My Real Life Wonder Women

As a woman, I take pride in other women around me. I know our struggles, I know our battles and I know our insecurities, and I have lived them all. On women’s day I want to give a shout out in general to all the wonderful women in my life, thank you for being part of it. However, this tribute is to a very special group of women, women who have inspired me and changed my life in ways, I don’t even think they are aware of, and today I can only feel so much love every time I think of any of them.

When I was struggling with depression a lot of people recommended sports and working out as a distraction, in the begining I found it tedious and a chore, but then each of these magnificent women walked into my life and became part of a healing journey that taught me so much and helped me so much, they played and still play an active role in my battle against mental struggles, so today I share with you the story of each of these beautiful women and how their role in the fitness industry healed me.

The stories are shared in chronological order of when they started being a part of my life.

I cannot mention any of this without talking first and foremost about Sally Salama, my friend that has enough passion and drive to change the whole f**** world if she was given a chance. I met Sally when I was totally uninterested in sports, I went to the gym because I had to, wasnt very educated on proper eating habits and found the whole field, boring. Then this slightly eccentric, insanely passionate woman, who talks about fitness like it’s her oxygen, became my friend. Her passion intrigued me in the begining, and the more she talked about workouts and exercise and how she is pursuing it as a career the more I felt that there has to be more to that field than what I am doing, there is more than the tedious treadmill.

Eventually I started asking her questions about different classes and workouts, she would give me recommendations, ideas, tips and would text and ask me how I felt about the classes. She would invite me to the Zumba events and her Heya Health events and I would go, and after the event she would tease me about the *resting b*tch face I have while in zumba” I would laugh, but I also felt secure that in an event that had over a hundred people, she still managed to look out for me in the crowd and make sure I was ok.

She would talk to me about instructors and trainers, facilities, workouts etc. And when I sent her pictures of what I was doing she would give me tips and feedback and she knew how important it was for me to celebrate even the slightest victories, she paved the way for me, and on one new year’s eve she got on an 8 hour bus ride with me, all the way to Siwa, where I met Aia Faham, the second beautiful lady in this story.

Aia is the founder of The Lalaland and the name alone was enough for me to check out the post for her yoga retreat in Siwa. I packed my bags, decided to experience new years in a different way, and went on an immersive yoga retreat with Aia and the group.

She was so bubbly and so alive that her energy was nothing but contagious, in the class and on the yoga mat I started learning how to listen to my body. How to slow down, breathe, decelerate my thoughts to catch a break and let my body just be and move.

I spent a week on this retreat and I felt my brain slowing down, my breathing was better, I had quit smoking and I was genuinely happy amongst a group of strangers I had never met before ( I always struggled with social interactions growing up, was almost always on the loner side) but slowly on this trip I started talking to people I dont know, socializing, sharing laughs and stories and a couple of years later, I am so happy to still call some of them my friends.

Aia taught me how to slow down in the hectic world, how to take time to breathe, to think slowly and to appreciate my body. Because of her, I fell in love with Yoga, which I can never imagine my life without today, and because of my love of yoga, I met the gentlest soul ever, Ranya Mahmoud, the woman who said one simple sentence and she didn’t realize that she would one day change my life.

Towards the begining of 2018 my life was falling apart, I was distraught, heartbroken, very unhappily employed and grieving the loss of my father. I powered through life and shut down every warning sign that I am not ok, I pushed and pushed and pushed until I broke, and automatically I realized I needed to heal and my mind drifted to how I felt on that Yoga retreat in Siwa, and I wanted to recreate that feeling.

With stiff joints, and an aching soul, I looked up the gentlest yoga practice around me and I found Yin Yoga at Nun Center, with Ranya Mahmoud.

If any of you have met Ranya, you would know that I’m not exaggerating when I call her one of the gentlest souls ever, from the moment I walked into her class, she started speaking, I felt soothed to my core. Ranya brought balance to the hectic world outside.

She brought me so much peace, so much serenity that I wouldnt miss any of her classes no matter what, the serenity became an integral part of my existence .

One of the sentences Ranya said that changed my life and the way I handle myself and other people was when she told me “Be soft, for when you are soft, you can bend, but cannot break.” It seemed like such a simple sentence, but it struck deep with me. I realized I needed to be softer, more flexible and more fluid. That sentence was the inspiration behind this blog.

From Ranya I learned a lot about self love, listening intuitively to my body and appreciating my body and what it can do. Like I said, she bought balance in a very hectic Cairo. The amount of times I’ve smiled on the yoga mat one second, and let tears flow the next are countless. I learned through Yin, that slow and focused is just as good as quick and strong, and that emotions need to be expressed and are not a sign of weakness.

And because when you are soft, you bend, but don’t break, my journey took me to my next encounter, with Julia Alexan. I signed up for a flexibility class with Julia, thinking I just wanted to move a little bit more, and be a little less stiff, but I was apprehensive about the class! Anyone that knows me well, knows I might as well have been born with two left feet. With the first couple of classes, I found that these sessions were something I also looked forward to, I learned that something as small as a one inch improvement was worth celebrating. The class and what I achieved in it was very exciting for me, the chest opening exercises for me released the negative energy, the backbends excited me, and by the end of the 1st round of classes, my confidence grew tremendously. Julia’s class made me a more confident person, and taught me to appreciate what I’m capable of. It taught me that when you dont overthink, you just listen to your self and take small steps, you can achieve more than you thought was possible, you might even surprise yourself.

Finally, last but definitely not least, I cannot mention fitness and the effect it had on my life without mentioning Vibes and the two brilliant, inspiring and beautiful women behind it, Noonie Saleh and Sara Taha!

I’ve known Noonie and Sara for a while, but I got to know them better, and to work out with them more last winter when I joined their 30 day challenge. To say that the experience for me, has been life altering, is not an exaggeration.

These two women believe in the power in each one of us, they know exactly how to push you to bring out the best of you, without hurting you. They brought out the beast in me, and in a good way.

They push you to explore your limits, and if you are afraid to try something out, they will be there to support you and stand by you until you get over your fear. Box jumps for me were absolutely terrifying, I’m generally so afraid of anything above the ground, but Noonie was relentless, she supported, would always say, I’m right here, dont worry, I got you if anything goes wrong, you can do this! And then one day, I did it, and I wanted to dance with joy. It still scares me, but I now take a deep breath, focus and jump. The funny thing is, I now do that with life, the practice carried over, and I think that fear is good, but I’m stronger than I think I am.

Every workout is a confidence boost, and a stress reliever that is enough to cure even the most hectic, stressful, mind-screwing Cairienne day.

The more I stayed at Vibes, and trained with them (the rest of the crew there is quiet awesome, but it is women’s day, haha) the stronger I felt, the better I felt and the less stressed I was.

The other perk I had to working out, are the people I met. I struggle with making friends, but then gradually because I joined the 30 day challenge, and then the 12 week challenge, it became so much easier to make friends.

I found people that share my interests, that root for me, and we work together to empower and improve each other, and that is something I dont usually find in Egypt. Vibes for me has become my happy place in Egypt, my recharge, and the people I met there for me are my tribe.

A lot of people talk about how fitness changed their life on the physical aspect, and so many people work out for getting fitter or thinner, and focus on the physical alone.

While the physical enhancement is important, the mental stimulation, and decluttering of the mind, that workouts bring to your life is one of the most effective tools to fight anxiety, depression, and a multitude of other struggles.

The more you discover your physical strength, or your flexibility, the more you understand your capacities and that you can be both gentle when needed and strong when needed. You can be as soft as water, or as powerful as a beast.

You learn to control your body and feed your mind, and you understand that fitness and working out is more than just a tedious treadmill.

Pick a workout you love, and you will watch your life transform.

To Sally, Aia, Ranya, Julia, Noonie and Sarah, happy women’s day. I look up to all of you, I find you an inspiration and thank you for being part of my journey. All the love.

Life is difficult…

Life is difficult. This is the first sentence in the book that has changed my life the most. Gifted to me by my best friend, in the height of my grief and confusion in life, I let this sentence sink in, as I read it over and over and over again.

The fact that life is difficult is something we don’t always acknowledge or we don’t want to acknowledge. We grow up with this notion that we should breeze through life. The feeling of omnipotence we have as toddlers, later on becomes a feeling of entitlement to go through life without facing adversity. That is where our pitfalls come from. We do not acknowledge that life is a journey, a hill, it has curves and bends and ups and downs. It’s not a plateau or a flat line and it most definitely is something we earn, and not something we are entitled to!

I had a rather privileged upbringing; I lived in a beautiful bubble with all my friends, in my school and my world travels and my parents provided for me to the best of their ability. I was lucky with my education, and that my parents could afford such an education. However, what I believe my parents did a great job at, is teaching me that I have to earn these privileges, I have to work for them, and not just the monetary privileges but other privileges they gave me, like their trust, freedom of mobility (for females in the middle east that is a big thing) amongst many others.

I was taught that it is ok to make mistakes, as long as I am transparent about them and admit them, not just to get away from getting in trouble, but to learn how to correct them. I was taught that not every trial will end in success, and sometimes we will fail, we will fall, bruise and break, but how long we stay on the ground is our call, eventually we have to get up, and learn to walk again, because the world goes on, whether we lay in the trenches or get up and fight.

We earn the life we live. Circumstances are dealt to each one of us, we all deal with adversity, with pain, with loss, on different scales and proportionate to our lives; so yes, sometimes life is difficult, but it is never unfair, because we each are dealt a hand that we have a choice on how to play, we are never unlucky, we make the conscious choice of how to react.

I spent three years wallowing in anger, grief, and pain because I believed that I was “unlucky” and mad at God and the world, for dealing me a bad hand, so to say. I forgot that death, since the creation of mankind, was a constant, that parents, despite our belief, do not live forever, and that having my father in my life, with the close relationship I had with him, was a privilege and not a right. A privilege we earn through the way we treat our parents, and the way they treat us, but sooner or later, that comes to an end. I was mad for being “stuck” in Egypt, for being “unappreciated” at work, for my “bad luck” at starting my business because of the economic turbulence that hit as soon as I started.

I spent years so angry, I would scream at God in my parked car for hours, forgetting that these were only circumstances, and I was the one that chose to react with passiveness to each and every one of these situations.

I chose to lie in the trenches, scream, kick and cry without once trying to pick myself up, or see what is going on in the world around me and how I can change my situation or make the best of it.

I forgot that I am merely one person, amongst more than 7 billion people, and that the world will go on even if I choose to put my life on hold and not look beyond my problems. I felt entitled to breeze through life, and at the first bump in the road, I was paralyzed. I got angry, because it was easier, anger is always the easier choice.

I remember, I opened the book (which is called The Road Less Traveled, by M. Scott Peck) and the first line was just there staring at me: Life is Difficult. It was only then that I stopped my temper tantrum and looked at how far I had gotten in life, and how I got to where I was. I realized, that life has always been difficult, but that after every adversity there was always a sweet reward.

My father died, but he died peacefully, without pain or suffering, and one day we will all die. I could either wallow in grief for years, or grieve and be sad for as long as I need, but get up and move on with life. I decided to do something about it. I started reading more about grief, I started educating myself, I sought help, and finally I did all I can, to honor my dad’s memory and he remains the catalyst for all the success in my life.

I was mad at my job, but I realized I was privileged with education, years of experience and a world of opportunities, if I don’t like where I am, I can just leave, and look for another opportunity, the world is endless, Egypt is massive, who said I was stuck? I’ll tell you who, my mind! When I actively sought another job, I found one, I moved, so was I unlucky? No, I was simply passive! Funny enough, my interview was for a bookstore, and they asked me what was the last book I read, I said I’m currently reading The Road Less Traveled, and the CEO said:,” I love the first sentence in the book, Life is Difficult.” I looked at her, and simply smiled.

As for my catering business, I was so mad because it was taking off on a slow start, so I stopped to think why I was feeling so entitled to instant success. Talent was only one small step, along with passion, perseverance and resilience. My own culinary degree came out of a rather difficult situation, the bi-product of a car accident that smashed my foot, and made me decide to switch careers. So why did I forget that the kitchen is blood, sweat and tears, and that running my own business is hard work. I let go of my sense of entitlement, and I took, and still am taking small steps towards my success, talent is one element, the rest is equally as important. If I want success, I have to earn success. I cannot call it quits at the first sign of turbulence, tantrums won’t cut it in the grown up world, I am no longer an omnipotent child, I am a hard working adult, in a competitive world.

Until we die, we have the privilege of making choices, we can go through life as we choose to go through life. It is never a smooth ride, it is never an easy ride, but we are always in control of the steering wheel. We sometimes feel entitled, and feel that we deserve to live easy, and forget that this is not the case. Life is difficult, but life is also good, it is what we make out of it.

Always remember that, you have a choice, you will always have a choice. So as you go through life, be active, be supportive, be conscious of your choices and most of all be appreciative of the good you get in life, because you earned it. Change the negative, take your time to grieve, but don’t wallow forever, and when you fall and bruise, lean on whatever you need to get yourself back up.

Life is difficult, but that is definitely what makes it worth living.

Be You…

How many times have you looked at someone else’s life and compared them to yours, thinking they have it all, and if only you could be like them?

If I had a penny for everytime I did that, I could probably buy one of these beautiful English houses I spent the first day of my vacation thinking all these people who live in it must have it all.

All of us see our lives most of the time as lacking, too plain, too “white”, but what we often fail to see is that white is composed of all colors, it’s a rainbow that we hold within and sometimes forget to see, and what we forget to know is just like paintings we only see people as final results, sometimes without digging deep into their layers, we compare the surface and not the composition and sometimes we feel lacking when in reality none of us are

I remember at around the age of 26 or so, a few of my friends used to say they envy me cuz I had it all, and all I wanted to do was laugh, not in a Haha funny way, but in a sarcastic and slightly bitter way. On the surface I did look like I had it all, but on the inside I was a mess!

That job everyone was saying I made it big in? I was beyond miserable and the stress was eating my alive, I was losing sleep, lived out of a suitcase,stress eating and smoking two packs of cigarettes a day

My engagement and 9 year relationship was falling apart, I cried myself to sleep every single night, I was unloved, treated miserably and subjected to constant emotional abuse.

I was sick, I was lonely, and I was suicidal, and for the first time in my life, I thought of ending my own life.

But never did I speak of any of this, because I’d lose the image of having it all, of being the strong, successful, established person everyone thought I was. The pressure was intense, how could I explain to people why I was miserable, on paper, I had it all, did I not?

I was too proud to let go of anything, and moved on, from bad to worse. I thought if I got a more “prestigious job” with a better pay in the same field, even if I dont like the field, I will feel better. I told myself if I only made it to marriage, all my problems would disappear, that I must keep it together, after all so many people could only dream of what I have. I never stopped to think if this is really what I want, as opposed to what “I should want”

Well it wasn’t, and everytime someone praised me for having it all, I pressured myself to mute the voices in my head, to keep pushing, to keep “having it all”

A year later I got into my car at night, got on the highway, and was going to drive myself straight off of it. I had it all planned, texted my parents I love them, and set out to end what I believed was an unworthy live

I chickened out, because I thought of my parents and how much they love me, and I couldnt do that to them. But I knew I needed help, and went into therapy.

In the begining I was resentful of the idea, too scared to admit I failed, that my picture perfect life was a mess. But my therapist was brilliant, a beautiful woman, who taught me to look at all the colors that make up my life

I let go of my job, and the pursuit of a prestigious job, I got a culinary degree and followed my heart, ended the engagement to the one man I was so determined to marry, because we’ve been together for so long, people just expected me to marry him, or so I thought

I moved, and traveled and followed my feelings. I fail and stumble and sometimes feel like I dont have anything at all. But then I learn to stop and breathe, count my blessings, and if I compare myself to someone, I now know I am only seeing the surface of the painting

I have role models, and aspirations but I learned that there is no such thing as a textbook definition of “having it all”

I learned to count my blessings, and that my life is a beautiful canvas, with layers upon layers of colors being added, till one day I die, and the final painting tells the story of the life I really wanted, not the life I should have wanted

I count my blessings daily, and let go of all that holds me back and doesnt feel right. I learned that what people think of me is none of my business, and that if someone tells me I have it all, I honestly tell them I don’t and am not ashamed of it

I have, what I am meant to have, at this precise moment in life.

So as the year comes to an end, count your blessings, appreciate your story, don’t compare

Be content, be honest, be true and most of all be you!

Have a wonderful end to 2018 everyone. With lots of love

“Oh it’s nothing”…

“It’s nothing”, “No trouble at all”, “Please, no need to thank me”, these are all examples of toxic responses we can give when someone tries to show us appreciation for going the extra mile

Sometimes it really was no trouble at all, but more often than not, we say it because we get self conscious when someone thanks us and we don’t want to appear too cocky so we downgrade our efforts, and don’t easily accept and acknowledge gratitude towards us.

But with time, if we keep referring to our efforts as nothing, or to people continuously over stepping their boundaries as no trouble at all, and repetitively telling people they don’t have to thank us, people will start reacting to this.

Your extra miles become givens, your space becomes invaded and your efforts are overlooked, and when that happens you are left frustrated and feeling under appreciated

This extends to all aspects of our life, the friends that don’t appreciate your presence or respect your time, your significant other that takes everything you do for granted and expects you to jump through hoops while they exert minimal effort, the coworkers that expect you to do their work for them, or put in all these extra hours or be available around the clock. All this becomes the norm, rather than the exception. What was once a privelage now becomes a given and somewhere along the line you have overloaded yourself and let others overwhelm you with no consideration for your feelings or time

We get so angry at all these people, calling them ungrateful, or mean, etc, but, the real question is, why are we blaming them?

We are the ones that positioned ourselves at this value, because we refuse to believe that it’s ok to be thanked, that it’s not arrogance for someone to acknowledge your extra mile, and that going above and beyond should not be the on-going norm, because no one can survive on overdrive

I’m not saying don’t help out, or every now and then go the extra mile, but what I am saying is, acknowledge to yourself before others that your times and efforts are valuable. That the work you do, the effort you exert or the time you spend is precious; it is never equivelant to nothing.

Be humble yes, but also know your worth. Accept the thank yous, acknowledge the gratitude and most of all believe that you deserve it.

Your worth is what you define for yourself, it is how much you believe in you. How you value your life with every aspect in it, and if you continue to undersell yourself, devalue yourself and marginalize yourself, you will involuntarily reflect that in all your actions.

Stop being a 1 carat diamond that positions themselves as a 1 gram of coal.

When it comes to yourself, be appreciative, be confident, be valuable and be proud.

Childhood Insecurities

I grew up being taught that I am not beautiful, that my natural state was not acceptable and needed to be changed.

Now, no one flat out ever said to me “you are ugly”, but indirectly it was hammered into my little child brain.

I was a fat kid, not even gonna say chubby, I was proper fat, and I loved food ( I still do, and I don’t think that will ever change). I was taunted and teased by grownups who thought they were funny, kids whose parents didn’t teach them better and I was made to feel inadequate later on by teen magazines. 

One incident I will never forget was a birthday party in 8th grade at a friend’s house. Her parents were ordering pizza for us, and I overheard her mom snickering about my weight, 20 years later, I never forgot.

I was also taught that my long curly hair should always be straightened. I was subjected to years of blow drying, chemical treatments and everything my mom could get her hands on to straighten my hair so that it’s pretty.

I was a straight A student, I was funny, I started my first business in 2nd grade (I swear it’s true)and I was quiet athletic, yet, I never learned to see these things, I always felt awkward, inadequate and never enough.

As the years went on, this manifested deeper, I always tried to conform on the physical level, I battled bulimia for years, developed binge eating habits, took fat burners and treated my body so harshly because I hated it and had no respect for it. Needless to say, I have been undergoing digestive track treatments for the past 10 years, and from the looks of it, I have another 10 years to go.

I would crash diet to look pretty for boys, or to please those around me, I never did it for myself, for my own health.

I lost half of my hair between dyes, chemical treatments and blow drying until I one day looked at an old picture and wanted to cry.

Far more dangerous than the physical implications were the psychological ones, I always tried to overextend myself in everything else, so people would look beyond my “ugliness” and love me for what I could do for them.

I settled for the wrong relationships, even tolerated abuse, because I did not feel that I was worthy of love.

I always do everything at 110% because I always felt that everything was never enough.

I didn’t love myself so by default, I didn’t respect it, or stand up for it, until a year ago when I broke it.

It took a year of reading, educating myself and speaking kindly to myself for my attitude towards me to change. My childhood insecurities still rear their ugly head, but I’ve educated myself to be more lenient and kinder to myself, to love myself with everything about me. I am humanly imperfect and that is beauty.

If you are a parent, a sibling, a friend or a significant other, be kind with your words. Don’t make someone feel unworthy and think of it as “tough love.” Teach your children that judgements are not ok, that bullying is damaging and that feelings count.

Teach your children to love themselves and more importantly learn to love them as they are, because one day, they will grow up and reflect upon themselves the worth you made them feel. Do not depreciate your children.

Be kind, be gentle, be soft, be constructive, and please be human.

Be Soft…

One of the most beautiful things I have been told by my yoga instructor was “be soft, for when you are soft, you can bend, but cannot break.” I reflected so much on this sentence, and no advice has struck as sincere and as accurate as this one. 

We live in a very intense world, a world full of expectations, comparisons, restrictions, and very high, sometimes impossible, standards that we set for ourselves or are set for us by others.

The norm stops being what feels right for you, what you want to do, but rather becomes what “you have to do”and how you need to comply and conform to the “norm of society”. We endlessly compare ourselves to others, without knowing much about their journey, or their day to day life. We assess, position and rate ourselves, categorizing ourselves as successes or failures.

In the process of all this, we become rigid, inflexible and hard, mostly with ourselves. We often see any deviation from a plan as a failure, beat ourselves up over any change in circumstances, and are often too quick to harshly judge ourselves and others.

We break our happiness to conform, to fit in, we break our dreams, self-esteem and aspirations because we are so fixated on something.

Rigidity with yourself, your partner, your kids or those around you is dangerous, because we are meant to flow through life. If you don’t learn to be supple, fluid, soft and graceful you will break yourself in the process. 

Being soft is being adaptable, compassionate towards yourself and others, accommodating and forgiving. Being soft, is not being weak, on the contrary, it is the utmost definition of strength. Water can reshape mountains, just like being soft with yourself, can reshape the biggest obstacles and hardest adversities.

We are after all human,  and that is what we always need to remember.

Be soft, be patient, be kind and be human. 

Who Am I?

HI! For those of you who don’t know me, I’m not an influencer, a life coach or a guru of any sort, I’m simply just another human being going through life, best I can.

We are all a collective of experiences, situations and lessons that make us who we are. While we are all unique, we are never alone in what we go through, whether it’s good or not so good, there is someone out there who shares our feelings, experiences and understands what we are going through.

I have struggled for years, battling depression, grief and anxiety, and still working through them all, but I have started my journey of healing, and self understanding. I have found that sharing my experiences helps in my healing process and helps others go through theirs, and if I positively affect one person, then I am content.

I am sharing with you my day to day life, the good, the not so good, the funny, the tragic, the shocking and the heartwarming.

Here is a haven where anyone can discuss anything with me, or start a community post, where we can all share opinions. We will talk about wellbeing, books, cookery, and so much more, basically life in general with all its aspects.

Welcome to my world, and I would be more than happy if you welcome me to yours.

Always remember to be kind, be gentle, be constructive and most of all, please be human!