Embracing ephemera

The other day I was writing in my journal at a local wine tasting room and I overheard this British couple talking about their plans around town and Carmel. We eventually struck up a conversation and they asked me for some recommendations for local wineries, restaurants, and things to do.

Fast-forward to the next day when I was cleaning the house and wondering if the charming couple ever went to the places I had suggested. And if they had, what they had thought? And then I let my mind wander, as it does, and I thought how cool is it that I will never know? How beautiful that we shared a moment over a glass of wine and an unwritten journal page so I could share some of my restaurant preferences in my hometown. Maybe they lost the paper they had jotted my recommendations down on and never made it to those places? Maybe they went to them all and had bad experiences? Or perhaps, they tried some and discovered others on their own.

And then I got to thinking about how we oughtn’t control things or expect things. Buddhism teaches that suffering comes from the attachment to expectations. And also to embrace and live in the present. My recommendation-giving was yesterday…and I gave them those recommendations without expectations that they would like or dislike them or report back to me. Now it is with me as a nice memory as I dust my bookshelf.

I let my mind wander some more and I began looking up words and found that the word ephemeral–which means lasting for a very short time–comes from the Greek ephēmeros which means “lasting only one day.” I can think of many things in my life that lasted only one day or even less and that they were beautiful just in their short lifespan. A meal with a friend or a lover. A swim in a creek. A deep conversation. A movie. Blackberry picking in the summer.

A daylily, so called because it is only in bloom for about a day
Photo by Bradley Howington on Unsplash

If only I can remind myself to let events in life be ephemeral. To not attach expectation to them and maybe I can find myself a little more liberated. To embrace a moment, a conversation, a relationship for its lifespan…whatever that may be. And then to let it go.

Generosity and Apple Pie

I think the original saying is “motherhood and apple pie.” Which is meant to mean something wholesome. What does that mean, wholesome? Like the love of a mother and the deliciousness of an apple pie? Well I’m going to go with that and in my experience and understanding, motherhood is about generosity because moms (most, at least) give a lot of themselves to their children. Thank you, mommas.

It’s pretty cool, now that I’m an adult learning things on my own in America, I am learning American culture. While I was raised here, my parents were the main influencers of my life as a child and so I learned the world through their cultural lens. We speak Arabic to one another and so sayings and proverbs are obviously in Arabic and while many overlap in meaning, the references reflect the unique cultural nuances.

Anyhow, the purpose of this post is to express how sweet some people are and that they make life beautiful. And of course, an apple pie was involved.

A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s house and his wife pulled out this cool kitchen contraption that cores, peels, and slices apples all at once. It was so cool! I had never seen anything like it and I was fascinated. Fast forward to a few weeks later and one of the friends that was at our mutual friend’s house sends me a text message to say he has something for me. He wanted to meet up so he could give it to me. When we met up this is what was waiting for me:

WOW!!

I was blown away! I love gift wrapping. I understand that it is strictly ephemeral, that is, lasting only a short while but I think it’s important to appreciate things in their due time. A life lasts years, decades, but when it comes to an end, it ought to be celebrated and not clung onto. A gift is wrapped with the intention of being beautiful and enjoyed by the receiver but then it is meant to be ripped open and the contents enjoyed. While the wrapping is so beautiful and delicate it was done with the intention of a short-lived enjoyment.

Inside was the apple corer, peeler, and slicer. What a sweet gift! It totally made my day.

Naturally, I needed to make an apple pie. One to try out my new toy but two as a thank you for the gift. My friend later told me the gift was a boomerang gift, that he was benefiting from the gift himself in receiving apple pies.

 

Apple Pie

This was the first time I had made an apple pie! A two-crusted cinnamony, sweet apple pie. I actually don’t know how it turned out because I gave it away whole but it was eaten within the day so I take that as it was at least edible :).

You gotta love how kind people can be. It’s so easy to make someone’s day. I mean it’s one thing to buy someone a birthday present but a present just because you thought of them…now that’s just so sweet!

Balance

This morning—as I enjoy my spiced cafe au lait with the front door wide open so I can watch the rain and the classical music playing softly in the background—I contemplate balance.

They say everything in moderation, even moderation. Which is to say sometimes it’s OK to splurge, whether it be by listening to your favorite song on repeat or having more than once slice of cake. But that’s not what I am talking about, I am mentally asking myself what is the healthy level of emotional and personal balance?

The other day at church the priest was talking about being humble and this started my mental musing. I value being humble and I try to be modest but as an aspiring writer, whose success lies on promoting myself and publicizing myself, there is a bit of a grey zone. Is it self-aggrandizing to make cards with my name on them and pass them out at every opportunity? Is it self-effacing to say “oh my writing is not that good…”

I believe you can have both, be humble, modest, and kind and still promote yourself and recognize the value and skill you bring to the world. I don’t think it is shameful to have a dream and want to pursue it.

Both sides of this balance beam will, undoubtedly, illicit criticism. I can see how, when trying to promote my writing or handing out my cards a certain group of people will think—or even say—who do you think you are? Stephen King? And I can hear the other end of the spectrum of people giving me a mental, if not physical, nudge to pass out my cards, pursue freelance gigs, and tell people about my writing.

My conclusion (which is the same as my philosophy about life) is to face ever opportunity honestly and with an open heart. Sometimes this results in hurt but that’s OK, it’s foolish to think we could go through life without ever getting hurt, it comes with the territory of loving other people and putting ourselves out there. I have to recognize that the people who criticize are coming from a place of their own self-doubt or criticism or are indeed afraid for my failure. But as Paulo Coelho says, in one of my all-time favorite books The Alchemist, “There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.” Which reminds me of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address, where he stated, the “only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

While FDR and I are talking about very different things, the common theme is that fear is crippling and fear itself is what causes failure. We cannot be afraid. We cannot be afraid of the other, he or she whom we do not know and we cannot be afraid of failing because if we fully believe that we will succeed and that we are willing to give it everything we can, we will not fail.

I wish you balance. And I wish that you not be afraid to pursue your dreams—whether they be learning to scuba dive or publishing a book.

 

 

Solitude

It is easy to forget about giving ourselves time alone. Even time alone from our own busy, worrying minds.  I guess this is the point of meditation, contemplation, and prayer.  It is in those moments of solitude and contemplation that we grow mentally.  It is just like recovery from physical activity to allow the muscles to heal and develop or sleep to allow our cells to regenerate and our bodies to rest.  We experience so much in this life and we need time to process to evaluate our actions and behavior and often our reactions to the behavior of others.

I came across this quote:

“Cherish your solitude. Take trains by yourself to places you have never been. Sleep out alone under the stars. Learn how to drive a stick shift. Go so far away that you stop being afraid of not coming back. Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. Decide whether you want to be liked or admired. Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here. Believe in kissing.”

Eve Ensler 

My thoughts: it begins with the notion of cherishing alone time.  Adventuring solo, challenging oneself (alone) and to appreciate nature.  Challenging oneself to learn to drive a stick shift (a skill worthy of acquiring), getting out of your comfort zone, following your heart, being true to yourself.  Having integrity.  Looking to the depths of your heart and understanding what life is about.  And lastly…to believe in kissing which to me is really saying to believe in the intimacy between two people.

While this quote overarchingly talks about the individual and the self, it culminates with the beauty and importance of believing in love and the intimacy two people can share.  While there is power in solitude as an individual, there is also power in the solitude that a couple of souls can share.  What two people can share alone (together) is a unique kind of solitude worthy of exploring.  The intimacy of knowing another soul so well is amazing, fulfilling, and in my opinion, the purpose of life.  To know when your partner/soulmate/lover is distressed, eating less or more than normal, out of sorts, or to simply anticipate his or her next action/thought.  It is amazing and I wish that you experience this type of solitude in your life.  A silence and solitude while in the company of another being, but not just any being, a being with whom you are so deeply connected.  A being with whom you don’t have to explain a thing, you can just be yourself, just as you would be while you were alone but better yet, more fulfilled.

I am not advocating for codependence or claiming that one is incomplete if single but taking your heart to the next level of love and intimacy with another soul is simply divine.  I wish that for everyone (who wants it).  I do after all believe that there is no right way to live life and we all must follow our own paths and hearts.  It just so happens that humans love to love and so I will advocate for the lovers out there.

xx

From Guilt to Gratitude

Having been raised both Arab and Catholic, I have a deep-rooted relationship (I don’t know if that’s the right word) with guilt.  Both communities emphasize, highlight, maybe exploit the human affinity for guilt.  While I have been raised this way and often find myself feeling guilty, I have been aware of this since I have been self-aware and reflective of my life and relationship with my being in this universe; so around the age of 18, I began to question this.  While I have not always been able to shake the feelings of guilt as they arise, I try to explore them, understand where they come from, and challenge myself to think if I agree with them or not; if that’s the standard I would hold a friend up to, and therefore hold myself to that same standard.

So what is guilt?  How we should feel?  How we should behave?  But…according to who? Religion? Society? Our mother? I don’t have the answer of how we should live, how we should feel.  I don’t believe that there is a standard or a rule book.  I think my guide is to always be kind, not hurt myself and others, and be true to myself.  The fact is, I can’t feel for you or her or the next person.  I feel for myself and I can be aware of your feelings but I can’t know what will hurt you or someone else.  I can be kind and aim to not hurt others but maybe what I think is kind is in fact hurtful to another?  So I guess, be true to yourself.

Ron, my bartender at Luxe in San Francisco (bartenders tend to be some of the wisest, least judgmental people out there), over various pours of bubbly, told me today that it is a sin and we are doing ourselves a disservice when we are self-degrading.  We oughtn’t apologize for who we are or play down our strengths and skills.  Not only are we hurting ourselves when we do so but we are depriving the world of our (objectively speaking) strengths as individuals, the rest of society is missing out on our skills.  For example, if Einstein had not pursued his innate inclination to physics and mathematics, we may not have many of the great inventions made capable by his theories that we do today.  (Very broad example, but I hope you understand the point.)

Maybe we should exchange guilt for gratitude?  If we live in gratitude we may be less inclined to feel guilty. If when we start to feel like, I shouldn’t, maybe we could feel, I am so grateful to be able to enjoy this, I wish this for everyone. 

I will leave you with some wise words from Ron, “There isn’t a way to happiness, happiness is the way.”

 

 

Letting go of fear

In his 1933 inaugural speech, FDR famously said “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  While his words were aimed at political and socioeconomic woes, and external threats, I find those words to ring true to all fear in life.  We may be afraid to apply for another job, being comfortable in what we know.  We may be afraid to do what we love as society or our circle of people may not approve, or we fear that they may not approve.  We may fear what other people say or think about us.  We may be afraid of something really good in our lives for the silly fear that there is an ulterior motive to our own happiness.

This is where Roosevelt’s words really strike a chord…that fear is what we ought to fear, not anything else, not taking a chance, being vulnerable, or seeking our own happiness.  It is the fear that keeps us from thriving and becoming the person we are meant to be.  It is that very fear that acts as a speed bump (or road block, for some) in the path to our destiny.  It is the fear that squashes our courage and paralyzes us from acting.

Today, I want to focus on letting go of fear.  What drives me is faith in a bigger picture. Having faith is just the opposite of being afraid.  Faith means letting go of fear.  Faith means believing that things will all work out.  Faith is trusting one’s own gut, heart, and soul, to move in the direction she is meant to move in, to fulfill her destiny.

On this overcast Sunday, as I sit overlooking the ocean between the moss-shrouded pine and oak trees of my parents’ house, drinking my coffee and pondering life, I will make it a daily meditation to—when those fearful thoughts infiltrate my mind—own them, understand them, and respect where they come from and then, let them go.  I refuse to be afraid of the negative voice of insecurity and fear itself.  I wish the same for you.

Know Thyself

I remember studying—both in highschool and when I was in Greece a few years back—the Greek aphorism, “know thyself.”  I always thought this was an interesting concept.  I figured everybody knew him/herself.

This evening at dinner (which was a lovely gathering of people I just adore, my Aunt Chris, my dear friend Laura, and my friends Pavitar and Aanmol, a couple I met at a local bar a few years ago and we have been friends every since.  Actually, it’s a really sweet story, I will save that for another time.)  We were talking about being true to oneself and I was passionately going off about always being true to oneself and Aanmol, who is a psychologist, calmly stated simply that some people don’t know themselves.  I was baffled.  It hadn’t occurred to me that people could not know themselves.

I guess people go through life behaving as they think they ought to.  As religion or their parents or society or Cosmo or the Real Housewives of whatever prescribes but they never actually know who they are, what makes their heart beat, what they are passionate about.  I felt so sad for these people.  I also don’t take ownership for their decisions but how sad that they not have the courage to seek out their own happiness.

Fun story of how I met Pavitar and Aanmol!! So I was at the bar, Post No Bills for a friend’s birthday party.  I was with this guy I was sort of dating at the time, Josh, but he was chatting with other people and I was mingling, myself.  The thing at Post No Bills is that they don’t serve food but they allow you to bring food from home/take out/etc.  I was wandering around chatting with people I saw 2 couples sitting at a table (not guests of the birthday party) and they had a big pot with ceramic bowls and real flatware.  If you know me, you know I love food and specifically home made food.  I went over to their table, “Hi, I’m Sally, what have you got in the pot?” I’m sure I said it more politely and charmingly but you get the gist.  They introduced themselves, we starting talking about what they all did professionally, what I did professionally, and of course, the contents of the pot, biriani.  If you are not familiar with this rice dish, you must try it.  I was so excited and I told them that one of my best friends from college’s mom made me biriani all the time and I loved it.  They invited me to joint them for dinner.  They asked if I was with someone (a guy) and I said I had come to the party with someone.  They insisted I invite him over for food.  I went and fetched Josh.  He was mortified that we would be eating these people’s food and that I had spoken to strangers.  (He didn’t last long.)  They served us both food and we had a lovely conversation.  They invited us over for dinner on Sunday evening at their house and we actually went.  They cooked us a lovely Indian meal (they are Indian) and Pavitar and I enjoyed rum-spiked fruit smoothies (Josh was DD).  Josh didn’t last long after that date but Pavi and Aanmol did, they are dear friends that I just so cherish.

I started off this post wanting to talk about knowing one’s self.  And then it morphed into how I met these friends of mine.  I guess the two converge at some point.  I know that I can make friends with good people who like good food.  After dinner, as Laura, Chris and I were doing dishes, Laura commented that I was a magnet for good people.  I thought that was sweet but I don’t quite think it’s a compliment.  My dad always says life is a mirror, and you get back what you put out there.  At the expense of sounding self-serving and conceited, I will say that I do seek out people who like good food.  Not good in the 3 Michelin star rated restaurants but the, cooked in a banged up pot using the recipe your mom told you over the phone for the 42nd time, kind of good food.  Because it’s in those little things that you can tell a lot about people.

Seeking advice

I’ve heard that you ask advice from people knowing already what they will tell you. That is, you choose your counsel intentionally. I don’t know if this is true or not but I find myself in a place, at a loss with what to do, in need of advice.

I don’t want to ask for advice from others not because I don’t value their wisdom and not because I think I always make the best decisions but because what I seek advice on is so intensely complex and complicated that I don’t think explaining it to anyone would capture the true nature of my circumstance.  Furthermore, while people “know me,” what defines me as me is my decision making (among other features).  There are no right ways to do things, sure in certain situations there are, if someone falls, you help them up.  That’s the right thing to do. But in matters of the heart — real, deep and big decisions, it is up to us to figure out what we are comfortable with and can live with.

There’s a country song that says, “let your heart sweetheart be your compass when you’re lost, and you should follow if wherever it may go.”

I think when it comes to matters of the heart, you ought to seek advice from within because not only are you the one who has to live with your decision but also because nobody knows your heart like you do.

I’m a very faithful person. I was recently asked what this meant to me and I think I’ve come to the conclusion that being faithful means you know everything will work out. This doesn’t help with imminent decision making and sometimes it would be nice to have decisions made for us but what a cop out!  I don’t want to live in the passenger seat of my own life.

So where does this leave me?  Seeking counsel to my heart.  Reminding myself to be kind, not only to others but also to myself.  To be patient, thoughtful, and understanding, and to have faith.

Living Life Right

I sometimes think I’m living my life all wrong.  This may sound strange because when you think of it, there is no “right” way to live life.  We do have socially and religiously imposed codes of conduct that vary by culture but every single one of those rules seems to have exceptions (like English grammar, but I digress).

Maybe it’s that every rule or “code of conduct” for living life is on a spectrum.  For example: killing is bad, except some people are OK with abortion, others not; killing during wartime is generally accepted, except for people who are complete pacifists (might I tell them about ISIS?); we have the death penalty, which is greatly contested all over the world.  So while we have these rules, there is a wide range of thoughts on how to live and opinions on them.  I don’t know if I can say what is right…who am I to impose my values and belief systems on people, all I do know is that I do indeed have my thoughts and beliefs and I have to be true to myself.  I also know that I cannot hurt others, I hope this to be a universal value but I’m afraid it is not.

Back to what inspires the thought of living life wrong.  I am a very reflective person.  I often look around and observe my life and the lives of those people around me.  While I can never fully understand what others are going through, I can learn from other peoples’ decisions and the route their life has taken consequently.  I also compare.  I have these degrees, experiences, life milestones (how we seem to measure success in our society) and while I may not have the traditional milestones that other women of my age do (husband, house, mortgage, etc), I do have my happiness, my experiences, my friends, my memories, and the peace of mind that I did it my way.  One of the song’s on the album of my life is Frank Sinatra’s “My Way,” have a good listen to the lyrics:

 

At the expense of sounding incredibly religious and fatalistic, I ultimately believe that there is a rhyme and a reason for everything we do.  Maybe it’s a product of our personalities, the “cards we’re dealt,” our own desires, fears, limitations, etc. I don’t believe that our destiny is written in the stars but I do believe that every choice we make and decision we take is the fulfillment of our destiny.  How was I to know that by accepting a job, I would gain the experiences and meet the people who would perfectly set me up for the next chapter in my life?  I didn’t but that’s just it!  (This makes me think of the movie, “Butterfly Effect” from 2004.  If you haven’t seen it, you might want to check it out as it beautifully illustrates this concept, the idea that one decision takes us down a certain path but had we chosen a different option of the same decision, our life would be somewhere else entirely.)

So while I sometimes observe my friends, peers, etc. and accept that my life may be considered “non-traditional” by some, I am content with it and happy with my choices.  Because at the end of the day, I made the bed in which I sleep, I have the liberty and independence to make my own choices and if I’m unhappy with something, I can change it but I am happy and what more could a soul ask for?

Calories Don’t Count

I was in line at a cafe today and the barista said to the woman in front of me, “Would you like a pastry?” The woman hummed and hawed a bit and the barista cut in, “It’s Thanksgiving week, calories don’t count.”

I was perturbed by this comment.  First of all, if you know me, you know I cannot abide the mention of calories as food is meant to nourish us and to be enjoyed.  The mention of calories or the healthy state of the food prior to consumption ruins the experience, or at least taints it.  Eating, like all other acts involving the senses ought to be savored and enjoyed, shared with loved ones or even celebrated alone. We are so blessed to live in abundance that we now have to think about excess.  It is no secret that our society greatly suffers from obesity and the related health risks and conditions.

With that said, the notion that “calories don’t count during Thanksgiving” (or ever for that matter) is deeply deeply flawed and explains in part why we have an obesity problem.  Yes, eat a pastry, savor and enjoy it but maybe not if you have already had breakfast.  We mustn’t eat just for the act of eating.  We have to eat to nourish our bodies (and souls) but not to excess because clearly, doing so in excess has adverse effects on our physical bodies.  We are given a body but not an instruction manual for it, it is up to each individual to know how to care for his or her body.  Although it should be an innate feeling of when to stop eating or to get out and move or yearn for the endorphin release of strenuous activity but maybe we have grown away from that.  With the amount of information available to us via the internet, television, radio, doctor’s visits, etc. maybe that behavior can be learned but clearly it is not.

They say you shouldn’t complain if you don’t have a solution and I don’t have a solution, I just wanted to get my thoughts out and vent.