my best friend, my superhero, I lost my daddy, he really was dead.

I sat down in front of his grave, cross-legged and just focusing so hard on breathing. I started at the tombstone for so long, running my fingers over the engravings of his name, and not saying a word. As crazy as it sounds, just being there, breathing, and just slowly running my hands across the tombstone, I didn’t feel so alone without my dad. I felt for the first time since he died, that he was not gone, he might be gone physically, but with the connection we always had, he will never be gone.

All the sudden without realizing it, I just started speaking, the words came out in an uncontrollable stream, all the apologies, the I love yous and all the “lasts” I wish I could have said, I started to say everything that I have been carrying around for three years. I apologized for the night he died, and the more I spoke, the lighter I felt.

I must’ve sat there, cross legged, with the sun in my face, feeling settled, comfortable and safe just speaking to my dad for around 2 hours. I spoke to my dad about everything that has been going on for the past three years, all the happiness and the sorrow, all the ups and downs, my dreams and my disappointments. I spoke to my dad like I always did, from the heart, and without holding him back. At times I would close my eyes, enjoy the occasional breeze and see picture his beautifully reassuring smile, and then I would take a deep breath and keep talking.

I asked him for guidance, and for advice, I spoke to him of everything as if he never left, because I realized without a doubt that he never did. No matter where I go, no matter what I do, I will always, till the day I die, carry my dad in my heart. My thought process is a bi-product of all his teachings, he influences the smallest details of my world. The way I carry myself, the way I act, the way I treat people is all a miniature mirror of my dad, and I pride myself so much on that, because never have a I met someone as ambitious, resilient, creative and smart, as my father.

Eventually I was all talked out and I felt like the weight of the world was lifted off my heart. I felt the tension I held in my body and my mind fade away, I felt better. I said my goodbye to my father, because I realized that eventually I had to let him go. I physically had to let him go, and I said goodbye and felt content knowing that I can lightly carry him in my heart.

No matter where I go, and what I do, I will always have my dad along the way guiding me, and supporting me. I learned that there is never one last I love you, that a parent always loves you, always forgives you, and that no matter where they are, they will in their own way be there for you. I said all that I wanted to say, all my “lasts”, but I promised him that I will always be back to see him. I will always go back and sit by him, and talk, to feel his presence, to warm my heart, and to be around the light within my soul.

It was an overdue goodbye, but it had to be done. I took my time grieving, but I had to let go of the sadness, the anger and the guilt. It was not easy, it took me years to get here, but once I did, I understood that I am human, and loss is a standard part of life.

My dad would never have wanted to see me cry, my pain caused him pain, and my joy was something for as long as I remember, he was very keen to see. I realized that I needed to honor that, he would never be happy knowing that he is a source of agony for me. I understood that letting him go is not forgetting him, and it’s not that I have stopped loving him.

One of the most common mistakes we make when we lose a loved one is that we believe that if we stop grieving then we are betraying them. That belief that not carrying the weight of grief with us, every second of every day, means that we have forgotten them. We confuse letting them go, with forgetting them and not loving them.

What we often don’t realize is that we can’t lose them, even if we try, because they are part of who we are. When we let them go, we learn to let go of the weight of grief, and allow them to simply be carried effortlessly in our hearts.

To everyone out there who has lost someone, may we all find peace in saying our goodbyes, and the courage to let go.