July 2: Where I resurface

It has been a while since I wrote my last post. I have juggled relief that I no longer felt the need to write with wishing I had something to say. After my last post, I was certain that I had unpacked the bulk of  my thoughts that I had buried for years, decades even. Instead of writing for therapy and expression, I found happiness and adventure in exploring a possible artistic side. And by artistic side, I mean do-it-yourself projects.

My enthusiasm for creativity was encouraged by an article that I had skimmed; the article promised that even for the less artistic, artistic expression was a useful therapy. I understood this to mean that even if I was horrible, it would still be good for me – and I found this to be true. I also learned that my creative spirit was very much alive and wanting of attention.

A few months after moving into my new apartment, I purchased an antique french dresser. For weeks, I debated painting the dresser. It was a gorgeous statement piece. I was afraid that my novice hands coupled with untested creativity would destroy its beauty permanently. I researched various paints and I eventually settled for chalk paint. Painting was therapeutic; I don’t know if it was because my hands enjoyed the unfamiliarity of a new tool or if it was the waltz of the paint stroke, but it was a process I enjoyed thoroughly. The outcome exceeded my expectations. I made a point to share the rebirth of my dresser with anyone willing to wait, as I scrolled excitedly through my camera roll.

In the absence of writing, I have read a lot. At the beginning of the year, I committed to reading one book per month. This went well for a month. But instead of wailing in my failure, I allowed myself to explore other options and I binged on online articles. I liked the variety, and the fact that I did not have to commit to an author. In many ways, this freedom mimicked my new dating life. I had tumbled out of a long term, long distance relationship, with a new found appreciation for commitment, interestingly enough. I went on a several dates. This experience is what gave birth to my last post, A Letter to my Imaginary Daughter: Love What you Wear.

I have a history of prematurely committing to people. I don’t believe this was out of desperation but rather a firm belief that God would put people into my life for a reason. The lesson for me wasn’t in scrubbing myself of this belief, rather, it was in understanding that just as He would give, He would take away. It was up to me to identify the lesson and move on. Humorously, where that relationship is concerned, I am not confident of the lesson or maybe I am still expecting it to be something more complicated. At the very least, I learned that I, too often, commit too quickly and many times, to the wrong person.

So  with dating, I kept a very opened mind. I went in with curiosity about people’s motivations and fluctuations. I also refined my preferences for a partner. I relied more on what the person was showing me with their words and actions, and less on my mental creations. I gave more points to someone for whom I did not have to self-revolutionize-even if it was to my benefit. Someone who kept me laughing earned many brownie points. I assigned a lot of weight to emotional intelligence.

To end, I have picked up a new book. I think it is the book that brought me back here. The authors writes with an elegance I have never come across. He is both passionate and technical. He writes as doctor and patient with lung cancer.

When Breath becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi







The Trouble(?) with Gratitude

As has become habit, DearLilyJune, wrote something that made me think.

In her post she referenced a NY Times article (link), “The Selfish Side of Gratitude” by Barbara Ehrenreich. Ehrenreich’s view is that we practice gratitude in a way the self-elevates and rarely involves communication or interaction of any kind.

“All you have to do is generate, within yourself, the good feelings associated with gratitude, and then bask in its warm, comforting glow”. I have not read several self-help, self-love books, but I have read a couple. These books have encouraged me to acknowledge the good things that have happened to me and write, or state, the things I am grateful for. I have never been coached to interact or communicate directly with the donor.

I can, for example, meditate on how grateful I am that my parents insured I received first-class education without ever communicating this to my parents. Yet, because I have acknowledged it to myself, I am showing gratitude without having ever showed it. And because I have done this, I am allowed to feel better about myself because I can say that, yes, I am a grateful person. Ehrenreich is saying that practices of gratitude can be more internal than external–agreed, they can be.

I do take issue with her comment, “Saying grace to an abstract God is an evasion, there are crowds, whole communities of actual people, many of them with aching backs and tenuous finances, who made the meal possible”.

Saying grace before a meal is not practice I follow unless I am sharing a meal with someone who does practice thanksgiving. “Thanking God is an evasion” is a comment that is authored on a misunderstanding of a key attribute of God; He is omni-everything. He has made all things possible. For a believer, these events made possible through farmers, communities, etc, are all also made possible by God–to thank God is to thank them.

And for the purposes of practicality, how long of prayer would it be if we went down the list of people (and animals!) who make meals possible? Her ‘complaint’ seems naive. Imagine a family who says grace before a meal but the mother, who cooked the meal says, “uhh, aren’t you going to thank me too?” Joel Osteen would argue that it is through God that the mother was able to cook the scrumptious meal.

The next point is when Ehrenreich says, “The real challenge of gratitude lies in figuring out how to express our debt to them, whether through generous tips or say, by supporting their demands for decent pay and better working conditions”. I completely agree with the last two points, those are concrete ways of communicating external gratitude. But, generous tips? I probably wouldn’t have flagged this in my thought process if Ehrenreich had not also raised the issue of money when she criticizes the Greater Good Science Center for not funding “projects to directly improve the lives of poor individuals but [has] spent a great deal […] to improve their attitudes”.

I struggle to articulate my thoughts on this but to suggest that we express our debt via generous tips seems conflicting, and again, someone could argue condescending. A generous tip can express gratitude but an individual could also interpret a generous tip as pity. Her suggestion also assumes that generous tips are universally accepted as a shows of gratitude rather than, for example, not being on the phone during an order, or not being rude or demeaning to a waiter or waitress.

As I said, I do appreciate the context around Ehrenreich points. When practicing gratitude is an only an act between you and yourself,  are you really practicing gratitude? But! If you can’t practice gratitude internally, how do you practice it externally? If I can’t acknowledge that you have done something good, can I express it to someone else?

Just like love, I think gratitude starts with oneself.

The Trouble with Words (Part III)


The trouble with words is that they have meaning and consequence. Joel Osteen, in the ‘Power of I Am’ discusses the power of what we say and the words we choose. He talks about what God brought to fruition by speaking, “Let there be light” -and there it was. Osteen says that we have this same power and I find myself understanding him today.

Words have a ying yang element. We can use our words to speak beauty into existence, or we can use our words to summon pain and evil. Words matter. With this power literally at the tip of our tongues, we make many mistakes.

Have you ever responded to a text message, been reminded of your words at a later time but then you have absolutely no recollection? You scroll back and there it is; your words, your craft. Did I really say that? Yes, you did. Did I really mean that? Maybe. Is that what I wanted to say? I’m not sure now.

True; the demands around us are too great to workshop every sentence. But are the demands so great that we cannot be more conscious and careful?

Ephesians 4:29 : Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your moths, but only what is  helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Ephesians Chapter 4 is not really about how we speak to each other – not directly anyway. Rather, it’s about unity and maturity. It calls on us to be humble (4:2), make every effort to keep unity (4:3) and promises that by speaking truth in love, we will grow to become in every aspect the mature body of Christ (4:15).

Our words are grammatical structures that build, rebuild, or destroy with each utterance. With our words, we can bring each other up, or we can assure our downfall. I think its important to understand we can’t separate ourselves from our actions. The relationship   between who we are and what is we say is direct. Put differently, with my words, I cannot raise you without also elevating myself; I cannot demote you without lowering myself.

If you read, even glance at texts (readings) from centuries past, possibly even earlier, there is a precision to language that I feel is becoming rare. That precision, I am thinking, is a reflection of an acute appreciation for language and it’s power.

I was in a situation early this morning where I wished the person speaking to me could see the damage they were causing. I wished that they could see how their words unraveled me. I also wished that I had not given them the power to do so. I had been courageous enough, at their request, to show vulnerability and so I did. But in doing so, I am empowered them, and because of their words,  I am questioning whether I want to share that level of vulnerability with anyone ever again.



To summarize

I am employed folks! On Monday, I’ll be heading towards the NY Department of Education to work as an Analyst.

A few of my posts covered my struggles with unemployment, as well as my serious misstep of associating a temporary situation with my identity.

I spent Christmas and New Year’s in Ghana with my family. My decision to go to Ghana was somewhat abrupt. Truth be told, I went because I missed my boyfriend and I was concerned about what continued distance would do to our relationship.  When my dad asked me to clarify why I would spend my money on an expensive ticket when I had just recently started working part time, he answered his own question, Addison*. I am lucky to enjoy a close bond with my father so I was happy he knew the answer. I was even more relived that he did not question my decision or belittle my feelings, “Ok, so you’ll be here for Christmas then. That will be nice”, my father said. I went with the hopes of getting clarity on my relationship. I did and didn’t get clarity, but I also got something else –and maybe I’ll discuss it in a future post.
I am back in New York, I’ve secured a lovely apartment in the heart of Brooklyn or maybe an artery leading to the heart of Brooklyn. Either way, I am happy to finally have my own safe space again. My new space has come with soft reminders of loneliness but I confident that as I make the space feel more like home, it will feel like exactly that.

I am looking forward to writing more posts. I am curious to see how my new situation and environment will affect my writing.

Joel Osteen says God won’t give you a blessing you aren’t ready for — I am ready !

*Actually, my boyfriend’s name is not Addison but I think it’s a nice name for a boy. 

A place to be tried & tested

*I wrote this post before my trip to Ghana  on December 21. For one reason or another, I have been writing without posting. This is an effort to break the silence.

In less than a week, I will return to Ghana. For many reasons, this visit will assess and test the growth I have made since my first blog.

My first post explored the Ghanaian word obolo– meaning fat. My next blog post explored the word oboroni-white. I have no doubts that I will be referred as either many times during my short, 3-week stay.  I have been accustomed to hearing these words. But I am hoping my reactions, if any, will be different. I haven’t suddenly acquired a new race(still not white !) and I am still waiting for my body to respond to a drastic change in eating habits and a gym membership.

I’ve written about a few dark experiences, I’ve explored the various ways in which these events have affected and shaped me, I’ve stated that my prior inability (not unwillingness) to trust had eroded a couple of my most important relationships.

For a couple of months, perhaps exactly since October 31st, the voices in my mind that energize and spark my anxiety, have been very quiet. When the anxious chorus crescendos, with the full agency I now have over my thoughts and feelings, I am immediately able to reverse the dial. In Ghana, I will be temporarily united with my boyfriend    of almost three years. Have I fully released the habits that were influenced by an acute distrust of his feelings and actions? Can I listen to what he says and not fill in conversational gaps with worst possible scenarios ? Will I be able to ask clarifying questions calmly and rationally ? Has the effort I have put into being the best version of myself  for myself and inevitably our relationship, been matched ?

I’m looking forward to being in Ghana during Christmas. This will be my second visit to Ghana during this time. My first Christmas in Ghana was due to my family leaving Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. I really only recall the ‘fleeing a war’ part so I’m looking forward to creating new memories.

Social media triggers: God, feminism & bible thumpers

In a recent conversation with my father, I shared that I “wanted more control in my relationship”. My daddy responded that as woman, I would not have a happy relationship if I was in control and that to have a happy relationship, I would have to submit to my husband.

Before all your red flags go up, my father is a 73 year old two-time ivy leaguer who has overcome tremendous adversity, and in doing so, has ensured none of his children would experience the hardships he did. I have a lot of respect for my father (my parents).

I wasn’t offended by his comment, firstly because he either misunderstood my desire or I failed to adequately express it. “I want to be in control in my relationship”. I do not want the status of my relationship to be subject to the tides of my emotions. I want to place my relationship on a pedestal not a merry-go-round, and to the extent that I can control this, achieve stability, I would very much like that. We would very much like that.

I didn’t think about my father’s comment again. After his response, I offered more details as to what I meant, and our conversation took a different turn. But I found myself reflecting on his comments  later on when I was doing a google search on variants of the question what does the bible say about x, y, z? 

Why should I be subject to my husband? And if I were, how would if affect (or not) my identity as a feminist? It’s amazing how much confusion surrounds this word, it embodies such an elegantly simple concept. There are more serious definitions, but I found Urban Dictionary’s definition to be humorous in the sense that it sheds light on the strange misconceptions and stereotypes related to being feminist : Someone who believes the radical notion that women are people. If you believe that women and men should have equal rights, you are a feminist.

Before  I continue, I must begin with a warning and if necessary, an apology, as I have only recently wondered about the contents of the bible. Well, I don’t think I’m given myself enough credit; let’s try again. I have recently decided to be responsible for ‘finding the light’ instead of being disappointed in someone else’s inability to find it for me. If I misinterpret this, please accept me as a novice, and find a way to correct me without being discouraging.

So, I was doing my search. I stumbled upon 1 Timothy 2 11:14 :

11 A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

When I read this, I smiled, so this is where they get it from. I was enjoying my random searches till now. But something said to me, read on.

If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer[a] must be above reproach, the husband of one wife,[b] sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

If my dad had said, “don’t submit to a man who does not himself submit to God” I don’t think I would have thought anything of it. I would have easily agreed–without hesitation or thought. And i think this is what he meant because my parents didn’t raise me to blindly submit, if at all.

Let’s see if I can work this out: If God created me as an individual, and if He wants me to hold myself in the highest regard, respect myself, walk with my head high ( …and maybe also adorn myself in respectable apparel, with modesty, and not with braided hair and gold or pears)…and if my husband himself is above reproach, self-controlled, respectable, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, managed his household well…would it be such a horrible thing to submit to him? Could my submission to my husband be an extension of my submission to God? Would this not be similar to the Transitive Property of Equality we learn in 3rd grade?

If my husband submits to God and I submit to God, isn’t that submission to my husband by way of God? And I don’t even think that there needs to be any explicit statement of my husband submitting me, because firstly, I think it’s divinely implied, secondly he would be submitting to a far greater power–a power that has plans to prosper me, and not harm me, plans to give me hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).

It doesn’t sound nearly as uncomfortable this way. If I think of all the things that made me uncomfortable about “submitting to a man”, if my husband and I both submit to God , then I think my concerns are removed. My husband wouldn’t speak ill of me, he would respect me, he wouldn’t strike me, he would firmly believe that I am God’s masterpiece, and he would  be blessed to be able to treasure me even half as much as God.

Did I do it right?