Silent Panic

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#silentpanic #panic

To sit calmly with a smile on your face .. or without. You watch TV, work, go to the toilet, sit with your children, sleep, move and do your thing the way you always do. But inside, you are shaking.

A lump in your throat, tears frozen behind a cold shield, threatening to gush out at any moment. Screams hiding at the back of your mouth, probably will slip out .. or not.. if that glass slips and falls.

Chills running down your spine, rising and falling like stormy tides, and something inside you keeps falling out of its place, followed by a horrifying sensation of void in the middle of your chest. You can’t breathe normally. Your breaths are short, fast and shallow, as you fight for oxygen. There is sweat inside you that doesn’t show on your forehead, your eyes are unfocused, but no one can tell; your hands are shaky, but no one can see, because you are always on the move. You can’t sit alone, but you can’t sit with them either. And their questions .. oh.. their questions and attention make you panic even more.

Six Lessons that Prove Life Is As Simple As an Oil-Painting

Cottage original
Cottage in an abstract countryside

How I survived betrayal and emotional confusion through painting

At a very early stage, I identified myself as a writer; someone who is better at writing to express himself or herself. With a passion for all other forms of art, the one medium I resorted to and comfortably used to deal with the world and voice out my thoughts was, and still is, writing.

There  are good days and bad days; times when I am powered up by some unexplained force that keeps me committed to a habit of writing on daily basis, and other times, when I just run away from the sight of a pen and paper. But what remains certain is that throughout the tragic moments or the fortunate ones, and no matter how long I have to wait for it, writing has always been my only way of making sense of life when everything goes upside down.

Lately, I have gone through a seismic shift in my personal circumstances, which shook my life down to the very core. I have been abandoned and backstabbed, and I was made to believe that I was the only one to blame. My acts of sacrifice for others were perceived as their right, and countless days of dedication were not accounted for. Very dear friends turned their backs and simply walked out on me.

Anger, resentment, self-pity, self-loathing, self-torture ebbed and covered me in hatred froth. There were (and still is) soliloquies and monologues in my head; pieces of my mind I wanted to give to those who manipulated me; so many confrontations I wanted to make; so many closures to have, but no words came out. I was outright blocked! My mind was revving like a bee trapped inside a glass.

Until one day, I woke up with a weird impulse to paint!! I wanted a piece of white canvas, brushes, colors … and I just wanted to paint. I have never painted in before, not even with watercolors, let alone with oil ones.

As if hypnotized, I got up, drove to the one place I could think of in Doha that might sell art material, bought a cheap set of brushes, one white canvas, and a box of 24 oil colors in small tubes. I didn’t know anything about painting back then, never read about it, never watched YouTube videos, and never thought at that moment that I ever would. I was just acting impulsively and that was it.

Along with my 2 kids, I moved the brush slowly on the canvas to capture a childhood vision of a cozy cottage somewhere in an abstract countryside. My hand trembled as waves of joy washed through me with every paint blotch and brush stroke.

I was hooked! I have become addicted to painting. I am not a pro or anything, but my soul needed to channel out the pain, my brain needed something to focus on, and painting was my cure. Yet, that wasn’t the only role it has played; it has also opened my eyes to 6 very important life lessons. They are not new to me, and probably not to you, but I have never witnessed a proof to their truthfulness as I did through the process of painting.

Lesson 1: Everything will be better (easier) tomorrow

On the first day of painting, I noticed the effect of brush strokes on the canvas and how they are employed to create optical illusions and hinting. I additionally realized, but very late, that oil colors blend, and wouldn’t stick on one another when they are wet. The situation was getting out of hand, as parts of the picture turned into messy thick strange color puddles. I had to let the picture dry in order to try and layer the colors up the next day.

The following morning, the situation wasn’t half as bad. The picture has totally changed overnight: the colors had rested, and blended, earning the scene a new depth and an entrancing and natural mood.

Lesson 2: A few steps backward can change the scene

Sometimes as I painted, I got so close to the canvas especially when I wanted to get one of the tougher shapes right. The lines would trick me, and no matter how much I attempt to fix it, it just wouldn’t work. The closer I got to the canvas, the more I lost my grasp of it.

However; I realized that when I take a few steps backward, I am able to see the bigger picture. The shape I have been toiling with had already been there for quite some time. The problem was in my close-up view of the picture, isn’t that amazing?! Unplugging for few seconds and distancing yourself from a situation can help you see it from a different angle. Soon you will find that the answer was there all along, or it wasn’t as complicated as you thought it was.

Lesson 3: Your soul knows the path even if you don’t know it

  1. Dusk or Dawn Lake
    Dusk or Dawn lake?

I have days when I just sit in front of a white sheet with a brush and a few colors on my palette. I have no idea what I want to paint but I just camp there with every intention for painting.

At such times, the brush seems to know its way around. Somehow, it always gets things done, and I am always quite satisfied with the outcome. There will be days when all you need to do is just to show up and trust that everything will turn out fine.

Even when you have no clue what you are doing, your soul knows the right path and it will guide you.

Lesson 4: Limited resources do not limit possibilities

It was crazy at the beginning how fast I was running out of oil colors. I was producing up to two pictures per week. My thirst for painting was unquenchable, my brain was craving it, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it in-between other daily chores. But there was no way I could keep up with this urge financially. Art supplies are quite expensive here, and I am not in any way ready to sell. In order to save, I had to work with a 2 or 3-color palette. Surprisingly, I painted several successful pictures, each one had its very own mood and sensation, and probably were the most successful among my limited family audience.

A mix of colors is important to get you a rounded dimensional painting, but too many colors (options) are not necessary for a good portrait. No matter how limited my resources were, the possibilities of a good painting were infinite.

Lesson 5: Our perception extends as far as the Vanishing Point onlyPHOTO-2018-09-22-09-51-49

The most important concept that painting has taught me was the Vanishing Point.

Dimensional paintings have a point of convergence. It is basically a spot on the horizon line to which all the straight lines in a picture are pointing to create perspective and depth. It signals to our brains that there is a distance, not just up to that point, but also beyond it, beyond the canvas, beyond our vision.

There is a limit to every picture/view after which you could only assume what is happening. Come to think of it, this is how we see everything in life, via our limited perspective as far as our eyesight could go. But we are always preoccupied with what lies beyond the vanishing point, what is happening outside the current scene (the present moment).

Lesson 6: Half of what we see doesn’t really exist

If you see a hut with smoke coming out of its chimney, surrounded by snow and old oak trees, it is not the tree or the house that you like, it is the suggestion of a family inside around a fireplace or lack thereof that is moving you, it is a sense of coziness or loneliness.

And there it goes, the most beautiful thing about a painting, but also the most intriguing, are those elements that have not been painted, but your brain has already visualized them. It makes me wonder, how many times does one’s brain see things in daily life that were not really there?!

The slow act of oil painting has eased my mind and comforted my hurt soul. It has renewed my ability to write and taught me about the texture of life and about my limited perspective, but most importantly, it has proved to me that what we see with our eyes and what our brains make of it are two completely different things.

 

 

 

 

Customer Service and the Ice Chocolate

dreamstime_xxl_106006155How to tell your customer ‘off’ without offending them

Customer Service and what it means has been a recurrent theme in my head lately. On daily basis, I come across all kinds of companies and service providers, and honestly, I am not a tough customer, but I do not like to deal with arrogant companies. It is good to be confident about the quality of what you have to offer, but taking it to an extreme where a customer feels unvalued is certainly a fast track to the bottom. There are lots of factors that contribute to the quality of the customer service experience, yet before we go down the analysis road, I’d like to take you with me back to China where I encountered these two situations.

Scene: Resident Café, Shenzhen University, Shenzhen

Me (in English): “Good morning- can I have an Ice Chocolate with a dash of coffee, please?”

I was using all possible hand gestures to ensure the nice Chinese lady at the other end of the counter understands my order.

Attendant (with a confused smile): “Coffee?”

Me: “Yes!”

Attendant: “No can do.”

I am used to this reaction from coffee shops. Most of them try to sell me Mocha or Frappuccino instead, but I am not a coffee fan. No, scrape that out; I do not drink coffee at all. It is too bitter no matter how much sugar I add, and I am not an advocate of self-torture or death by sweeteners to get my dose of daily caffeine, tea with milk usually does the trick. However, recently, I have been craving Ice Chocolate with just a pinch of coffee- it makes the chocolate taste like it’s been toasted, and the aroma conjures up soothing childhood memories of early mornings in downtown Alexandria.

Me: “It’s ok, I understand. Just make the Ice Chocolate and add a sip of espresso to it.”

Attendant (smiling): “No!”

Me: “Why?”

Attendant: (trying hard with her limited English knowledge to explain the problem to me): “Espresso- more money.”

Me (nodding my head and pointing at my purse): “Yes, sure. I will pay for the extra espresso shot.”

Attendant: “Ok.”

Ten minutes later I got my precious Ice Chocolate with a lot of coffee! It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but I appreciated the effort. Throughout the following five days, the lovely lady would meet me every morning with a smile and would do her best to get the mix right.

Scene: A small coffee-stand in a mall in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong.

Me (with a broad smile): “Hi, can I have an Ice Chocolate and would you please add just a little bit of coffee to it?”

Attendant (with a poker face and in very good English): “No, sorry, I can’t do that.”

Me (smiling encouragingly): “Why?”

Attendant (poker face still on): “We just don’t do it.”

Me: “Yes, I understand, but can you tell me why? I can pay for the extra espresso shot, just do not add it all to the mix.”

Attendant (starting to frown and getting defensive): “No, ma’am, we do not do that.”

Me (smiling provocatively): “Give me a good reason.”

Attendant (Shrugging his shoulder indifferently): “…………”

I took my money and left frustrated, angry, and caffeine-thirsty. I went to another coffee shop and simply ordered my tea with milk!

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In the previous two situations, I created a classic customer service scenario; a customer who wants a slightly customized product or service. In the first one, the lady enjoyed natural skills in handling the request; she weighed the situation, communicated with her client, accommodated the request to the best possible way, and generated value out of it. Conversely, the fancy coffee-shop guy didn’t know the ABC’s of it; he rejected the request with indifference, exhibited defensiveness and lack of cooperation, and failed to communicate.

From a personal perspective, he didn’t just refuse to make the drink, but most importantly he offended me by denying me the right to know why.

Don’t get me wrong; I completely understand that he might be just following some rules that stop him from customizing drinks. I mean, personally, I appreciate policies and procedures; I have even contributed to the development of a couple of them. In my opinion, they are useful, especially in big corporations for employees who require a reference point, something to resort to when things get confusing. But I do refuse to give them the status of a holy book, particularly when it comes to customer service.

In a world that is overflowing with products, companies must be competing for the long-term loyalty of customers. Flexibility and policies should go hand-in-hand. After all, the reason startups manage to get ahead of big corporations is their flexibility, their agility, and their ability to meet their customers halfway and communicate with them.

Customers are not just customers! The term itself is a mental barrier, objectifying those who benefit from your service. The human brain has this ability to protect us from trauma by categorizing people who are not within our closest circle as “Others”, so we do not get emotionally invested and exhausted. The same applies in business, but the term used is “Customer”. However, in a customer relationship, if you do not get engaged you are risking a lot.

The service-provider population is consistently growing (you can check here this interesting insights report). Simply put, if you do not have what I am looking for in exactly the way I want it, there are a thousand others who probably do. With such a fact in mind, the people of a company need to deal like people with the people who are buying their services. Accept it or not, customer service is like every other relationship and your customer is not incapable of understanding the complexity of your business. So speak to them; explain, justify, apologize, and make it up if need be.

If you truly respect your customer and appreciate their decision to choose you, you are compelled to clarify the how’s and why’s of your offering and the extent to which you can be flexible. It’s essential to establish a relationship where there are empathy and understanding, something that will drive the customer back, even if you fail to meet their request or at least something that won’t have them feeling rejected, and consequently resentful towards your brand!

Yes, you heard it ‘rejected’. A customer who comes to you with a special request is taking a risk and asking for a favor, shouldn’t you at least let them down easy? No one likes to be told off, not by their friends, not by their family, and definitely not by their service/product provider.

Customer Service (Relationship) is like all other relationships in life; it requires communication, flexibility, and reasoning, you need to make an effort and compromise sometimes. If you can’t, that’s your right, but never forget to explain to the trusting person on the other end, why you need to let them down. It’s the least you could do.

She never walks away…

Her hands  trembled and her eyes sparkled with shields of glass made of hot grains of anger. She cries easily. Whenever she is so emotionally charged, she pours it all out quickly and that  helps her shrug off anything quite fast.. fast enough for people to take her for granted. She could feel the thoughts in her head strangling the words in her throat, nothing is coming out of her. A knife is tearing her within and her brain is too shocked to trigger a scream or an SOS.

The current times are no different from the times before. Her life seems to have been going on for an era upon era and history always .. always repeats itself. She is older and wiser, and she could see that all her beginnings and all her endings are identical. Like low-budget movies happening in a poor studio with the same scenery and cast. The writer is masterful though, convincing her every time that she is starring in a new blockbuster, but in fact the story never changes.

She is the enemy of her own self . She has got to admit it. Her mind is always working to dwindle the efforts she exerts in search of a new road, where beginnings have a colorful sunrise, and endings are painted with a promising sunset.

But she thought she was finally approaching peaceful acceptance, this state of being but images (1)not actually being. It is the negativity enshrouded in a false positive aura. Acceptance.. the word created to subdue our ambition to change and our graceful attempts to reach higher.

However, it was pointless to struggle or hang on to false hopes; her relationships are all carbon copies. There will never be a right person, she always attracts the wrong ones. No.. that’s not accurate..SHE is the problem. She induces a strange behavior from those around her. Putting them under pressure with her expectations, protective instinct, and too much caring, they feel guilty .. morally obliged to reciprocate when they do not genuinely want to. And then, they go down the path of resistance.. the tormenting road of confusion and hesitation. They want her or they want her not. One day they bring her closer, the next they kick her out; driving her mad, with ruthless false shiny hopes, while they toil with decisions. Until one day… they tell her off, because too much care and love could kill.. both.. the lover and the beloved!

the_lost_ship_by_shue13-d7ogelhShe has to accept that the problem lies within, and fixing it is beyond her. All she could do is stop being passionate and hopeful. She must never get excited about new relationships. People are nicer when they are standing on the shore of her life.  They all think they want to join her boat, but the minute she lets them on board, it seems all they want to do is jump out. “No problem, but please do not break my ship before you go… please!” Yet, they do.. and the journey seems to always be about patching up the ship while it is aimlessly floating. The helm has no captain and the boat no haven.

Lately, she had believed she regained control. She had thought she finally acquired deceptive indifference towards life. So how did she end up feeling so violated and offended!

Approaching her thirties, and she still is as emotionally strung as a teenager. Words and looks affect her, take her up or down, shake her head, and bring her inside out. No confidence in herself whatsoever yet she still trusts people and she lets herself become vulnerable over and over.

Once more, she finds herself reliant on the subtlest gesture of tenderness and affection from someone else’s end,  and the simplest of words to soothe her and reassure her, to keep her balanced until it’s time for the next dose of confidence boost.

Obviously, he has read her book cover to cover. She has granted yet another person the power to play with her mind and mess it up, blow up her brains and tip off her fake sense of stability and inner peace. Someone else can make her very happy or very sad, ecstatic or depressed.

It’s all coming back to her now; the anxiety and the restless wait for emotional confirmation, for the very little attention, for a hint here or there to make her feel like the woman she never was and never will be.

They were all attracted to her because her care was limitless. They softened against her eagerness to give despite their stinginess. Her loyalty shocked them, it’s like nothing they have experienced before. They soothed her with their sweet words and then stabbed her with their indifference. They flew her to the moon and then flagrantly shrugged off responsibility the minute she had let her guards down. She would swallow her pride and continue to give, regardless. Never once did she leave. She stayed … while they walked all over her, sucking up her energy, drying up her fountain, and soaking up all the passion she could offer to the world.

Like many of her friends, she had declared earlier to the world her affirmed disbelief in white-horse-300x187Love. But as with all issues of the soul, secretly, she has never ceased wishing it existed. She has become a realist and a cynical on the surface, but a hopeless romantic inside, waiting for a prince charming to rock her earth from a parting between the clouds.

And here he is now. Casually, prancing around with a phony shield on a frail horse, armed with the fewest of words..words that her immature self still craves.

He says the cheesy lines, she soars, he turns around, and he acts indifferently. The actions once more leave her bewildered and abandoned, confused and wounded.

No.. this time it is a big fat NO.

She couldn’t remember how many streets did she roam before she found herself standing in front of his door. The tears with the words flooded out:

“Please Stop!

“The only thing I ask of you is to stop and to leave me alone. Stop saying the things you do. Stop using my vulnerabilities against me. I trusted you! If you are just doing this to make me constantly hooked .. to keep me addicted, don’t! I promise you I am not going any where. I will continue to give regardless, because I do care about you and I want to continue to give. But I beg you.. spare me the sweet talk, the insincere promises, the fake insinuations, and the vague commitments. If you do not want to be with me, do not make me think otherwise. 

If you cannot make a decision, then stop looking at me as if you want nothing else from the world but me. If you are scared of who you are when you are around me and you do not want this person, I understand. But you do not have to show me that cold face and push me away with shoulders made of steel.  I do not want yet another person who is torn between admitting or resisting me.

“Don’t play with me the wicked game of words. It could kill me and I do not want to believe that you would actually enjoy or want that.

“So just please let me be! “

images (2)She turned around and left! She knows she will still show up tomorrow and the days after, because she never walks away, but they always do…

 

 

 

 

We are moving on…

She is always deleting pictures of her ex-husband.

She is deleting songs she performed with her ex-husband.

But there is just one problem. Her son.

Her 5-year old is always in the picture or his voice is always in the background of songs in her head. Her son is always in  her ex’s face and the latter exhibits himself confidently in her son’s eyes, cheeks, and smile. Sons always look like their fathers, but she will make sure he doesn’t become him.

She muttered under her breath while struggling with a decision to delete one of the pictures that has her husband carrying her son and waving to the camera.

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Every time she finishes a chapter of her life, she sticks a one-word description tag to it. Why do we always add a post-it note on our memories wall with a commentary or a judgment?

So what if people used to be nice, but they are not anymore? We still shared treasured moments.. moments when life stood still and passion was a driving force. People are not inherently bad. Essentially, it is claimed that all deeds are committed for a good cause, yet we still categorize ourselves and others.

The law of existence is change. Our bodies are the biggest validation of this nemesis. It is useless and unjustified to request of each other to carry on being the same people we met few years earlier or even an hour ago.

When relationships end, it doesn’t necessarily mean a party is bad and the other is better. It could just mean we changed in different directions. We used to work out; our personalities clicked at the “match-point”. But life continues to happen, time prints its marks on our faces, and other people invade our space diversifying our perception and our needs. We become sadder or happier, wiser in our very own way, but we may no longer match. The new me, may not be able to co-exist with the new you, because we are not who we were before, but you know what; that’s OK.

It doesn’t mean I am bad or you are. It doesn’t mean I am giving up on you or I want to intentionally hurt you. It just means the circle has turned around and new era is beginning. An era where I will always have you in my mind but I won’t be capable  download (2)of having you beside me. It’s a phase where others may get closer in the picture than you. I won’t accuse you of changing and you can’t either.  Changing is not a crime we could hold each other accountable for. It does hurt to accept that we are no longer going to be together, but as cheesy as it sounds, nothing lasts forever; even love or life, even passion, even obsession, even you .. even me!

I would never ask why we met if we weren’t meant to be. I would never wonder why you strayed away from the road we pledged to embark on at the beginning; I would never ask why or when have you stopped loving me, I would never ask questions with no context within our transient life frame.

Instead, I will be grateful for the times we had, for the memories we cultivated, for the life we breathed into people around us when we were who we used to be together. I will accept downloadthat our circles collided and hitched for a certain distance. I won’t try to erase you from my past, because I will be distorting my present and future, I will be deforming myself. And despite everything I still like “me” too. I like who I am and who I have become, and what I have now because of you.

So my friend, or love, or ex, or whoever you are, we shall move on. And I won’t tear your pictures or delete your songs. We are moving on.. no hard feelings, just wide-open arms and a graceful invitation for life: “Bring it on!”

The Princess & The Witch

I am utterly disconnected from; my childhood and teenage dreams, intensity, and passion. I usually sit in the car looking at a sky dense with the world’s prayers, hopes, and fears, and I can sense little me somewhere there .. calling me, but I can’t see her.

There was a time when looking at the heavens unlocked heavy doors to worlds of infinities; where authentic streets blurred under  home-cooking smoke, spiraling from romantic chimneys of brown cottages overlooking heart-shaped lakes and streams of flowing possibilities.

But I can no longer pierce through the thick clouds.

There was a time when all I had to do was glance at the sea to be washed off its shore on a tender foam to universes where princesses dwell and gentlemen exist; where fairies fill up the air with magic dust, and happy endings prevailed. I could conjure myself on a 494534839terrace in a small house embraced by a mythical green mountain on a white cloud up high. I’d be having my morning coffee with my hair down while stories of people, life and love formed and dispersed before me. I’d be the heroine of my own paradise, a utopia where solitude doesn’t jeopardize popularity and beauty is immeasurable.

There was a time when all I had to do was close my eyes to sense the world through me, trace life as it cleanses my veins down to the smallest corner driven by my passion. My imagination refused to believe that I was living in replay, that life was actually lifeless, that dead people roamed on their feet and inhabited earth, that our needs can block the flow of possibilities, or that our minds can easily become our first enemy, sarcastically, in its own quest for a better life.

With imagine-less spirit, I watched with my daughter a Disney movie the other day. It sucked me in. I dive in intensely while I follow the eternal story of the princess and the witch, who would just not let her be happy. My eyes tear up mourning my princess who died giving up to my witch. My daughter asks: “Mommy, why are you watching?! These are not for big people!”

I look at her confused and in loss of words.

Princess-Snow-White-and-Witch-Coloring-PagesI was emotionally invested over a fairy tale. But I know now better than anyone, that fairy tales do not exist for real. The prince doesn’t come on a white horse, the princess beauty doesn’t always save her, and love doesn’t last forever, if at all. Passion is fleeting, but settling down is what we are fed. Put your feet down and try to stop the motion of the earth with your toes, try to stop moving, though everything around you is. We give in to the witch and eat her apple, because we are scared to taste other fruits.

The only true thing about fairy tales is the witch. Who is the witch? No one knows, but the witch exists every where. The witch is inside us, trying day and night to convince us that the story of the princess never happened; that such places where nature begets beauty everywhere doesn’t exist; that the prince was never born in the first place, and that as a witch she has never lost before.

A Dusty Condo

He hung up the phone. It was a fixed phone on a small dusty white corner table in the living room of his white city condo. It was so noisy outside.. he has never noticed the download (1)neighborhood was that crowded. But he hardly lives here anyway. It is merely a transit station, a place where he can change, refill, or adjust a life he pursues out of a suitcase.

He closed the window and headed to the kitchenette counter, where a jar of black coffee was hot waiting for him to pour his early morning cup, the one that follows his first shot of tea with milk. He arrived yesterday so very late at night, but made sure his coffee machine was working for the morning.

It was a surprise for him to discover he has a traditional phone in his house. Irony hits again; traditional way for the last and final goodbye to a relic from a past he couldn’t todeschi-2AB-photo-courtesy-of-telephoneteca.com_accept letting go of. Something is nostalgic and hopelessly romantic about hanging on to fixed phone speaker when you are being dumped by a love you never had or realized you did.

Silence tumbled heavily upon the condo. He could smell it mixing with the dust circulating in the air every time he moves or shifts something from one place to the other. Extensive cleaning is required. All it needs is few hours of his time to take care of his condo, clean up all the unnecessary stuff and blow away the dust.

He walked slowly towards the window overlooking the ancient city, slowly sipping his bitter coffee. He has stirred in his regular one spoon of sugar, but it has obviously failed to sweeten it up this morning.

It is not the first time he has gone through this weird sense of loss. A strange and unexpected loss .. for how can one lose something one never had,  or never admitted its ownership. He didn’t want to own anything. Nothing binding. He was a naturally born roamer, all havens have failed to get him to drop his anchor.

He cultivates memories wherever he goes. He makes friends and acquaintances, get them used to him, but never getting attached. He has taught himself this lesson quite well. He never cries when he leaves no matter how tough it can be. He has let go of everything, except her.

She conjures a period in time that made him genuinely happy. And genuineness is something he rarely experienced. It was just what she represents, but not about her per se.

He opened up the closed window. The cold air from outside evoked a tremor down his spine that brought him back to the present. He put on an empty smile and said with a loud voice:

– “Alright, then here goes another chapter. Moving on! let’s do some cleaning up,” he talked to himself .. and all the skeletons in the closets scattered around that small space, which represents his one and only investment in something rooted. He went to a long white cabinet in a corner behind the coffee counter, and took out few cleaning tools.

Loss is something he can deal with. It will be a couple of days before it’s all over, or won’t it? It is positively not about her. It is true she stirred something in him he couldn’t articulate, something intuitive and basic, a refreshing atmosphere every time their eyes collided. He may have gotten addicted at some point. Still She drove him crazy, made him angry like no one else did.

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Nothing was meant to go this way. It was all easy fun. But when things began to get so confusing that’s when he sympathized with people who claim to have encountered love. She is the only woman he wanted to slap and cry in her arms at the same time. He wanted to break her and love her till the world disappears. It was a maniac case of love and hate, need and resentment, obsession and indifference, passion and apathy. They were the modern “Wuthering Heights” protagonists.

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He couldn’t wait to run away, only to find himself crumbling helplessly around her. She was his muse and devil. The angel and the wanton.

Whether she has ever loved him or not is a question that will be sustained by sweet memories without an answer due to insufficient evidence and worse of all their decision not to take any bets.

It was a mutual decision. They both knew it was over before it even began.  Like a doctor struggling in a case he knows more than anyone else is predetermined to a tragic ending. They were drifting away. It doesn’t matter if he wasn’t willing to change or if she suffered from her own expectations, because the closer they got, the further away they were. It was life slipping away between their fingers.

They had to quit it, give up, end the story themselves before the writer decides for them! That’s how he has always done it and that’s how he will always do it. Fate is a matter we take in our own hands and he will never confiscate control of his own life to anyone or anything. It was the right thing to do.

Struggling with the broom and the soft hiding dust, he muttered to himself: “I was just being practical. We were never meant to be together, so leave me alone!”

Though how they affected each other was beyond him.

He cared for her but he would never let anyone walk on him willingly or not ever again. He loved himself more.

He moved on and so did she. But moving on turned out to be different from letting go. He remained attached to her shadow, her voice.. it was good to keep her on the side of his life where he can count on finding her whenever he needs but never let her in.

It was all in his hands until she decided to tie the chord of the speaker around his neck and set her shadow free … forever.

 

 

 

 

Closures

Closures!

Because everything ends.

Regardless, how eternal we would like to believe some things are; closures, ends, finales are always looming around the corner. No matter how big the book is, all stories, all thoughts, all ideas, must come to an end. Some endings are final and some are open, left for time, yet time’s essence is mortality.

“This too shall pass,” says the old wise man. It doesn’t matter how far the sweet taste of happiness linger, or how long the heart bleeds; how long sadness descends like suffocating fog, or how far joy strikes through it. It will all pass. We are not here to stay and nothing remains forever. Cheesy, right? Nevertheless, it is such an abundant and recurrent fact of life that our minds have stopped realizing it.

Closure should be the one thing we teach ourselves and our children to accept. Some images (1)would argue, it’s not closures in itself, it’s change.. change is the nature of all things, but no.

When we change, we evolve.  We stop existing in a previous form, physical and mental. I have stopped being the younger me, I have stopped being the innocent hopeful, I have stopped  being the inexperienced, I have stopped being a believer in humanity, I have stopped being wishful. Even more, the process of change itself cease to happen at the point of no possibility for adaptation.

And so it shall be, forever and ever, closures. We embark on the journey and our mind will deny the reality of the road.. its vanity, its impeding ending, no matter how long it runs or how sweet or bitter the trip is.

And here goes another train, halting at the final station, once and for all.

 

19 Personal Observations from Thailand

After a massive strategic lobbying campaign launched by my husband throughout the year, and after a series of unfortunate events, I was forced into accepting taking a winter break in Thailand for 10 days.

I have nothing against this part of Asia, but it isn’t on my list of priority destinations to visit. I am more of a Europe girl, may be because I am a middle-easterner, or because my love to nature is not as grand as my passion for cities. I have always thought that once I am done with as much Europe as I can do, I could start exploring Malaysia, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and China.

Nevertheless, my husband, who is a huge Thailand fan, has put me under a huge moral pressure, and I ended up agreeing to travel, taking kids too. It was very tiring, but it wasn’t half bad.

Here are some personal observations from my trip, bearing in mind, I only got to see Phuket for four days and Bangkok for six:

1. Did you know that Thailand is now a destination for medical tourism? When my boss told me that, admitting that he, along with his entire family, fly every year for their annual full check-ups, I thought it was a bit over the top. Why would anyone go anywhere in Asia for medical advice?! It’s not Germany!

But Bangkok does receive thousands of medical tourists from all over the world. The best two hospitals downtown as I was advised, are: Bumrungrad and Bangkok hospitals. Doctors are not Europeans. They are either Thai or Chinese, and they are very good listeners. You would think they would want you to do as much tests as possible to rip money off your back, but that wasn’t the case. Tests that were generic in nature were never recommended. Our doctor actually mentioned they were unnecessary for us, a case which doesn’t happen where I come from, specifically where medical insurance is applicable.

Both hospitals were well-prepped to receive patients in the most convenient way, providing as many languages as possible. There was even a special registration desk for Arabic speakers. Interpretation was available for those who do not speak English at all to be able to communicate with a doctor. There was indeed a culture of customer service all over Thailand, which was highly evident in Burmrungrad hospital.

I wasn’t really excited about the check-ups. I thought it was going to be a one day full of errands and bureaucracy but that didn’t happen. Just talking based on my own personal experience, in comparison to the Middle East, medical care in Thailand even in such a fancy place as Bumrungrad is quite cheap. Again this view may not be shared by  Thai people themselves.

2. There is a huge discrepancy between what you see in Phuket and what you do in Bangkok. Phuket, and specifically Patong, is a very poor area, which westerners have chosen as a run-away from their expensive sophisticated lives. Thai culture and style is not very dominant in Phuket. Poorer Thai are there working for the business expats who are living like kings and queens with the peanuts they are spending. Open a Scuba diving business, ethnic food restaurant, a cafe’ or even a Vespa rental shop and you have enough money to make you a sultan in simple and cheap Phuket, where everything can be bought for a day including women sometimes.

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3. The beauty of nature in Phuket is not done just yet. It’s above and beyond anything, and I didn’t even get to see Phi-Phi Island! I know .. don’t laugh at me. I was only there for four days and the weather wasn’t very good during that time, they had to cancel our trip twice.

4. Phuket is essentially a honeymoon destination or a place to go to if you want to have some ‘me‘ time. If you are planning to go with your kids, you will be staying mostly inside your hotel to keep them within a safe beach and pool environment. In which case, any resort around the world would have done the trick.  But to see that part of Phuket you read about and hear of from your friends, you must have no fear of being in nature and you must be kids-free. Phuket can also get to be a very inappropriate place for kids especially in Patong by night! I am sure you know what I mean.

5. I discovered in this trip too that certainly Asian food is not all the same! I now know for sure that I do not like Thai food. I know lots of readers will find that strange but there was something about it that my taste buds utterly refused. I prefer Chinese.

6. In Phuket, we stayed at the “Merlin Beach Resort”. A nice place at the very end of Tri-Trang after Patong. It’s quite distanced from the buzzing life there. It has a small private beach, between two breathtaking green cliffs, but it seems that no one dared venture into its waters or sands. I saw a few animals crawling in the early morning, but I decided no way for me. Again, I know at heart I am not a fan of wild nature. The hotel though can do with a little more refurbishment. There were no insects or geckos or lizards in our room, but there were ants. Food served at all hotel restaurants is not the best. Nevertheless, their massage facility and therapists are exquisite and top-notch.

7. In Phuket and Bangkok alike, I found it very uncomfortable that some massage places have glass windows through which one can see people receiving treatments or waxing their eyebrows! Really?! It makes me feel awkward! Also most therapists were women, not sure again if this has any cultural implications or roots.

8. When you go to Bangkok, you immediately realize that Phuket was abandoned for tourists! Like all cities, Bangkok is where all Thai people go, to pursue urbanized life. We stayed at the Intercontinental, right in the heart of the city, But the minute you get in the car from the airport, Bangkok feels just like Cairo. check two pictures below, Bangkok on left, Cairo on right.

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You may have not been to Cairo before, but Bangkok to me and I am a Cairene feels just like home.

Same extreme juxtaposition between poverty and richness. The street vendors told off by police and security because they are bothering visitors of higher-end outlets and malls, pollution, unbelievable traffic, same bridges, same smell of smoke hanging in the air, same old grumpy people trodden by the fast paced life they could no longer keep up with.

If it wasn’t for the amazing extravagant malls and the SkyWalk as well as the Buddha statues everywhere, I would have thought we are in Cairo. Event their Bhat coin looks exactly like our One pound coin.

9. Bangkok is really a shopping destination during this time of year. Never seen such craze of discounts. I think I have done more shopping than I ever did anywhere else.

10. In terms of culture and art, there are definitely a lot to see. But they are all the same, given the fact that most of the temples or artifacts are about 200 years only! When it bkk_2792832bcomes to monuments and stuff like that, I wasn’t impressed. It is not about lack of beauty or wow factors, I don’t know… may be because I come from the lands of the Pharaohs.

11. The river boat trip was a big disappointment; could be due to the fact that I compared it to the Nile or may be because the trip pamphlet pitched it as a Venice-like cruise! The tour took us along the river where we met few of the floating vendors and saw how poor people are trying to keep their houses over the river suspended and habitable. They are not getting help from anyone. And just like in Cairo, the poor tin roofs are hanging by a thread side-by-side the teak-wood grand palaces.

12. Almost everyone in Bangkok is fashionable in their own way. It was amazing to see how Thai women and men can carry off everything.

13. If you have curly hair like my daughter, you will be a star in Thailand. There were instances when people had to stop me to take pictures with her. I think I will have to run an image search to see if she is all over social media now.

14. I found the salutation very discomforting. I know it’s a cultural thing but I really really do not want anyone to bow not even slightly to me, or feel like I have to respond that. Though, you don’t have to and you are not expected to, but of out politeness, wouldn’t one feel like reciprocating the salute they are receiving.

15. I have watched all prayer rituals to Buddha. I saw the donations of flowers and lighting of incenses. I still don’t understand why Buddhists open juice bottles, put a straw in it and leave it by the statutes. Would really appreciate if anyone could explain this part to me.

16. I thought it was mind-boggling to see such out-of-this-world celebration of Christmas in a country that has almost 5% Christians and 5% Muslims only! I thought the tolerance and co-existence was pretty amazing. Veiled women never got glares or raised eye-brows or even a second-look.

17. I have never seen such amount of street vendors and street-restaurants in my life.. and I am Egyptian! In fact, if I hear anyone in Cairo complaining for a second about street vendors or traffic, I will give them a piece of my mind. One needs to be grateful. Downtown in Bangkok and all around the big malls or on busy roads, you can hardly find a place to put your feet. Cars literally slip in-between each other.

18. I don’t like riding elephants.. I know that for sure now.

19. Last but not least, you can find anything in Bangkok’s downtown area; anything but USB Mics and Knee-length brown boots with heels!