I love being in a Buddhist Country!

People in a Buddhist country have a keen awareness of the fragility of life, all life. This core, deeply-rooted value is expressed in gentleness.  People in a Buddhist country are gentle.

Gentle!

Oh.

My.

God.

I’d forgotten what gentleness was.

 

sri lanka yoga teacher on meditation islandPeople in a Buddhist country know with absolute certainty that everything changes; nothing stays the same. Everything is in a constant state of change. Everything. Even inanimate objects, like rock. Yes, even these things change because they are affected by the environment. Rocks, for example, are worn smooth, cracked open, made wet from rains, made dry from the sun. People in a Buddhist country witness these changes, appreciate each state of existence, and because of this appreciation, they treat everything with kindness.

Kindness!

Oh.

My.

God.

I’d forgotten what kindness was.

 

sri lanka open space on meditation islandAnd because everything is in this state of change all the time, people in a Buddhist country understand that every moment is a new one; the last one is gone and the next one is yet approaching. And so, they respect and are grateful for time. Time is a series of moments, and every moment is but brief, and it is fragile, then gone. People in a Buddhist country know this about time. And so, they are gentle with time, a value expressed in the gentle pace of going about life’s daily business.

 

Oh.

My.

 God.

I’d forgotten what it was

to honor and respect this moment.

Each moment.

 

Observations of people in a Buddhist country:

sri lanka flowers and insence monks' visit

They enjoy flowers because they know that the colors will soon fade, and the sweet aromas will soon escape into the wind; petals will droop, turn brown, and fall to the ground before nightfall. They embody the phrase, “stop and smell the roses”. They are gentle with all living things.

3 monks eating at Princess

They eat slowly because they are thankful for the food and they understand that thanksgiving is more deeply expressed when the food is tasted and its nourishment acknowledged. They embody the phrase, “you are what you eat”. They are gentle in the act of eating.

sri lanka grounds keeper on meditation island

They look at you as they listen, and they look at you as they talk; they do nothing else while in conversation with you because they understand that conversation is a tool for unity, an opportunity to honor both self and others in the sharing of life. They embody the idiom, “to be on the same wavelength”. They are gentle in their communications with others.

 

Oh.

My.

God.

I’d forgotten what it was

to be seen in a gentle light.

 

Sri Lanka man with grandson

They are deeply religious, and you know that because you see it, not because they have told you, anything about their beliefs. You see it in their behaviors that demonstrate their values: life, time, relationships, peace, gentleness.

sri lanka window on meditation island

Respect is in their very breath. And when you are in a Buddhist country, the respect envelopes you; you inhale it, you swallow it, you enfold it into your own moments, and you know, with absolute certainty, that you have been touched by this amazing gift of life. Through gentle observation, gentle breath, gentle interactions, you become transformed.

Oh.

My.

God.

I’d forgotten what such gentle breath felt like;

I’d forgotten how gentle kindness

could open my heart

and touch my soul.

 

I love being in a Buddhist Country!

sri lanka bare foot on cobblestone path

 

Note – the pictures in this post are from my recent trip to Sri Lanka.

No Problem, God Willing

Two phrases make my blood boil:

  1. No problem
  2. Inshallah

 

Let me begin with the least offensive of the two: No Problem.

no problem

NO PROBLEM

This term is actually used as a way to show willingness to cooperate, or an offer to do something, or as a way to soften the tone of a statement. I know that many people use this phrase in the same way that native English speakers say “sure” or “OK”, like a habit that means nothing. In linguistic terms, this is a “filler”, meaning that it is basically a sound that has no meaning.

But to me, “no problem” means literally, NO PROBLEM. So, if we are discussing a problem, don’t tell me that there isn’t a problem!

Case in point:

Students show up to class without a pencil or any note paper. “No problem,” they tell me, “I will go to my sister’s classroom and get it from her.” No. that is a problem. Not having what you need for class is a problem. Leaving the classroom after class has begun is a problem. Interrupting another class to get what you need from another person is a problem. Do not tell me “no problem” when clearly, we have a problem.

 

And now for the second of the two: “Inshallah”

oh hell no

Inshallah

This term means “God willing”. Defenders of the term and its usage will say that God is the Almighty and knows all, including the future, i.e., all the things we humans can’t know, so they must say “inshallah” every time they say they will do something. After all, this promise or commitment they are making might NOT be God’s will, and if it isn’t God’s will, they can’t possibly do it! In addition, they will have a double negative on them if they say they will do something that turns out to NOT be God’s will: negative #1) failing to do what they said they would do; and negative #2) failing to consult God first before making a promise.

But as we see in the example above with the term “no problem”, things are NOT literal.

Case in point:

When I tell students that they need a pencil and paper for class the next day and tell them to bring these things, they say to me, “Inshallah”, as if it could even be possible that God doesn’t want them to have these things in class. Seriously?

Honestly, every time I hear the term “Inshallah”, I interpret it my head as a is just a cheap excuse, a polite way of saying “Oh, hell no!”

Defenders will be shocked by my conclusion, but only because they think my interpretation is blasphemous.

Seriously? I’m telling you: the blasphemy is in the defense!

It is blasphemous to blame carelessness, forgetfulness, or blatant intention to disregard the request of someone on “God’s will”. In the case of the students, they have no intention of taking responsibility for their own supplies (i.e., preparations and efforts for learning); saying “inshallah” frees them from shame or guilt; it covers up their lack of self-responsibility.

And in my opinion, this is a problem (so don’t tell me, “no problem”)!

And here’s my most recent story:

You may recall that I bought a car 94 days ago. Well, after 3 weeks and driving only to and from work, the breaks went out. I paid a lot of money to get it fixed after fighting with the salesman and convincing him to pay part of the cost. Then, after driving less than 200 km, the new set of brakes went out.

As you can see, there is a problem.

Boss Man continued to insert the phrase “no problem” in all of our conversations, even as we were fighting about a clear PROBLEM.

Our conversations went something like this:

Boss Man: OK, no prrroblem. I get you another carrr. (FYI – the rolled r’s don’t bother me)

Me: Not just any car, I need a reliable car. Show me a car.

Boss Man: No carrr. I don’t have carrr now.

Me: This is a problem.

Boss Man: Surrrre. No prrroblem. Maybe tomooorrow. Inshallah. Inshallah I have carrr tomooorrow.

Me: (interpreting that to mean, “oh hell no”), What time? Exactly what time? You don’t want to see me angry. If I come and you are not here, or you do not have a car, I will be angry. I promise you, I will be angry. What time?

Boss Man: Ya’A’ani (means something like “um”). No prrroblem. Inshallah I will be here.

Me: No. ‘Inshallah you will be here’ is not good enough. And, we have a problem.

Boss Man: Surrrre. No prrroblem. Inshallah, I call you tomooorrow. Maybe 10.

Me: Can we agree that we have a problem?

Boss Man: Surrrre. This is Big Prrroblem. You are Big Prrroblem for me.

Me: Thank you. I agree. So please do not say ‘no problem’ any more. We have a problem and we are going to fix it.

Boss Man: Ya’A’ani. OK.  No prrroblem. Inshallah, I stop for you. Just for you, Inshallah, I say “no prrroblem” no morrre, Inshallah.

 

My blood boils.

Yes, these two phrases bother me. A lot. But I am channeling my ZEN as I practice selective hearing and focused concentration on restating my requests. Over and over and over again.

Year One in Review: Life Outside of Work

When I arrived a year ago, I had a few specific goals. Some have been met, others altered or changed:

Learn Arabic: I’m learning Punjabi instead

punjabi alphabet

Make Emirati friends: The English teachers at my school are colleagues with whom I am comfortable. They aren’t friends in the sense that we do things together outside of work, but they are definitely friends in the sense that we discuss personal things and are getting to know each other on a personal level. I will pursue these potential friendships in this coming year.

Grow professionally: I have been able to contribute to the presentations of colleagues in the States at professional conferences and collaborate on 2 different professional contributions.

I got knocked over in this one however locally. I have not grown professionally in terms of my own teaching or research. I will not abandon this goal however, as my reflections and evaluations are contributing to my current process of redefining this goal.

ProfessionalCircles

Increase personal writing production: My Work In Progress (WIP) novel is nearly finished and I have 2 critical readers now reviewing the draft. I still aim to seek publishers and/or agents this Fall Term.

I was lost in my blogging work – 1) this one: feeling my way in the dark to find my voice. But I believe I’m ready to be more proactive now;  2) I contributed 30 posts to a local wellness center in Indiana. For now, I’m putting this project on hold and will focus more on my own blogging for now.

 

Meanwhile, there are many things I am grateful for. Here are my top 10:

thankful image

  1. The support and encouragement of my family in Indiana
  2. The opportunity to live and work in the Middle East
  3. The opportunity to see and experience local Emirati life
  4. The opportunity to travel to Asia
  5. The opportunity to take and complete the 200 hour Yoga Alliance Certified yoga teacher training course in Dubai
  6. Successful completion of and recovery from a hysterectomy
  7. A nice place to live that has a swimming pool
  8. My driver and that unlikely and very special friendship
  9. Feeling fairly comfortable in desert heat
  10. Living close to the sea

 

 

Defending Islam and its Followers

Muslim.

Islam.

To many people, these two words are synonymous with “terrorist”. But of course, we know that the terrorists are not really following Islam (which, by the way, means PEACE); and we know that Muslims are not terrorists. Unfortunately, in any conversation I have about Islam, life in Arabia, or Muslim people, the word “terrorist” comes to the forefront early in the conversation.

Once we confirm that we agree on two things: 1) Muslims are not terrorists, and 2) the terrorists who commit their heinous acts of evil in the name of Allah are not at all following Islam, we can discuss various issues in Islam.

But even after we set the “terrorist” aside, I find myself still standing against negativity regarding the topic of Islam and Muslims. Beyond the extreme, there is an underlying sentiment of dislike toward Muslims and their religion that permeates among those outside of the faith.

In particular, when I talk to non-Muslims about Islam, the conversation quickly moves on to the behavior of Muslims and a dislike of Islam as a result of the behavior of Muslims. The first, and strongest resistance, is the covering of Muslim women which non-Muslims interpret as evidence that the men are oppressive and the women are victims of said oppression.

Living in a college town in Indiana, many of the locals did not have any personal experience with Muslims and their opinions were all based on fear-building things they heard in the news and the covered women they saw around town. Based on their negative impressions, they sometimes treated the Muslims poorly which, in turn, gave our students a negative impression of Hoosiers. As a teacher of many Muslim students, I aimed to bridge the two groups of people.

I used to offer insights and stories. I was passionate about showing the everyday, commonalities that Muslims share with those of us who are not Muslim. Muslims are as common as the rest of us.

“Common.”

“Normal.”

I interpret those words to mean “not so different from me.”

ISNA PFH

Recently, I posted a video clip on Facebook of the founder of PFH blog (Perfect For Her) showing Muslim women wearing Hijab and talking about “Female Muslim Entrepreneurship” .

One of the comments was “OMG! These girls are so normal!”

 

Yes, they are “normal”. And it is this state-of-normal that I have always wanted non-Muslim people to see and grasp.

But my passion has waned in recent months. Living in a Muslim country has changed my attitude toward wanting to defend Islam and its followers. Here’s why:

  1. At the hotel where I live in the UAE, the workers, who are from various countries including Albania, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Philippines, Russia, and several other Arab nations, complain that the Muslims are the rudest guests they have to deal with.
  2. Recently, while I was in Sri Lanka, when locals asked me where I am from, I told them I am an American living in the UAE, their response was a sad, “I’m sorry”. When I asked them why, they told me that the Arabs are the rudest tourists they have ever met.
I am deeply sorry that the behaviors of a few have given such negative impressions of a whole religious group of people. Idealist that I am, I have always believed that by about defending Islam and its followers, I could do my part in shedding a new light on behalf of Muslims for the rest of the world to see.
While I believe these stories because I have witnessed many examples, I know that those “rude” Muslims do not represent the majority.  
I also believe the stories because I too, have become the recipient of many of these negative behaviors.
Again, I know that those “rude” Muslims do not represent the majority.
  1. Life in Arabia has humbled me. I understand that as a group, Muslims must defend themselves through the many kind gestures and admirable achievements of the countless individuals who follow Islam. And as individuals, each one is to be held accountable for his/her own behaviors, as anyone is from any ethnicity, nationality, and religious conviction. Life in Arabia has made me understand that I am too small to change the beliefs of others about a group to which I do not belong.

I am not Muslim,

and therefore,

it is not my place to defend them to others.

At the end of the day, we are all of the same human race, and any differences we have lie in our individual personality traits and in the ways we perceive and understand the world around us. These differences are only related to religious ideologies to the extent which we chose to align ourselves and identify with them.

My conclusion then, is a rhetorical question: Who am I to defend Muslims?

My knowledge and experiences about Islam and Muslim life have grown tremendously in the past year, but that doesn’t mean I am any better positioned to defend them. Instead, it only means that my awareness is broader – ranging from very negative to very positive.

The result of this gained experience with Islam is that I know I cannot defend the religion or its followers to anyone.

The bottom line is that

we all represent the various labels attached to our lives.

And “Muslim” is not a label that is attached to mine.

 

Year One in Review: Work

serenity prayer

We started out in a 5-star hotel with 36 floors, an impressive international cuisine buffet available all day long, and a clear person in charge. We were bussed to one place for official business, then another, and another, and everything was reasonably smooth.

After two nights in Abu Dhabi, we were moved to a 2-star hotel in Sharjah with a simple buffet available only in the mornings and no one who was clearly in charge. We asked questions and waited for answers that never came. Training was eclectic and irrelevant to both our immediate situations and our upcoming assignments.

After 10 days in Sharjah, we were set out on our own. There was no guidance or assistance in finding a place to live. Some people were out of money by then and had no place to stay; fortunately, others in the group helped them out and they shared hotel rooms until they got their first paychecks and could find their own housing. We all formed groups and went out together to search for accommodations. Two other women in my cohort and I chose to live in apartments in a hotel in Fujairah because we wouldn’t have to buy furniture or appliances or set up utilities. The hotel apartment is more expensive than one in a regular apartment building, but having lived here for a year and hearing the horror stories of those who chose to live in independent housing, dealing with things that break and other inconveniences, I am still confident that I made the right choice for me.

In those first few weeks, I thought that the confusion and lack of clear leadership was isolated to the workings of the Ministry of Education, and that once we were settled in our schools and into the routine of regular work, things would get better. Naively, I thought that those first few weeks would be the worst of what we would face. I soon learned however, that the chaos would only be compounded because we continued to have the incompetent issues at the higher level of the organization as well as chaos, confusion, and incompetency at the schools.

When we each went to our respective schools, we came back to Fujairah in the evenings and shared our stories. One man said his principal was kind and welcomed him. I told them that the English teachers at my school were kind. But the overwhelming consensus was that we were dropped in schools where we were NOT welcomed.

I was in denial.

I never imagined that we would not be welcomed! I had believed the rhetoric in the literature about the great visions for a new kind of education for young Emiratis that would prepare them to be a knowledge-based economy when the oil runs dry. I had believed “them” when they told us we would be leaders of change and that the change was welcome.

Now I see how silly I was.

At first, I thought that my situation was better than most, so I kept quiet as others complained, and tried to focus on the positive things I believed I could do. With time however, I found out that the obstacles at my school were bigger than I could handle and that I was not actually better off than any of the others. In fact, within a few months, they all agreed that my situation was harsher than most.

There was one other non-Emirati at my school when I began in August, but she was a “lead teacher” and often not at school due to district and regional meetings elsewhere. And when she was at school, she had a separate office on the other side of the building, so I seldom saw her. When we did cross paths, she was kind, but always elusive. I didn’t mind though, because my aim was to fit in with the Emiratis. By January, she was moved to a different school, so I was the only non-Emirati on the campus full time. I still believed I would eventually fit in and didn’t need the support or camaraderie of someone from my part of the world.

It was in January that I began to feel the full impact of my situation. The English teachers had some sort of rift and they didn’t want to tell me about it. Students were not yet back at school, and we had nothing to do but sit in the teachers’ room. I didn’t go outside in the halls and I had no one else to talk to. As I sat in the teachers’ room that first week back after the winter break listening to the angry banter that filled the hours, I realized how very alone I was. They were all speaking in Arabic and all at the same time. I watched their body language and it was clear to me that they felt anger about something, but I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I asked, but they only said it was “nothing” and “don’t worry”. I did worry. And I never found out what their controversy was about, but that week changed my perspective on my situation. In retrospect, I believe that that was the time I began to withdraw inward with a sense of insecurity about my role in this educational system.

The order of the Ministry of Education in the UAE is to “achieve better results, integrate the new and creative approaches that work, and help Emirati students with learning and education as whole.”

Vague, at best. But I understood that to mean that by teaching students how to think and how to learn, they would be better equipped to “achieve better results.”

Additionally, the mission of the Ministry of Education is to “Develop an innovative Education System for a knowledge and global competitive society,…”

Through trainings, I understand that this “innovative education system” is to be modeled after the teaching and learning strategies used in Western countries. More specifically, we are supposed to teach higher order thinking skills and steer away from teaching-to-the-test kinds of rote memorization that has dominated the educational system until now. We are to inspire inquiry and creative problem-solving. Again, this means to me that I am mandated to teach students how to think and how to learn. I am trained and experienced in all these things and passionate about being a part of this kind of educational system.

Clearly, in order to achieve these goals, we have to have cooperation and support.

This key component is missing. The administration at the schools give good lip-service to the Ministry’s mission, but they do not put their words into action. Students, teachers, and the administrations continue to believe that grades are the ultimate goal and, as a result, the emphasis on actual learning and independent thinking is absent. As grades are the ultimate goal, cheating is rampant; even teachers and administrators “help” students and change grades when inputting them into the Ministry’s online forms.

As an outsider, I can try to uphold the standards of my assignment, but I have to recognize the limits of my solitary stance. For example, when I hold students accountable for their own learning and then the administration undermines my efforts, I will fail at meeting the criteria set out for me in my contract. I am even more limited because students know that the administration can and will trump my efforts, so they have no reason to listen to me or to follow my rules. They also have no motivation to do the work or actually learn because in the end, they will pass, and that is all they want.

In my first year, I fought this, totally ignoring my limits. I went into the classroom every day with a plan and a hope to lead students to improving their English language skills. The resistance was strong and I responded with rigidity; and the response of students, other teachers, and the school administration was steadily more resistant. Eventually, their resistance became personal: my teaching skills were attacked, my personality traits condemned, and my authority as teacher was blatantly undermined by the principal. Students accused me of not using the assigned book and the principal believed them; parents accused me of being discriminatory and dishonest toward their children and again, the principal believed them.

As I crumbled under these false accusations, I began to understand why the other non-Emirati who was there at the beginning of the year had been distant; she too, had crumbled under these same kinds of accusations and constant moral degradations.

Around June, one other non-Emirati teacher arrived. She had been removed from her previous position because she too, had been similarly accused. Because her students’ scores were lower than their parents wanted them to be and she refused to change them and fought the administration, the higher administrators in the Ministry of Education removed her from that school and placed her at my school.

A few weeks later, another non-Emirati arrived. A new arrival in the country, Lubaba was her first assignment. By that time, students were no longer attending school – it was Ramadan time, and then it would be time for final exams, and then the summer break, so she was in idle waiting, not yet teaching. During Ramadan, the three of us spent time together in an empty classroom while our Emirati colleagues slept on the floor in the teacher’s room. I realized then, how important it is to have the support of others with similar educational and professional backgrounds. I am hoping that in this new school year, the three of us can stand together to work within the confines of the reality of our situations toward the goal of “developing an innovative educational system”.

What I have learned is that although I cannot change the limitations I face, I can change my attitude and my approaches. Last year when I first arrived, I had no idea what the obstacles and limitations were, but now I do, so I am currently in the process of evaluating specifically how I can change.

The serenity prayer is my mantra these days as I go through the steps of creative problem-solving. Like any new beginnings, I approach this upcoming academic year with renewed inspiration and a belief that I can do better.

 

It’s Time to Get Real

fujairah fishing history

Long, long ago, the mountains were rich with lush vegetation. The rains fell regularly, and they ran through the mountains, creating rivers that carved their way into the landscape offering nourishing water and refreshing joy for the villagers. There were herds of goats and sheep and camels, and there were plenty of fruits and vegetables. The sea was full of fish and pearls. The villagers were saturated with satisfaction.

Then, the rains no longer came. The land dried up. Vegetation turned brittle. Colors faded away. The villagers were weary; life was very difficult for a very long time.

In the middle of the 20th Century, the villagers found oil. Oil filled their pockets and turned to gold! The villagers gave up their efforts at pearl diving and animal husbandry because they no longer needed to toil for their livelihood. They brought workers from impoverished lands into their villages and gave the foreign laborers tiny drops of oil in exchange for their work. The villagers hastily abandoned their farms and directed the laborers to build big stone mansions. The villagers brought more workers from more impoverished lands to cook their meals and clean their castles and even to raise their children. The villagers made the laborers transform their villages into cities and to fill their cities with tall, marvelous buildings. The villagers commanded the laborers to build long highways that connected their new cities. As they grew fat from their oil and the oil continued to grow, the villagers traded in their dhow boats for petrol-guzzling SUVs that they could race on the roads that hug the coastline where big ships arrive with more oil that turns to more gold in their pockets.

mountain range

And when no one was looking, the desert sands blew silently over the land, burying their memories. When no one was looking, the mountains turned ashy gray and the rivers morphed into gashes in the rock.

 

Today, as the villagers speed with careless disregard on the ribbon of highway at the base of the mountain range, no one sees the land as it once was. No one remembers the colors. No one remembers the flowing waters of the rivers. No one sees the mountains. Today, no one even looks.

And this is where I enter the story.

They didn’t recognize me when I came. They had no recollection. They had no reference. At first, there was a curiosity, then, there were battles. My presence made them work, like trying to tread over the rugged mountain range as opposed to speeding on the highway as they had come to know so well.

Then, they suddenly stopped the interactions. Curiosity was gone, and my presence was an inconvenience, so they simply returned to life as it had been before I came. To do this, they ignored me. By ignoring me, they didn’t have to change. And when no one was looking, I too, dried up and became a gash in the rock.

me doing EMsat master class

I have been in the UAE now for one year. The first 11 months was more difficult than I fully understood at the time, but summer break has offered me insight that I need to share here.

 

In this past year, I wasn’t’ brave enough to speak the full truth in this blog. There are many reasons: I didn’t want to be another of the expat complainers; I didn’t’ want to appear offensive; I was afraid that by revealing my hurt and confusion, I would only attract more pain and isolation. In addition, I couldn’t figure out how to articulate the “river” and “desert” stories without the details, and the details are ultimately, irrelevant. Perhaps most of all, I was afraid of who might find my blog and what reprimands I might suffer from my words. The bottom line is that I just wasn’t brave enough, and so I didn’t really find my voice.

Instead, I fell into a downward spiral: suppressed voice led to misunderstanding that led to insulation that led to self-forced silence that led to ….. you get the point. I’m not proud of this, but I tripped, and then couldn’t get back on my feet, and the cyclical movement of my downfall was a head-spinning confusion that tormented me in growing increments.

And then, it was time for summer break.

I spent the month of July in Dubai doing a 200-hour yoga teacher training course,

ytt-certificate.jpg

and while it was mentally and physically challenging,

YTT lecture time

Study time in the studio

there was enough space to connect with spirit – that place where nourishment and well-being embrace the soul.

me at break time YTT

Break time overlooking Dubai

Spirit, a gentle presence.

Spirit, a mighty force.

Spirit, a hand that appeared deep into the desert

to the place where I got lost

and lifted me out of the gritty fog.

 

After the yoga teacher training, I came to Sri Lanka where I am now.

Again, I find the gentle presence of Spirit. The hand that lifted me out of the desert now raises me to the winds where am being nourished in body, mind and soul.

path on meditation island sri lanka 2017

Spirit, a gentle presence.

Spirit, a mighty force.

Spirit, a hand that sends me out to the world

with freedom to explore, discover, and BE myself.

triangle pose on meditation island 2017

During this break time, I have been processing my experiences in the desert and returning to the truth of who I am. I hope I am gaining enough soul-fuel to get me through the next year with new insights and a stronger resolve to not just endure, but to be a full-flowing river in the desert.

And as I do so, I believe I am ready to get real and be brave enough to speak the full truth in this blog.

 

Ah, Friday! Beautiful, beautiful Friday!

Friday here is the Holy Day, and like Sundays back home, the quiet mornings stretch out on the horizon offering a new, pristine canvas for me to design as I choose.

blank journal pages

I spend my Thursday evenings in a kind of zombie state to allow the fatigue of the week to drain from my whole self. Thursday afternoons and evenings are the winter season of my week; they are for death: death of noise, death of confrontations, death of worries, death of thought.  As the shower pours over my weary figure and I wash the dust of the desert from my body, I also rinse the week’s conflicts and confusion away from my mind.

I bow my head and beg for both forgiveness and rebirth.

My soul begins to peek out from its protective corners, then it retreats again, calling my mind to settle into its silence. Yes. Silence like an Indiana cornfield in the late night after a heavy snowfall. Silence that makes you stop, notice, listen, and then heave a long, alluring sigh.

snow open space

Thursday evenings are for solitary time; putz around the apartment, do laundry, maybe read a book for a while. On Thursday evenings I am void of creative energy, blank in my head and hollow in my whole being. Sometimes I emerge from the shower and go straight to bed and stay there as the hours fall away from the day and I finally slip into slumber. Whatever I do, Thursday’s downtime is always a prelude to a beautiful Friday!

Every Thursday night I have faith in the arrival of Friday morning; I honor that promise.

sun_4

Promise delivers; every Friday morning Sun welcomes me to the new day with gentle patience. She slips in through the window unnoticed and mists me with diamond dust; she lingers until I begin to stir. Like a lover’s gentle coaxing, she kisses my eyelids and warms the side of my neck. And then I hear the whispers, “Hi Baby. Let’s get up.”

 

Upon recognition, I spring from my bed and ride the waves of new inspiration that spill from my mind.

Ah, Friday! Beautiful, beautiful Friday!

First I write; then I shower. Then my driver arrives and we pack ice and water and fruit for our journey. Sometimes we have a plan, but usually not. We set out to see what Friday will offer this time. Quiet roads, lazy hours ahead, freedom to stop any time and every time we want.

me mt. winds

Ah, Friday!

Beautiful,

beautiful Friday!

 

 

We wind through the hard, rugged mountain range; we cruise along the coast. The desert opens like a curtain, tail sweeping the earth, and we comment on her beautiful colors: beige, brown, muted oranges and shimmering golds.

Ah, Friday! Beautiful, beautiful Friday!

I recognize the importance of my solitude and the necessity to cleanse and empty my being, as that is the ritual that prepares for the sanctity of the Holy Day. Emptiness is not to be feared, but rather to be revered; emptiness is the only way to be filled anew with the Divine that awaits my time.

Holy Days are known by many names, but the what’s in a name, right? The name is irrelevant. What matters is the gift; what matters is that we recognize and receive the gift. We all have a Holy Day; every week we all get one. Here’s it’s Friday.

Hello Friday! I welcome you with praise and thanksgiving! Fill me today with the offering that has been consecrated just for me!

Ah, Friday! Beautiful, beautiful Friday!

Car Shopping

 

hot winds thermameter

Have you ever stood in a furnace? Like inside it? With the hot air blowing against your face?

 

Hot. Really hot. That’s what it’s like here.

Add to the hot air is the sun, sun so hot it’s like putting your face under a really intense desk lamp. For a long time. One that’s been on for hours. And your face is only inches from the bulb. Yeah, that’s what it feels like outside.

mercurochrome pic

And add to the burning sensations of the sun on your skin is the brightness in your eyes.

Even from behind sunglasses, you feel the brightness pierce pupils like Grandma’s mercurochrome iodine on a skinned-up knee.

 

So we went car shopping. Outside. In the heat. We tried to do it 3 times before in the evenings, but it’s dark outside where the cars are, and so it’s hard to see the options. Add to that the problem of getting information.

The road is car shopsnarrow and old. On one side there is a long line of low buildings sliced into narrow shops. Most are used car businesses. In between are a few other businesses, a massage parlor, a travel agency, a mechanic here and there. In between every few shops there is construction. A shop being torn down, another being built. On the other side of the road there are fields of used cars.

The fields are full of cars, but It isn’t clear which shop is selling which cars. The cars are jammed into spaces like make-shift parking lots at county fairs. Every now and then you see a couple of men sitting on plastic lawn chairs between some cars. They are chatting easily, joking, but they look terribly bored.

We drive by slowly, eying the various cars, wondering what year this one is, what condition that one is in, how much that nice Mustang might be. No one gets up or looks our way.

“What do you like?” My driver asks.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what any of these are. I mean, I see they are cars, but I need to know what options I have in my price range.”

“That one?” He points out the window.

“Which one?”

“That Lexus there.”

(That one or that one or any one, I think to myself. This place is full of Lexuses.) 

“Hmmm. I don’t know. Let’s ask.”

“Ask who?”

“I don’t know. Ask one of these men. Pick a man. Just ask anyone.”

“OK,” he says. Zaheer stops the car in the middle of the road and gets out.

I wait.

He comes back. “It’s 25,000.” (AED)

I don’t know what to say. He looks at me. My face is blank. We drive on.

“There’s an Infinity,” he says.

I don’t see it. “OK. Let’s ask about it.”

“Who?”

“I don’t know. Let’s find another man.”

Again, Zaheer stops the car in the middle of the road and gets out.

Again, I wait.

 

Each time, Zaheer discusses with the salesmen for several minutes. Some sort of information is shared I assume, but I never get any details. Zaheer just says either “I think it’s good,” or “No. Not this one.”

I’m exhausted. He’s frustrated.

black lexusWe chose a black-colored Lexus. Next step – pay to have it mechanically diagnosed by some government office. “OK,” I say. “Let’s do it.”

The next day when we arrive, the man then tells us that we have to get some specific papers from the previous owner and the owner is in Dubai. Apparently he broke his toe the night before and can’t come to Fujairah today.

We wait. Two days later the man calls to say that the previous owner had delivered the necessary papers. But when we arrive, the man tells us that we have to pay a large fee to get some papers to change the registration because this particular car is,… I don’t know, somehow different. “OK,” I say. “Let’s not take this one.”

We are both exhausted. We are both frustrated.

avalonWe begin the process again. We choose an Avalon. We pay for the inspection. The car passes. We are finally allowed to drive it. The next step is to go to the police station in order to get another official paper. But the police station is only open between 9am and 2pm. I have to miss a day from work to get this step completed.

We set off for the police station when I need to get another official paper. Smoke billows out from the hood. Zaheer is furious. We return the car.

 

Persistence is the lesson here:

FINALLY we get a new car!

photo 1 credit

 

Response to wounded soul

Momma always accused me of “telling tall tales” and that always hurt me a little because for me, I wasn’t trying to be bigger than life, but rather telling the truth exactly as I saw it and experienced it. I have a higher tmom in libraryolerance for physical pain than many people, but as I’ve matured, I’ve come to understand that on the flip side, I have a lower tolerance for heart / soul pain than many others.
Momma also used to tell me not to “wear [my] emotions on [my] sleeves”, but through therapy, I came to understand that my way to overcome negative emotions was a process: observe, contemplate, evaluate, and finally discern the value and meaning of the components of the difficult conflict / “assault” (that word “assault” is in quotation marks because a conflict may feel like an assault even if it isn’t really an aggressive attack). Only then, through this process, could I make sense of things, release the pain, and begin to heal. That process takes time and sometimes, others may witness it. Whenever Momma saw the process, she told me not to wear my emotions on my sleeves.

If my emotions are on my sleeves, then that’s just where they are; I can’t move them. But from Momma’s words, I learned to try to hide them, and to do that, I learned to go inward. My inward journey taught me to embrace my beautiful, sensitive little introvert, and in the embracing, I’ve adopted strategies to hide, or take the emotions off my sleeves, so to speak.

All the strategies involve isolation: withdraw from social media, group settings, intimate conversations with loved ones. I go inside myself; I hide. I work the process through writing, sleeping; and I “putz”. (Momma also told me not to putz.)

Apparently not everyone needs to process experiences to such an extent; but I do. Without the process, I form erroneous theories (judgments) and hold fast to them for way too long. I do not want that in my life, so I accept this process and embrace the introvert and do so with conscious self-love because I want to understand the world as authentically as I possibly can.

Wounded soul was written immediately after I entered my apartment that day (only posted many weeks later). It was simply an observation. I had noticed my appearance in the mirrors; and I noticed the contrast between that image and the happy-go-lucky, free-spirited me that people usually see and are attracted to. The observation was both hollow and insightful. The look in my eyes made me understand that I’d spent the day in extrovert mode and that my introvert was dying. She, the introvert, needed to be nurtured; my process needed to be activated.

I decided to post my observation because I know that everyone feels that way sometimes. Haven’t you also had days when you came home from work feeling completely empty? Maybe even defeated? Haven’t you also felt the “spunk” drain from your soul? I think we all do from time to time, and I think that stress and fatigue are expressed in the condition of the soul.

I believe we must address the condition of our souls, even when that condition is not so pretty, if we are to live happy, healthy lives. We cannot avoid heart-pain, but we mustn’t try to ignore it because of any sort of fear. We must face it!

For me, seeing and describing is a way of claiming. Only by owning the truth of my condition can I begin to address needs and readjust; and in the re-adjustment is the beginning of healing; mom in natureand in healing I can seek new energy. In the seeking, there is finding.

Seek and ye shall find. (Matthew 7:7)
And when I find renewal, I can claim that, too.

Momma loved Springtime because of the renewal of the earth, and as she worked the gardens, she taught me to believe in renewal, too.

Wounded Soul

 

full body in abaya in elevator

I stand in the elevator

at the end my work day

and observe the image

that stares blankly back at me

from the mirrored doors.

The snaps on my Abaya have popped open. First the bottom half when I got out of the car. Then the top third when I slung my backpack over my shoulder. Now, only the two in the center – the two snaps between bellybutton and pubic bone – are still stuck together holding this gloom, this, this obscuration, this dark umbrage they call “protection” vaguely in place. I notice that I look the same as I feel: beat. exhausted. defeated.

I do not feel feel protected.

in elevator with abaya 2

The baby blue camisole, damp from sweat, shows my form:

cleavage2-inch cleavage, a deep slit that divides me – left and right – straight as an arrow, bold as an arrogant threat;

2 sagging bulges, heavier than the polka-dotted brazier I chose to hold them in today;

soft, swollen belly, vulnerable, but proud of its efforts – mindless laboring to keep me alive;

shadows of stilt-like legs that hold heavy, aching hips that brazenly reveal their shape, even from behind the black curtain I wear to work.

My eyes move up to take in the image of my face:

tired self

 

Cheeks flush; freckles faded from winter’s gentler sun; dark bags sit under my eyes.
Eyes. Green. More green than normal today.

Hmmm, kinda pretty, I muse.

 

 

tired eye

 

I lean in closer

to my image

in the door

to better examine my eyes.

Shit!

The wounded soul is showing!

 

Thank God I’ve arrived.

The fifth floor.

The doors open.

 

I deliberately blink my eyes, rapidly fluttering the sticky black lashes.

Yes, I’m trying to conjure up some wind.

Yes, I’m trying to push the wounded soul back into hiding.

As I plod the dark hallway to my apartment, I exhale heavily with each left step

(breath rebounds as right foot thuds, like a heavy limp),

cleavage 2

 

and I push

the wounded soul

back down

into Cleavage Canyon.