Circumstances, do they really define us?

I was planning to go to an Ethical Food conference cosponsored by an organization that I regularly volunteer for. My daughter came with two tickets to attend an event organized by her high school  colleagues under the title “I Am Woman”.  For my daughter to take the time to remember to buy tickets for something told me I had to quit my plans and go….. it turns out that was the theme of the evening.

7 inspiring women spoke about their story and their successes: I specifically stopped at 4 of them:

Caroline Tavor a former lawyer, her son was officially diagnosed as autistic at the age of 2. At that time her husband had just been relocated to Dubai. When they arrived, 7 years ago there was no real psychological help for autistic children. Over the next 2 years she and another mom started up what is now Child Early Intervention Medical Centre . She shared, in an eloquent yet very emotional speech how “money sometimes cannot solve the problem” they had the money but there was still no help available. She had to create help by finally convincing a psychologist from the states to relocate to Dubai.

The next story was Barbara Baumgartner who grew up on the mountains in Austria in a village where most people just finished high school, found jobs and just got on with their lives. She wanted more. She wanted to be a lawyer, pilot and doctor. Little did she know she was going to be all 3 in one.  Barbara finished law school, despite what her parents thought she should do and found her first, second and third jobs. Different things but most unfulfilling notably the penultimate one where she worked for an extremely wealthy man where she ran his family office and could in a 5 minute conversation to a New York stock broker buy millions of dollars worth of shares on the market; and ran enough money to order new carpets that cost a few millions in few minutes…. “despite all the power she had” she said : “it felt weird”.  She knew she wanted something more. Today, she is the Manager Director of FAI company running   emergency medical flights to evacuate patients, hostages and so many other people who are in desperate need of medical aid. Not having slept 4 hours to save a new born the night before and get him despite all odds onto a flight to the UK was her moment of joy.

Rana Awad was the 6th story. A Lebanese who lived most of her childhood during the war and learnt that it was life that was worth cherishing and she spent most of her life either in direct volunteer work in Lebanon through her work with International NGOs or through direct volunteering to help rebuild Lebanon. She described 2007, the year that  followed the 2006 war with Israel as “the happiest year of my life…helping people get back on their feet again” as she volunteered in to help rebuild the damaged south. Today she runs the GEMS education foundation that helps provide education to thousands of underprivileged children in developing countries.

The final stop was Deenaz Kanji, who describes herself as a community educationalist.  She was in her third year graduate program with one more year to go when she was called back home as her dad was diagnosed with cancer.  She was never able to go back to finish her graduate degree especially that she also had a younger brother who also needed to get a degree. The choice at the time was for her to step back. She turns 50 in few weeks and holding a 4.0 average in her  religious studies degree, just about to finish her masters in religious studies and has already applied for a PHD. She works 16 hours a day as an educationalist and studies every night for 4 hours and is left with 4 hours of sleep a day.

All these women were hit with circumstances and events that had impacted their life significantly. The choice each had at the time was to let the circumstances define them or use the circumstances as opportunities to define themselves, their lives and their path.  They courageously chose the latter.

Every day life throws some events and circumstances at us and it is going to be up to us to decide: who defines who?

Time to Let Go of Fear Not Hope

I was looking for a new perspective on my belief that in order for me to receive something I really wanted I had to pay a high price. A price of anguish and emotional pain, in addition to working hard to get it.  Having stumbled upon Margaret Wheatley’s recent book “So Far From Home”, it threw me into a scary moment of having to think that in order to get rid of the emotional pain she was suggesting I needed to give up hope.  That made me think really hard and here is what I found:

Click here for my full article

The power of 40

Counting years down to 40 was a dreadful experience until I realised it was triggering a question for me: is this how I want to spend the rest of my life?  and it was just the beginning of a whole new path to my life.  This morning I was reminded of the number 40 in a discussion of how you usually need 6 weeks ( 40 +days) to judge the new exercise plan… then I noticed it is 6 weeks (40+ days) before a mother starts regaining her strength after giving birth, it is 40 days that an official mourning period in my culture lasts……..

and here ‘s the best part – an excerpt from one of my favorite books The Forty Rules of Love:

Forty is a most beautiful age of most men and women. Did you know that in mystic thought forty symbolizes the ascent from one level to a higher one and spiritual awakening? When we mourn we mourn for forty days. when a baby is born it takes forty days for him to get ready to start life on earth. and when we are in love we need to wait forty days to be sure of our feelings.

The Flood of Noah lasted forty days, and while waters destroyed life, they also washed all impurity and enabled human beings to make new, fresh start. In Islamic mysticism there are forty degrees between man and God. Likewise there are four basic stages of consciousness and ten degrees in each making forty levels in total. Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days and nights. Muhammad was forty years old when he received the call to become prophet. Buddha meditated under a linden tree for forty days. Not to mention the forty rules of Shams….”

Do you blame me for loving having turned forty?

State of Gratitude

I remember when I was much much younger how every time something good happened to you, you had to say “ al hamdu li-llah” ( [I got this] thanks to God]. If the words did not come out almost immediately after mentioning a blessing I had received I would get a stern look- from a parent, an auntie, perhaps a grandma… to remind me to say it… … the stern looks and the almost mechanical way I was told to say it was more like “ if you don’t say it God will take it away…” so saying these words was something like an insurance policy against taking away your blessings.

But now I understand something else: gratitude is a state of mind not a few words you say to ask God to keep what he’s given you. That is pretty much your ego talking.

Gratitude is a moment in the present. What you are experiencing in the moment: the joy about all the good things you have today. You know that “God can take them away anytime, anyway”. But even then you are still grateful.

Gratitude “À la insurance” is an outside state. Measured by how people see you and how you want them to see you. The state of gratitude is only measured by you and against your own internal image of how you want to be.  Each one of us still has miles to go by outside measures to reach the external looks, wealth, children, job….. whatever it is that you think you still need.  In the state of gratitude everything, life, as it stands, with whatever you have today, just as God has given it, is just perfect.

So I say “Al hamdu li-llah” today and everyday for whatever I have or feel in every moment  because it is just perfect.