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.

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.