Next….?

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“Time flies” – The ever popular phrase. Where does it go? Why don’t we value it until it’s gone. Just like the sun’s unfaltering commitment to rise everyday or even the simple comfort attained immediately after taking off a pair of excruciatingly uncomfortable shoes at the end of a long day. We take it for granted. We argue that it is abstract; man-made for guidance and structure. But whatever the case, it is a constant insurmountable race and we’re all left with the same outcome: Expiration….

The year has finally come to an end. The time has run out in my 30 before 30 race. I am finally 30 years old and what a year it’s been!! I have embarked on different adventures and accomplished things which have surprised even me. This year has been one filled with self-reflection, discovery, growth and development. There have been several epiphanies and challenges.

If you’ve been reading my blog, you’ll notice I mention the words CONTROL and CHOICE often. I believe that life can be mostly about those two key factors. We have the choice in what we allow ourselves to be controlled by and what we in turn control. Similarly, we have full control of those choices. I know, I know; It’s not always that simple but I feel it can be applied in a lot of different settings. For instance, this year I chose to make a list of 30 things to accomplish and tried to maintain the self-control in order to attain them. No, I didn’t achieve all of them but I have chosen to applaud myself either way and I aim to sustain the mindset that I am in control of my actions, my life, my future….

………and the future is bright (By HIS grace)

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people who followed me in this journey – your continued support and encouragement has been invaluable.

New year old me…I know what I want…Time is nothing…Life will proceed….Forgive them but most importantly forgive yourself…..No one can dictate your own emotions…..Balance is key….Never assume…..Impossible is nothing……Constant learning…….Mind over matter…..Be more curious….Perspective and attitude play major roles in life….

Stay tuned for the next chapter.

What have you learnt? How has your year been? What will you change? What’s next?

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Ninety Percent…?

“The car spun around, hit the barrier once then again then halted abruptly perpendicular to oncoming traffic on the motorway. I stayed motionless for a few seconds but it felt much longer. The whole thing happened in slow motion. At no point did I have the rapid flashbacks of my whole life or the feeling of impending doom (Movies lie!). We got out of the car, completely unscathed. We were fine! No one got hurt”

My sister and I were involved in a car accident earlier this month. Yes, I was driving *do not insert female drivers joke here*. There was a fault in the car *do not insert another female drivers joke here!* But thank God, nothing happened to either of us. We’re lucky, right?

“No I’m not lucky, I’m blessed, YES” – That was one of my favourite lines in 2010. I’d rap it, Nicki Minaj style, repetitively. It was my status everywhere: Facebook, Skype, BBM. Remember when BBM was so cool? Chat up lines went from “What’s yo number?” to “What’s yo BB pin?”. I digress…When the accident happened, that’s all I kept thinking – I am blessed.

Reflecting – my favourite pass time. It’s been my default state this year. The problem with it is, I end up spending a lot of my present stuck in the past, trying to ascertain why it happened, how it could have been different and how its recurrence can be prevented. It can be a dangerous game and I’ll discuss that at length in another post.

What I want to emphasise in this entry is how uplifting effective reflecting can be. I think it’s easy (especially this time of year) to dwell on unpleasant past experiences and fall into bottomless pit of irrevocable depression. However, perspective and attitude play major roles.

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My uncle recently repeated the quote above to me. I find it very powerful and accurate. It’s made me reflect on my reactions to certain incidents that have happened in my past. Why was I so overly dramatic? It’s certainly making me pause a little longer before responding. Oh how a few minutes of thought can save hours, days or even months of unnecessary misunderstanding/pain. Magic! That being said, I would like to apologise to anyone I have hurt in the past both directly and indirectly in my perturb haste of reacting. Steady learning…

So as this month draws to a close and I reflect on everything that has happened within it – car accidents, hospital attendances and forking out a hell of a lot of money; I realise that it’s actually been one of the best months of the year. It’s lead to multiple epiphanies and gratitude – for life, opportunities and blessings.

Congratulations to Maryam and Matt on their wedding– your perseverance, love and courage is inspiring. Shout out to Jane and Jem on their engagement – your patience and faith is addictive.

Do you reflect often? Do you find it helpful? What are your thoughts

To be blindfolded?….

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It’s crazy how we can be completely oblivious to certain events, facts and occurrences. We live in a bubble of perfection, equality and fairness. We are cloaked by our inexposure. The sweet aura of our self-absorption and our very own realities that we do not realise or we conveniently forget that this is a tiny glimpse – a grain of sand in a bountiful desert.

I proclaim my nationality without a second’s thought, as though I’ve lived there. What did I really know about it? How much could I confidently describe about it before they would discover that I was a fraud? I couldn’t describe what happened in the war? I didn’t even know very much about it – we lived shielded and safely cocooned by the blanket of blindness. School was most important. You needed to get good enough grades to pursue and achieve – that was paramount. Never mind what was happening around the world.

My uncle always loved to recount the story of when we returned after a two month trip to Sierra Leone. Electricity was (and still is) sparse, unless you had a generator. However, there would be fleeting occasions when it would suddenly come on independently and everyone would rejoice then start dancing in the streets whilst singing “Light don come, oh! Light don come!” (“The lights are on, the lights are on!”). We had grown so accustomed to this that we immediately burst into the routine of song and dance when we entered our home in Saudi, after the lights were turned on. My uncle thought it was the cutest, most amusing thing.

When I was in college, I got into the habit of watching the news every morning before heading out. This probably lasted all of a month because I found myself getting increasingly angrier at the world and becoming steadily depressed. I decided to stop – Ignorance is bliss, right? Sadly, this continued for years after and it is still a means to solace at times. How selfish?

I recently read the book “Half of a yellow sun” and up until half way into it, I’m extremely ashamed to say, I did not fully comprehend that it was based on true events! In my naivety, I assumed that the author had a very graphic, vivid imagination. I was left stunned, embarrassed and upset. I was upset that those heartbreaking events had actually happened and that they continue to happen.  Upset that people are persistently suffering with increasing prevalence. Is familiarity breeding desensitisation? Will it ever end? Will we ever learn? History heeded, no longer repeated?…

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

My knowledge/awareness of African history is regrettably suboptimal. Why was I not more curious when I was younger? We did not really learn about it in school. Our history lessons included Greek mythology! I knew about the Trojan horse and Achilles’ weak heel but did not know about what really triggered the civil war in Sierra Leone. It made me reflect – was it my elders’ fault for not being more stringent in our learning about our heritage? Or was it mine for preferring to read all seven Harry Potter books over the one book about the history of Sierra Leone that we had on our bookshelf? And then I thought about my future children, nieces, nephews – I don’t want them to be like me in this instance. They have to better. They need to be better!

I wish it could be better……

Where/How do we start? What did you do? What did your parents do? Can you relate?

Because she did it?…

Today, I saw a child who cried because I looked at her. Every time I said her name, she would retreat behind her father and cover her face. If she couldn’t see me then I couldn’t see her either – that incredibly cute mentality. I should mention here that I’m a doctor and this happens quite often. It got me thinking about the time I went to see a doctor as a 12 year old and cried an ocean because he advised my mother that I would need an injection into the back of my hand for something; I can’t remember. All I heard was: needle, back of my hand, injection and immediately felt excruciating pain – my head said “Not today!”

The crying worked. I did not get the injection but, boy did I get into trouble when I got home! Why was I so afraid? Even with all the encouraging words, the bullying (the doctor told me that his 6 year old daughter would have gladly had it done and not cried about it- Le sigh) and the glare from my mother that I only knew too well, there was no way I was going to agree to it. I was scared but I would never have admitted it at the time. Ironically, it was after this incident that I got over my fear of needles. I did not want to be a “scaredy-cat”.

Growing up, I was a major tomboy. Name trouble, there I would appear. I had to be the bravest and most adventurous. The number of times I heard the line “being brave doesn’t mean you go looking for trouble” – courtesy of Mufasa from ‘The Lion King’ – is uncountable. I started to hate the movie because of it. I never wanted to be called a coward. (Akin to Marty from ‘Back to the future’ being called “chicken”). I can shamefully admit that because of this, I sometimes find it difficult to empathise with certain fears.

“Just get on with it. Do it. Stop overthinking, over-analysing and complicating it!” – Easier said than done; The mind is a powerful thing. Something, which would seem trivial to one person, would feel like being stuck in a thunderstorm whilst wearing metallic clothing to another. The invisible obstacle called fear emerges and there is no moving forward. The battle ensues. Who will (you let) win?

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Fear is irrational, insane, a detriment but it is also the thing that motivates us, prevents us from making stupid mistakes (though occasionally also the cause), gives us the level of anxiety to either pursue something or not to. It’s fascinating and it’s a paradox. But where do some of these fears come from? Have we just copied our parents, friends, older siblings? Are they cultivated by childhood stories, past experiences, wild imaginations? How best can we overcome?

Recently, I went hiking with some friends. We couldn’t have picked a worse day – gale force winds, heavy rain, misty and freezing cold weather (and I’m not being melodramatic). At one point, a friend had to stop as she started to have a panic attack, enough for us to want to abort the climb and turn back. However, after she regained her composure, she insisted that we continued, despite her fears and how much we reassured her that we didn’t mind heading back down. So we carried on. We literally turned a corner and there it was, the summit – right there in plain sight. There was a mixture of emotions but the look of relief, satisfaction and pride on my friend’s face was unforgettable. She overcame…

Mind over matter. Training the mind; it takes a lot of arduous effort and support. It’s a difficult feat but ultimately, it comes down to the individual. We hold the power and have the control. We make the choice.

I often think about regret. Which one I prefer to live with – the regret of doing something vs the regret of not doing it?… Which do you prefer to live with? How do you deal with your fears? What’s your strategy?

Was it wrong…?

Oh, how actions speak louder than words. No sound is more resonating than the silence of inaction. Inaction can scream insincerity, indifference and disinterest. It’s usually the deafening noise you needed to hear all along. Yet you hold onto the darkness filled with fear because of the irrevocable, unrelenting hope that co-exists.

You seek all the signs you can find in the quest of decision making, however, you will also allow a million of them to pass you by, through the blindness of stubbornness and obstinance. It transpires – you only see what you want to see; hear what you want to hear; and inevitably do what you were going to do, anyway.

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Time travel- my favourite obsession. It continues to fascinate me. If only we could see the future and how things would pan out; what our decisions would lead to… Or even go back in time and change the path that we had originally chosen. What would be different? Would things be better? Would we be stronger, smarter, more successful….happier? But then what does holding on to that kind of fantasy achieve? Do we live or are we allowing uncertainty and our inner child to take control? Renouncing responsibility; evading repercussions?

Making decisions is hard. There will always be the anticipation, uneasiness and sometimes regret. Ultimately, there’s no running away. We just have to accept this reality, deal with the consequences of our decisions, acknowledge them and learn. That constant learning  – over and over.

We have to make a choice and decide (again!) on our next course of action. (Who said that life was not ironic?!) We could dwell over the outcome but that would never change it; or we could let go, move on, forgive and continue to grow….One of the best gifts bestowed on us is the opportunity to start afresh, turn the page and proceed onto that next chapter – hopefully a better, wiser one.

Here’s to growing up 😉.

How do you feel about decision making? What steps do you take before making your mind up?  How do you cope with uncertainty?

Here’s a great talk on the topic:

Don’t believe me…?

A lot of us have a habit of talking about things that we would like to achieve. Our dreams, aspirations and goals discussed in group, one to one or even whilst alone in reverie – especially in the shower, in our most philosophical state, contemplating the meaning of life. Am I right??

I remember always feeling energised and excited about all the prospects. That person thought about this and then did that and they went on to get this and now they’re literally on top of the world. That person could be me! The more we had these conversations, though, the more I discovered that deja vu is real and that euphoric energy eventually dwindled down to that dreaded feeling of discontent. I try and assuage the guilt by convincing myself that it cannot be failure if I haven’t even tried to pursue. But the fact remained – I did not DO…

I have come to find that whilst it’s easy to converse away and contemplate, it can be even easier to JUST do. Nike style! Stop dwelling and talking about the same things repetitively; make your lists and look at them constantly. Having them in front of you regularly fortifies the need to do and signing up for things usually forces the action. Monitor your progress frequently. That feeling of scratching off an item on a list can be so exhilarating – almost a high. And then you may surprise people around you but mostly you empower yourself!

One of my cousins’ reaction to my signing up to do a tandem sky dive: “Why would you want to jump out of a plane? Don’t do it! You may as well do something dumber like swim with sharks”. I responded (in the sincerest manner) that I had already done that. He was speechless but his facial expression was priceless. He did come with me to the sky diving site and eventually admitted, begrudgingly, that he would have liked to have it done too – that he felt inspired.

This incident reminded me of a scene in the movie ‘The pursuit of happyness’ that I have always found powerful:

Inspire others through your actions and do what you want to do because YOU WANT to do it (as long as you’re not hurting anybody and the capability is there). The hardest step is that first one. “You can accomplish anything, if you put your mind to it.”

 

……….Just watch

Do you find yourself in that vicious cycle of contemplation and repetitive conversations? Have you wanted to pursue things but haven’t gotten round to doing them? What’s stopped you? Should it stop you??

And then I assumed…?

One of my favourite quotes, growing up, was “Do unto others as you would have them do to you”. It was my mantra, my life’s motto. Nothing would go wrong if we all agreed and followed it down to a T. Everyone is happy, things are great or at least they should be. No?

Time has gone by. I’ve gotten older and this phrase has lost its magic. I find myself steadily finding flaws in it and in fact feel that it can lead to more disappointments than any good. Level with me – A few years ago, I stayed over at a friend’s house. Everything was fine until sleeping arrangements were being organised. I was made a bed on the floor whilst my friend slept on her single bed. I was shocked, to say the least, but didn’t say anything – maybe it was just cultural?

Ways down the line, she came over to stay at my house. Sleeping arrangements were a no brainer- she would take my bed and I’d sleep on the makeshift bed on the floor – but she refused to sleep unless she slept on the floor! I was left bewildered and spent the whole night thinking – Is courtesy dead or is this the new norm??

I’ve used this example to illustrate that we all have our own innate rules and values which we follow and we can’t expect that just because we would do things in a certain way (as this is how we would like to be treated), the other party thinks alike and hence should behave similarly. This leads to frustration, discontent and ultimate fallouts.

The problem with this saying is the assumption that some things are self-explanatory and obvious therefore there should be equal understanding and we all get along – Kumbaya…

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I think this quote works as long as this misconception is removed and it is understood that if we behave to others in a specific manner, then we have made that choice. Continue to do just that but you CANNOT expect the same in return. You have to decide to live with your choice or change your actions. The world is not perfect. We are not perfect. We all have different upbringings, life experiences and personalities. We are all unique. Sometimes, in our self-centred and egotistical moments, we forget this.

Never assume! I joke that the word ‘assume’ should have been spelt with an ‘i’ instead of a ‘u’ i.e. ‘assime’; that way that popular saying changes to “when we ASSIME, we make an ‘ASS’ out of ‘I’ and ‘ME’ -> constantly assuming things really makes the person doing the assuming a fool….at least that’s what I’ve found!

(Buuuut, don’t let the big bad world change the beautiful person you are. Nothing evokes more happiness than seeing the joy you bring to others.)

What do you think? Do you still believe in the quote? Do you agree? What are your views?

Can we talk….?

Social media makes me social. I have so many friends and followers and I’m following even more people. I’m sharing things about my life to the world because they want to know and they’re being inspired. Why else are they following me? Why else do these facilities exist? I am social because I’m talking through screens and to multiple people and all at same time. No time for silence. I’m paying attention. My communication skills have evolved and excelled…

Why then did my sister tell me “we’ve communicated more this month with less distractions than we’ve done in a long while” when I was off social media for the month? It was one of the challenges on my 30 for 30 list. But it wouldn’t be a challenge, of course, because I’m not one of those people glued to their phones – I am social! I guess I hadn’t realised.

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My phone became obsolete. I found myself constantly picking it up and just staring at the screen a little dumbfounded. When did I get so engrossed? I’m listening to more podcasts, reading excerpts from different books/articles, using duolingo to enhance my Spanish and by some miracle, the monotonous drawn out talks on BBC radio 4 are entertaining again. Where was all this time before? There’s even time for those random thoughts. Productivity exists and procrastination became more a creative sport.

In conversation, I am listening – the silence works. Mental multitasking whilst communicating is not as prominent. It’s under control and all this from a social media hiatus? But I am social?

Everyone is different and there’s the argument that social media is a form of maintaining contact with old friends and family across the world and does serve as an educational forum (depending on who/what you follow). However, the danger is there. Getting caught up in it all is so simple and you do not realise how attached/habituated you are. Yes, we are “social” but have we not also become more narcissistic, judgemental, compulsive and obsessed? Think about it. More and more videos or pictures posted are familiar. Things that go viral we’ve mostly seen before. It’s a distraction where yes, there are pros and cons but are they even?

I don’t know. I do think social media is useful and it’s only going to get more immense. Technically, I’m using it now, whilst writing this blog – oh the irony and hypocrisy! However, there has to be a balance and I fear this is difficult to achieve because, as with everything, there is always that tendency… And then it becomes about control but who is doing the controlling???

Do you think you’ve got the balance right? Have you tried a good period of time without social media? What was your observation? What are your views?

But I’m happy…?

It’s interesting, there was once a time in my life when being single was seen as fun, adventurous and enviable. I mean the songs said so, right? ‘Independent woman’, ‘I don’t need a man’, ‘That don’t impress me much’…. All of a sudden, whenever I utter the words “I’m single” to most people (no, not just relatives), I get that look that makes me want me wish that “Charmed”, the TV show, was real and I would be Piper and I could freeze the conversation right there and scream then leave (after giving the person a wedgy, of course).

One experience that certainly wins the trophy for aggressive unnecessary sympathy was when I had an annual review at work and the conversation somehow lead to my marital status. I have never felt so commiserated in my life. It felt like I broke the news that someone had died. Then came the familiar looks and phrases and noises. Ugh! I was flummoxed – Was I supposed to feel sad too? Did I miss something? It couldn’t have come at a more contrasting time when I was actually really enjoying life. I was travelling A LOT, meeting new people, learning new cultures and discovering things about myself. Eventually the appraisal meeting turned into a session of reassurance where I had to convince her that I was a happy singleton – Is this an oxymoron now???

I recently watched the movie “How to be single”. I had prejudged it to be another one of those predictable rom-coms about a woman who basically just got drunk, partied with her best friend and eventually has an epiphany. I was mostly right but surprisingly, it was interlaced with powerful messages. I really enjoyed it and parts of it really resonated with me. It felt so relevant. It had me questioning things about my past relationships. Was I really in love or just in love with love? Did I really like the people I was with or was I more excited about the idea of them? (yes there are songs about this – John Mayer’s ‘I don’t trust myself’ and a recent Justin Beiber song ‘The feeling’ – his latest album is really good!!!)

I blame Disney and all the romantic movies and novels and society and their expectations. I could ramble on. There’s so much going on around us about what we SHOULD do, where we SHOULD be at and when we SHOULD do things and it’s easy to get entrapped in these rules that we lose sense of what’s actually important to us and what we desire as individuals. Forget them and forget the rules. Make your own rules and stay content! No one can dictate your own emotions.

In Spanish, when describing many things about yourself from your height to your profession to your characteristics, a permanent verb is used. However, a temporary verb is used when describing your marital status. Temporary!….

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“…..And the most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you can find someone to love the you that you love, well, that’s just fabulous”

 

Are you tired of those looks and “encouraging words” too?  How do you react to them? What’s your coping strategy?

Hamartia…?

“She wears her heart on her sleeves” – This is going to sound silly but I genuinely had not quite understood the true essence of this saying until I got into my 20s. A friend of mine had to explicitly explain that the heart is encased in a chamber to protect it. The sleeve gets dirty easily. No kidding! I pondered this for a while and chose to ignore it. What does it matter in the grand scheme of things? As it turns out, it matters quite a bit.

I have learnt that to live by this approach, you need to be able to forgive – A lot! But how do you forgive when sometimes an apology is not extended? What happens if it really never comes? Will it forever be unfinished business? Will it continue to haunt you subconsciously?

‘I want to forgive, give me a chance to forgive. Just say sorry!’ It is a crazy inward battle. It sounds psychotic and the solution is so easy. Like the memes below; YOU are the one who ends up hurting the most.

I suppose that is the point I am trying to get at. In order to forgive, you must let go. Let go of the anger, disappointment, pain and negative thoughts. Stop expecting what you believe you are owed and set yourself free. Stop waiting, for it may never come (“Sometimes the apology you have to accept is the apology you will never get”).

Forgive them but most importantly forgive yourself. Do not self deprecate. It is not you. It was not a gaffe. It was an experience. We are all human and we have made mistakes from the beginning of time. Learn from them, try to avoid repetition and move forward. But protect your heart! My father always says “don’t give yourself homework” and so I’ve stopped……

 

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with forgiveness? Must you receive the apology first? How do you deal with these situations?