It’s against my religion to voluntarily travel to cold weather. I don’t carry winter clothes (except for 1 emergency jacket), to keep my luggage light. Yet here I am, in northern California in December wearing 4 layers of clothes, socks and shoes with my hands cold all the time… and loving it! Catching up with family and friends, having my winter clothes and the holidays celebrations more than make up for the cold weather. It’s surreal to be in my old surroundings yet I feel different. My old life pretty much disappeared; no Keesha, Zuzu or Semsem, no Halanda Studio, no “Mezza and Tapas” (my radio show), no car… it’s as if it was all a figment of my imagination. If it wasn’t for Shawn, the house, friends and pictures, I could easily pretend it was a dream. Yet I have no regrets, longings or any remorse. I lived and loved to the fullest, poured my heart and soul into what made me happy, and continue to do so. In 2016, I felt a lot of pain from my attachment to how things should and shouldn’t be. In the meantime, I learnt to surrender to the seasons of life and I feel peace. When I look back, I’m filled with gratitude, joy and awe at how my life transpired. When I look forward, I feel excitement and anticipation for all the magic that has yet to unfold. I appreciate the present moment, cold hands, 4 layers of clothes and all, for the love and warmth of family and friends! May life continue to unfold in wonderful ways for all of us! Merry Cosmos and Happy No Fear!
I don’t like to lie. It complicates life and kills something beautiful inside me; the comfort and relaxation of just being me. However, there is one super delicious lie that set me and my dad free. It still makes me proud when I think about it. You see, my dad was very religious. He believed that his God would punish him if I, his daughter, didn’t follow suit. Somewhere in his holy books, there is a godly decree that said: “teach your children to pray at 7 years old, and by 10, beat them if they don’t”. In Islam, “pray” is not something you do once a week in church, or even once a day before you go to bed, but 5 times every single friggin’ day. My Dad was a doctor, highly educated, very compassionate and relatively open minded, except for one blind spot called religion. I would be playing with my friends in the street. My dad would come home from work, call me out of the game to ask: did you do your prayer? If I said no, he would ask me to leave my game to go pray. He obviously didn’t know how games worked. We’d argue, sometimes he’d let me finish the game, sometimes not, but it was always very frustrating. One time, I obliged, left the game to pray, by the time I came back, all my friends were gone. As an 8 year old, the message started forming in my mind “God is no fun”. Winters are very cold in Egypt because the houses are not well insulated. We used space heaters and only one of the 2 bathrooms in our house had a butane water heater which was turned on on demand. Typically for showers. Winter evenings were especially torturous because I had to do my ablution with cold water, which left my hands and feet cold for a long time. If I wanted to use the water heater, I would get ridiculed as being a sissy. Besides, God would give me more browny points for using cold water, I was told. Another mental note: “God likes us to suffer”. One cold winter night, I think I was 12 or 13, my Dad came home from work and asked his usual question: “did you pray?”. I was tired of the back and forth, so I said “No. It’s too cold”. He asked me to put my book down, pulled me by the arm to the nearest bathroom, the one without the heater, and said: “do your ablution”. I said: “the water is too cold”. Next thing I know, there was a slap on my face. Mind you, my Dad never beat anyone. It just never happened in my family, never before and never after. That one slip of a slap sealed the deal for me. I went through the motions of praying that night, for the VERY LAST TIME in my life! You see, my logical mind kept churning and came up with the perfect solution: whenever dad asked about praying, there is always only one answer: “yes, I did”. He was hardly ever home, working all the time, and had no way of knowing the truth. That one slap, albeit emotionally very painful, set me free: I never had to leave my friends, interrupt my games or reading, never had to be cold at night and most importantly, never had to disappoint my Dad. I was actually surprised by how easy it was to lie. No shame, no guilt, just pure sweet relief. If obeying God turned my kind compassionate Dad into an aggressive monster, then it’s not worth obeying, I figured. I would often see the surprise on my Dad’s face when he heard my confident “yes”, but he didn’t question it. I think he was so happy to get the “yeses”, that he didn’t argue. Later on, I moved to the USA, freed my inner atheist and lived happily ever after. I didn’t tell my family until 10 years later. But that’s a different story.
Have you ever gotten dirty by choice? I don’t mean the “dirty mind” kind of dirty (even though that’s fun too). I mean the good ole wallow in the mud, slip and slide in the dirt and get your whole body smothered in earth; sand, soil, dust…etc. kind of dirty. Does the thought make you cringe? Or is it a wet dream? In any case, I encourage you to do it. Once you get over your inhibitions and stop hearing your mom’s voice in your head yelling at you, you’ll discover a whole new world of primal instincts taking over. If you can suspend judgement, stop thinking about cleaning up and start feeling the textures on your skin, you’re bound to discover new sensations and horizons you never knew existed. There’s nothing more natural than being in contact with Earth. Unfortunately for us, humans, we’ve diverged so far from our Nature that even the simple pleasure of touching Earth is considered bad and “dirty”. This sad fact, that we’ve distanced ourselves from Nature and all the beautiful healthy pleasures it can offer us, comes at a very high price. Namely, our health. Even worse, our Mother Earth’s health which is a sure step towards our demise. If we were still connected to the natural elements at the source, Earth, water, wind, fire,…etc, if we had allowed them to nourish, heal and protect us, we’d, for sure, have taken much better care of them. Instead, we got so fu¢king arrogant that we polluted, exploited, abused and poisoned the very source that gives us our life. The more “rich” we are, the more we damage nature as if it’s our enemy. Then we charge top dollar for organic food, natural spring water, mud baths, nature reserves…etc. We remove dust and soil from our bodies and living spaces, fill them with toxic chemicals and artificial poison and call it “cleaning”. The (lucky) few who still live in harmony with nature are labeled primitive/poor/old fashioned/dirty…etc. We marginalize them, steal or buy their natural resources, exploit, waste and “pave paradise to put up a parking lot”. Humanity took a seriously wrong turn when dirt became “dirty”. That is, when dirty became a bad word. Can we wake up and save ourselves? Mother Nature is generous and forgiving (to some extent). Unfortunately, because of these exact same qualities, it’s easy to slip into the dangerous slope of exploiting it. “Only when the last tree has died, the last fish been caught and the last stream poisoned, will we realize that we cannot eat money”. Let’s not wait until then.