the Canada test

This is the name of what my friends now use in reference to the ‘test’ my relationship has to pass through when I travel abroad for a short vacation.

Last summer, when I went to Canada for vacation – Canada specifically because my sister lives there and it’s where we usually meet annually – my boyfriend and I broke up because of miscommunication, time difference and frustration. Of course those are not the main reasons, but they are the catalysts. I went this summer to Canada, too. As a matter of fact, I came back yesterday. And yes, a lucky guess would be that the guy I was going out with and I also broke up during my stay there.

The triggers are the same, the end result is the same, but the process of course is different. This time, it was my choice. I had piled up incidents of prioritization with this guy for quite some time, and had observed couples and sought advice more closely, so I learned the following lessons:

  1. Not everyone is someone’s priority:
    I see my ‘family’ once a year, so chances are – and I also explain this because it needs maturity – I will not reply to all WhatsApp messages sent from my boyfriend. This doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate messages or words, this means that right now, while I am with them, this is the priority itself and not how bad his life is or how miserable his day was or how high the fever or how big the mosquito bite. Against family, nothing should stand, and especially not silly conversations and ‘first world problems.’ It’s nice to know that when the spotlight is not on you, the world doesn’t end, because the spotlight was on you long enough.
  2. Long distance is something difficult:
    I have tried to make things work – twice as obvious from the intro – long distance, but people are sensitive and hidden behind screens. I appreciate the love someone might have for me, but I am zones away, and I left there for a reason, and I don’t have free time to chit-chat, and I cannot lose a minute with my sister, the person I see for 14 days a year, for a digital scheme. It is difficult to make someone understand that the distance is present and I am absent but not different. Nothing changed in my heart when I left there, so no I wouldn’t have taken the breakup decision had he been mature and understanding of how long distance works.
  3. Mutual respect is cliche and essential:
    I know that this is the most typical lesson, but yes, nothing is more important than it. You cannot – after being impolite – tell someone ‘teach me how to be polite’ and you cannot expect people to treat you with respect if you don’t impose your own respect. That is a lesson I learned and tried to teach.
    Respect isn’t always in words. Respect is also when you listen to someone. Your reply to my silly “I had a bad day at work” doesn’t have to be “yeah, me too.” It’s not always about you, and not every conversation has to go back to you.
  4. Not every thought in your head is clear on the ground:
    What’s on your mind is also in your mind, and unless said, don’t ever assume someone is understanding the signs you’re giving. Be blunt yet polite and save yourself the hassle. Clarity is something we all claim to love but not all claim to know how to practice. Think back and you will understand and observe how many times you weren’t clear.
  5. Don’t feel offended by everything:
    When you’re chatting or texting, everything can change. Tones can be read differently. Try to put your emotions aside when you read a text, and if you’re having a bad day, make it clear for those who mean much to you. They are the only ones who can excuse you, and want to excuse you.
  6. Don’t assume. Ask:
    This is a trap we all fall into. In our heads, the other person is mad, sad, upset, unhappy, bored, gentle, fake, shallow, happy, amused, high, sleepy… We’re all in states. Ask about which state someone is in before judging. Consider that there are things you don’t know, because believe it or not, you don’t know everything!
  7. Accept help, offer help, and appreciate help:
    Anyone who has been around me knows that all the money I make is money for spending; this topic itself is out of question, and I don’t mind spending amounts on silly things if they make me smile. I don’t discuss financials nor remind people how much I spend money for their things, but I definitely expect to be appreciated if I ever went out of my way to help or gift or repay someone. We are all working for the same purpose, to gain amounts that help us achieve goals. If you don’t appreciate the small and big things people do for you, you aren’t someone who deserves them.
    Another aspect of accepting, offering and appreciating help is when you know that someone, at least one, stood by your side when it was all shit. You can repay them by being nice, and offering your help in return. Never use someone’s weaknesses against them. Never degrade someone because they don’t have money. Never wait for someone with a bad temper to rage and tell them they’re troubled. Never make anyone feel guilty for being on a vacation and having a great time by reminding them that they’re away from you.
  8. Don’t want attention:
    Don’t be a Leo. In short, and with all respect to Leo readers. You love attention and the whole cosmic world knows that. Horoscopes aside, don’t demand attention when you’re not with someone. When you’re together, you have the full right to want them to notice you and care for you and talk to you. But when you’re not together, understand that there is ‘free’ time and that it is no one’s job to entertain you. If you need constant attention and keep thinking of ways, rent a clown, it saves you the effort of throwing in silly comments or posting egoistic quotes. No one likes a rub-on.
  9. Make time for yourself:
    Another true cliche; if you don’t love yourself and don’t know how to love yourself and don’t know how to be loved, you cannot contribute in enhancing a relationship. It’s a two-way relation. It relies on two efforts, not just one. Take time to be alone and do something with your friends. If you’re constantly bored or feeling useless without your boyfriend/girlfriend and telling them that, you are more of a burden to them. There are plenty of free things to do alone anyway; walks, swims, DVDs and napping are some. Grow yourself, love yourself and be independent. Meeting independent strong people is amazing and learning about their hobbies is something equally great.
  10. Never make a decision when you’re mad:
    It will be the worst decision of your life. Be receptive, accept it when someone talks to you after a fight. Don’t fire missiles when you’re right about something. We’re all right at some point in our lives. Think of everyone around you. If someone doesn’t appreciate you, you don’t have to let it out on those who do. Beautiful people are a blessing. Google what a blessing is, and how bad you will feel after you lose it.

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Cheers to being single, all over again.

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revive

– Find your motivation from within!
– I know. I’m trying.
– You always did, what’s so difficult this time?
– That I’m not alone in this.

And the more we like to pretend that our mood doesn’t affect the closest people to us, the more we discover how big of a lie it is. I know from myself, when I am down, I try to hide it because I don’t like the general vibe of the feeling. I like to see myself as energetic, as vivid and alive. The moment I don’t feel like that, I try to avoid direct contact with people. I know that it is time to rest and read or write, till I revive and get back on track.

I know I’ve written about this before, and I know I constantly think about this, how motivation should come from within and how difficult this is considering the different characters each one has. Sometimes someone asks me how I do it, and I really don’t know the answer. I mean, I think happy thoughts. This is the silly and hard trick.

We can easily think of how much is going wrong and try to identify the reasons something isn’t just working out. But when something is beautiful, we rarely stop, ponder, and give this beautiful thing the value it deserves. No one is asking you to overthink anything. I’m asking you to think it through.

In case you forgot about that vacation you wished to take, or that awesome article you saved but never got back, I don’t see a reason you shouldn’t be working on those, too.

I can give you endless examples of friends of mine who are working on side projects that are a result of a hobby, sport, or need for cash. Regardless your motive, a lot can be done after you exit the 9-6 job you’re trapped in and most probably unhappy about. I have friends who draw and sell their paintings, friends who watch movies and blog their reviews, friends who dress, snap, upload and gather feedback, friends who started baby projects online, friends who opened a bar, friends who are tutors, friends who are DJs, friends who jog, who train and who escape to nature or travel whenever they can. Don’t tell me it’s impossible. Just be happy.

“As long as you have love in your heart, you can never be lost.”

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the alternatives

The alternatives to “I love you”
 
You make my world a better place.
You’re my home.
Please take care.
I wish you were here.
Come back home safely to me.
I’m grateful for everything you do.
Your hug in exchange of the world.
I appreciate your effort.
I’m blessed to have you.
You made my day!
It’s beautiful when you’re around.
You can count on me like I can count on you.
I like all of you.
I don’t want to see you hurt.
I can help make you happy.
You’re beautiful when you smile.
Let’s take a walk silently.
You can have it all.

the start of something beautiful

“You can do it. Relax. Breathe in. Hold. Breathe out. Breathe in right through your nose baby. I’m here. What do you want me to do?”
She listened to him. Another anxiety attack made her way through their night; their first night together. She was fearing it would happen and hoping it wouldn’t. But it did. And there she was, facing the man she dreamt of but in the weakest positions she can be put in: when her mind was making her feel.
He held her close, and watched her come back to her regular state.
“Look at me. No, look me in the eyes,” he said. She did, and she noticed how beautiful they were. And she focused on  listening, nodding for him to start saying what he wanted to say.
“I’m going to love you. I’m going to fall in love with you.” He had a twinkle in his eyes as he muttered those words. She wondered whether she heard correctly, and her mind raced to scan quickly all what they had talked about, all what he had said, all what she had felt. She nodded. She was overwhelmed. But she nodded. And then the pieces of her night fell into place. She lied down next to him, and as he fell asleep, she wrote chapters in her mind. She asked herself a million times whether that was the sane decision, to be with him, at least for now. She asked herself a thousand times whether he was going to start acting weird the next day. She asked herself a hundred times whether he was just another man who was saying just another “bed” sentence. She asked herself ten times whether she really knew who he was. Then she stopped. Stop stop stop. Why the scared thoughts? Why the fears?
She turned to see him. He was still asleep. She kissed his cheek, put her head back on the pillow, and looked at what seemed a starry ceiling.

All the thoughts and emotions of that one nights, all the breaths and the feelings, all the veins, the ins, the outs, the laughs, the kisses and the intensity of a first time couldn’t be more perfect. The ceiling still seemed starry. And that was why she loved it most.

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القهر

قبل ما تنام، لمّا تنقهر لأن تركت خمس آلاف تيپس بدل أربعة، أو تنقهر لأن عم تنام مأخّر وما عم تشبع نوم، أو تنقهر لأن انقطعت الكهربا وما شفت نجم فريقك عم يحطّ غول، أو تنقهر لأن ما لقيت صفّة بالهيّن ومشيت تحت الشتي تتوصل عالبيت، أو تنقهر لأن حكيتا وما ردّت عليك، اتطلّع على هالصورة.
مشهد من فيلم، ايه، بس الواقع هيك كمان:
طفل فلسطيني. مش مسلّح. تقوّص عصدرو. رمق القاتل بنظرة جامدة. وقف قلبو.
هلّأ رجاع خبّرني عن قهرك.

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my 8 books of 2015

“The person you become in 5 years is based on the books you read today.”

By the beginning of July last year, I figured that’s probably the thing I owe to myself: more personal time, more reading. Here goes my list of 8 books that I loved and how or where I read them. If you want recommendations, they’re all over the internet.

  1. The Outsider – Albert Camus
    My close friend got me this book before I took off to see my sisters. I finished it during the deadly London Montreal route. The thing with Camus is absurdism, and I find his writings in general nice and thought-provoking.
  2. The Pocket Aristotle
    I got this book as a birthday gift in 2014, it’s a 1946 edition I believe. I value old books and tend to fear approaching them or breaking their pages apart.
  3. The Forty Rules of Love – Elif Shafak
    I had to begin reading for Shafak so I thought I start with this and then move on to The Gaze and The Bastard of Istanbul.
  4. Breakfast with Socrates – Robert Rowland Smith
    Someone I don’t love at all got me this book so I prejudged and couldn’t complete it, till once it tickled my brain so much I sat and went through it, it was beautiful.
  5. The Elephant Vanishes – Haruki Murakami
    I had to begin reading for Murakami, and 1Q84 looked impossible to finish. I wanted to understand the fuss about the Japanese author, so I went from Kafka on the Shore – which is amazing – to this. 2016 has 1Q84 on the list.
  6. Damn Good Advice – George Lois
    Typical agency life and mindsets, you will like it if you like Paul Arden and his books. I recall my sister got me this book.
  7. To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – Jenny Han
    I finished this book in two days, too much like me. I got it after I started liking more casual readings like Perks of Being a Wallflower, and I was astonished to find that the character is called Lara, it rarely happens.
  8. Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell
    I have to admit it looked cheesy from the cover, but I didn’t judge. A very beautiful colleague got me this book, I finished it in a week, and I liked more books like it and -7- above. Casual, fun and something I can relate to.

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where my heart went

I never intended to write about this specific guy I have dated because it was brief, shocking and nothing close to a good experience for me, especially that we’re on very bad terms.

He got me once a squeezable heart to release stress. I took this heart with me around and named the folder on my desktop “where my heart goes.” I just came across this folder, and in it is the word document that he attached to me on November 30, 2012, the day – and way – he broke up with me. Yes, through a Microsoft Word document that he wrote at 3AM.

The funniest line was “Farewell little one, I love you and always will.”

The best line was “I’ve learned a lot from you, I know you’ve had amazing impact on my life and my lifestyle and even my way of thinking… You’re the toughest girl I’ve ever known and I’ve never meant anything more in life… I envy you… Stay who you are, but smile at everything that comes at you.”

And we’re strangers again.

their one night stand

I have a good friend who confides in me and asked me to write her story in my words; here it goes, with the setting and way she told it.

It was one of those lovely autumn nights in Beirut, and she had prepared herself to crash somewhere that doesn’t look like her bedroom. She had that habit of escaping the zone she was familiar with every once in a while. She said that with a smile, knowing I would think this “habit” of hers was weird enough, which I thought.

She spoke about him like he was a prince, so I’ll refer to him as such. She met prince online she told me, the usual cyber conversation style. “Why did you ever think you clicked?” She smiled and poured out a list that ranged from the twinkle in his eyes in the photos to the way he chose his words. I reminded her that she had those – what appeared to me as – odd thoughts even before seeing him, seeing how he sips his coffee, hearing his voice, watching his hand gestures. She nodded and agreed, and confirmed that she knew he was trouble from the day he typed his first sentence ever to her back in November. I asked if she was sure she wanted to tell me their story. She nodded, lit a cigarette, rested her elbows on her thighs and said “I want you to write it, so listen.”

She continued “I booked a room at my favorite inn. I was working on a huge project trying to ace a presentation, rehearsing and going through hell when he arrived.” I had to interrupt to ask how come he drove to see her and she said they had agreed on that. “He rang the bell, I opened, he came in and shut the door. He had a frown on his face, the one you pull right before nagging or criticizing. And this was indeed what he did. He asked me whether it’s a communist room, he asked me if we’re gonna sleep here, he told me he hated communists and he told me he will be up all night trying to get over the fact that the room looks ugly. I hate negative people, I hate people who nag and I hate people who cannot appreciate a moment. Was it really hard for him to sit and tell me about him a bit? Or was it super demanding to smile and be polite? Was he really mean and harsh? All what I could repeat to myself was ‘oh shit’ as he spoke. I got up, put on my shoes, and we left to a pub nearby. We were crossing the street when I grabbed his hand to guide his steps away from a puddle when I saw the worst reaction ever. He panicked. For the first time I feel degraded because I tried to help someone away from a puddle. I have been given the remark that I’m touchy, but for someone to stop in their tracks, scowl me and yell ‘don’t hold my hand’ on the street was something else. I was trying to make the night pass and go back home in two hours, to hell with escaping the zone and to hell with relaxation, I wanted him out of there and that was it. We got to the pub, sat inside, ordered our drinks, and he kept criticizing. The sound, the people, the place, the amount of alcohol in his drink, the fact that I smoke, everything. I kept wondering when this drink will be over because I really wanted to be not there anymore. You know how you build expectations that aren’t a fragment of your imagination, they are real. He was sweet to me always, we talked everyday, and he was right there in front of me, being a major pain in the ass.”

She put off her cigarette, took a sip on her coffee and sat back. “I really still don’t know why I had the guts to take this step and ask him to spend the night with me. It was the worst suggestion I ever made. He became gradually more relaxed at the pub, he started cracking the real jokes he had typed to me before, and suddenly prince was back to life. I was actually happy that the guy I liked wasn’t far from being himself and unwinding. We left the pub together to fetch a bottle of Jameson and go back to the room he had gotten over, finally. We drank there, and we talked, and we listened to music, and I was enjoying every moment with him. He apologized for the panic when I held his hand, I laughed, he laughed and then we both looked again at the phone to watch the concert. At some point he held onto my hand and I rested my head on his chest. I owned, well, I won’t say the world, I owned the stars. I have to shamelessly admit that I slept with him.”

I had to interrupt her to ask if she really was meeting him for the first time that night, and when she nodded, I asked whether it’s normal for her to jump into bed with men she meets because that’s not what I know about her. She shook her head and told me “Lara, you don’t know him. He talked to me about everything. He even told me he’s leaving the country. He talked openly, I was happy.” I saw her pause a little so I decide not to push the questions through. She then said “it felt right, you wouldn’t understand.” And she was right, I wouldn’t understand. I couldn’t imagine what it would have been like, her and prince, in perfect harmony, for ten hours. She said the remaining details aren’t important except that they woke up and grabbed a bite and parted, and he said he was happy that they spent the night together. “A week later, we became total strangers, and here we are, no contact whatsoever.”

I was puzzled, so I asked her to describe prince to me.

“He’s a very mentally chaotic person. He’s selfish, handsome, smart and manipulative; possibly the worst type of men out there. He’s not a good businessman, he’s a good bluff. He is irresponsible, though he isn’t spoiled. He just takes people for granted and doesn’t care about them. He doesn’t know how to communicate his feelings, and his easy way out is sarcasm.”

I heard her describe him so carefully like he was the beautiful doll she ever wanted. And I was left to my thoughts. Why did he go away? Why was she not enough for him? Why was he not enough for her? Why was it such a mystery how they parted? Will they ever be together? Will she call me with nice news? Why was this happening?

She summed it up “he’s the only one I wanted, and I’m the only one he didn’t want. If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door. Accept and move on. Strangers again. It was just a one night stand.”

one happy note a day

On November 24, 2014, I started dating a guy and decided to write down every day one happy note about our relationship. I wrote the date of the day on a paper and wrote below it a memory of this day. I ran the habit till April even though we broke up a few months after that, in June.

I never told him about it of course, and I had totally forgotten about that because of the million events that were happening every day in my life. Between April and June, I received a promotion, I traveled to Montreal, I changed a few habits and I went through relatively harder times emotionally and physically. Probably some of those events, which were keeping me busy from writing the daily notes, contributed to the piling up of the catastrophes, which led to the breakup, and probably not. In late June I was single and the notes were forgotten.

This morning, I decided to wear my grey jacket to work for a reason as silly as I did not want to wear the black one or the brown one. I stormed out of the house and left to work. Halfway through my coffee at my desk, I tapped my hand on the pocket of the jacket to check my phone, and papers rattled. I took out a bunch, and sat calmly reading and smiling. They had the below and much more:

  • I named his bike, he let me name his bike!
  • We had dinner were we first met three years ago as complete strangers!
  • Took a lunch break with him, I had never seen light during lunchtime before.
  • Long walk down our street
  • I blew bubbles while he drove
  • Met his family, HBR 20000
  • We started the habit of him reading to me, first night was tonight
  • Four months, wow time flies
  • Heavy rainfall, his brother came back to Leb
  • He met my colleagues, not sure he was ecstatic!
  • Discussed his career abroad for the first time ever
  • He wrote a list of all his relatives, they’re a clan
  • The day he proposed
  • He got a haircut, I got one too
  • We finished the first book together

I smiled again when I finished skimming through the notes.

 

Keeping memories of nice times is a treasure, regardless of what those memories end up feeling and seeming later on.

My notes are now in the shredder and that phase of my life is over. Hang on to what makes you happy and let go of what makes you otherwise.

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a long time ago

It seems, to me, like a long time ago, but it has been only four years.

I used to go out with a guy – and then eventually had gotten attached to – who blogged. He was a real geek. He knew about almost everything. He was a gamer, an enthusiast, and I learned a lot from his love for the things he really loved. He was a football player, a straight A student, a gamer, a napper, a writer and he had time for me. I was amazed by how much he juggled tasks so easily. I learned later, a year or so after he broke up with me, that he pursued his education abroad. Of all the guys I had gone out with, he was the only one I really admired.

I am the type of person who learns silently from people and doesn’t tell them. I don’t know if humans deserve to be told that you have learned from them, or if it’s just another form of flattery. I emailed him once last year after I was searching in my inbox for a specific email with my CV attached and I landed on a message from him that dated back to 2012. I smiled, and emailed him, as I was saying. I was extremely nice and polite, and he was his usual arrogant self, not that I was surprised or anything…

Quick note: last week my laptop returned to life after two years of a heart attack, which is how I had found a folder under his name on my desktop. I opened it and found things him and I had saved from searches. I also found this, from a blogpost he had written ages ago, saved in a notepad:

“Don’t be afraid to be a fool. Remember, you cannot be both young and wise. Young people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it is the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Because cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world because we are afraid it will hurt us or disappoint us. Cynics always say no. But saying yes begins things. Saying yes is how things grow. Saying yes leads to knowledge. “Yes” is for young people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say yes.”

I figured that he, too, just like I did, made the effort to remind people that they’re special.

I got into the habit of sending out a reminder of that sort to twenty or so of my contacts. Back in October, I figured that since one of Facebook’s main personal functionalities was to help people connect, it was time I reach out to a few of the one thousand plus contacts I have. I wrote a note on a paper, snapped it, and sent the photo to twenty people. I chose five close people, five I haven’t met in person, five ex colleagues and five acquaintances. The best thing on earth was that I received it, two hours later, from a friend as a private message too! I was thrilled that the note served its purpose and went beyond that: it circulated. I wore a smile all day feeling that I really did bridge a gap between me and those twenty people. A week later, I made the same effort with thirty people. Ten of the previous list, five current colleagues, five ex classmates, and ten friends. The sad news – and yes believe it or not there is sad news here – was that seven of those thirty thought I sent it by mistake to them, three who never responded, and another two asked me who I received it from and why I am sending it to them. Twelve out of thirty. It did leave me upset.

I am planning on making this regular, especially that I had received eighteen private messages in 2015 from Facebook contacts saying that they liked my profile. It leaves me feeling nice, no ego boost whatsoever. The purpose of me writing and sharing and making all this effort is that I truly believe I am leaving a mark. That is the only difference I wish to make.