The Snowball Metaphor

*Dedicated to anyone who needs this reminder as much as I do.

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Ever feel like there’s a giant snowball rolling uncontrollably behind you,

growing bigger and gaining momentum & speed the faster you run away from it? You’re afraid to pause, to catch your breath, to do something spontaneous that you enjoy, because you know what will happen then! You assume (like most people) that if you halt momentarily, that angry snowball will collide into you with such force that you will be crushed– or at the very least, it will swallow you up and lose you in it, all the meanwhile getting larger and more chaotic. You assure yourself that it’s only a matter of time before spring is here and the snowball will melt. Eventually anyways.

But it doesn’t. Whether it be winter, spring, summer or winter, it stays stubbornly round and frozen, consuming your energy and health, while you continue to jump over obstacles and hurdles in an attempt to get away from it. It seems that the faster you run, the more persistent the snowball becomes. It finally consumes you, destroys you, just like you earlier predicted… except it did so while you were trying to escape it.

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Do you know why the snowball-monster never melted? Do you know why you were never allowed to take a break?

Because you never deliberately make the time for it.

(What’s that, you don’t ‘have’ time? Nope, excuse doesn’t work. Been there, done that.)

Has the possibility ever crossed your mind that maybe, just perhaps, however incredulously– but just humor me here!– has it ever crossed your mind that if you paused for a bit, took a bit of deep breaths, stretched a bit, laughed a bit, prayed a bit, ate a bit, worked a lot, ate some more, stretched some more, prayed some more, worked much more, and on and on– have you ever considered the possibility that perhaps, if you ignore the snowball and continue living at a steady, walking pace, you might actually get things done efficiently?

Won’t the snowball collide into me? You wonder in wonder. Won’t I be forever lost in the coldness and darkness of it all?

No, you won’t. I assure you, you will be fine. 🙂 You see, that snowball is the metaphor of your thoughts. It doesn’t actually exist. Its fictitious appearance has a sole function– to chase you. The moment you stop running, it will merely pose near you, waiting for you to start panicking and running full-blast again. It’s a sick game it likes to play with your mind– just like your thoughts sometimes mess with you. But if you merely continue taking things one step, one day, one hour, one minute at a time– eventually you will amaze yourself at how much you accomplish! And the whole meanwhile, that bored snowball is melting.

Yet you still don’t acknowledge it. Melt, melt, melt! You can’t afford to have mercy on the snowball. That snowball is symbolically hinting to you that you should work from dawn until dusk with no breaks, because you can’t afford any. You should be one of the many unfortunate billions of people who exist, but don’t truly live.

No, you don’t need a break to pray, He’ll understand, Mr.Snowball says– for I will crush you if you stop doing whatever it is you must urgently be doing.
No, you can’t spare five minutes to call up your mother and make her day, she knows how busy you are– for I will crush you.
No, you shouldn’t take up any kinds of sports, or do any kind of art for fun, or relax at all, for academics are too important, it says. Besides, I will crush you.

But you decide you absolutely MUST ignore his words, for you acknowledge he’s only a figment of your imagination after all. He will slowly disintegrate until he’s a harmless puddle of water.

Image“I’ve had thousands of problems in my life, most of which never actually happened.”

(Mark Twain)

Moral of the story? Take things one step at a time. Don’t start running, thinking you will get to your destination faster. If you must run, take breathers along the way: take those yoga classes, have discussions with friends over coffee, read books, eat good food, make new friends, try new things, be more courageous…

Above all, transcend from merely remembering yourself and remember your Lord often, especially when you ‘don’t have enough time’. Even if that’s as simple as taking a moment in your hurried walk to smell a flower and glorify the Creator through His creation…

Just keep living with purpose. Make the moments count, and not the counting make your moments.

RABBIT

~And Allah knows Best.

-A.S.

My Superhero Has An Incredible Work Ethic

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Dedicated to the most precious person to me immediately after my (mother, my mother, my mother): my father.
~

I remember on the first day of my final internship, I had a meeting with my supervisor for the first time. After finding out that I’d come in earlier in the week to inquire about the content to be taught and I’d already begun planning the lesson plans before the internship actually started– she told me this one statement that she kept repeating every time she saw me for an evaluation, and even included it in my reference letter. She said I had something called


“Incredible work ethic”

I guess it makes sense, since the only contexts she’s ever seen me in are at my most productive and highest-energy-peak ones. I know the dark side of procrastination, though, so this statement pinched me with guilt, and still does. It kept (and still keeps) me trying harder to actually attain “an incredible work ethic”.

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There are wonderful people, however, (superheros I like to call them), who have this; who have such an incredible work ethic and don’t know it; or if they do, don’t stop working so hard even with the acknowledgement that they should give themselves a break.

My mother is the first person who comes to mind, naturally. Another person is him:

He is strong as a lion, gentle as a gazelle
Works hard and long all day,
I’m sure he gets bored,
Yet never has something negative to say
No matter how tired he is,
He will come home with a smile,
Usually bringing yummy treats,
And ready to joke in the meanwhile
He will go out of his way to make sure
Everyone around him is as comfortable as can be
For instance when my friend stays over past 11 PM
He won’t allow the bus and drive her home with me
No matter how early I wake up, he’s already awake
He does not use his weekends to relax
He uses it to work around the house,
Freshening up the interior appearance to the max
He has talents no other chemical engineer claims
Somehow he knows sewing machines, making curtains,
Building balconies, flooring, and trust me, much more remains!
Although we may not agree on everything,
I surely can and do tell him everything
He knows my academic frustrations, my hopes, my dreams,
We discuss politics, religions, and topics serene   
Heck, I won’t care if he’s in the same room
While I pour my heartaches to my mom
Until we ask for his opinion, to give his input
Does he leap in with wisdom so calm
Boring as it might be looking after finances,
And tired as he is after work,
He will make the effort and time,
To find ways to give us a perk
Got a driving test coming up?
He’ll give driving lessons to you
Feel like singing with your off-key voice in the car?
He’ll smile and allow that, too
With all the patience of a man that has nothing better to do…
He is strong as a lion, gentle as a gazelle,
He is my role model,
My protector,
My friend,
My advisor,
My teacher,
My superhero,
And ultimately,
He is my father.


‘Love’ is too meek of a word, I think… or has become so, due to its being used all too often even when describing food. I feel much more than love towards him. There is also that overwhelming sense of gratitude that keeps me feeling guilty because I know I’m not expressing it properly…   

With regards to patience and incredible work ethic,

he is my ‘ayah’ (sign).

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-A.S.

My Problem with Facebook

Dedicated to two beautiful sisters of mine whom I want to let know how much I really appreciate our friendship:
*Sara, who always understands what I’m saying even when I’m not saying it understandably to my own ears.
*Sirine, who for the past 10 years that I’ve known her, has this knack of saying a tiny phrase that gets you thinking for hours! (So much so that here I am, writing a blog post about it)
 3 benches

On January 1, 2012, I quit Facebook “for good”.

Eleven months later (what do you know!)… I’m back on.

A lot of people prefer flattery over honesty, and I suppose in some cases a white lie is called for. The reason, I think, that brutal honesty is not favorable with many people is because it is often a blow to the person’s ego, or they automatically assume that the critique himself is arrogant and hence giving his personal and uncalled-for opinion.

But when you know someone well enough to know that, without a doubt, they love you for the sake of Allah, and you are on good terms with this person and have no reason to suspect they want the worst for you, a comment that would’ve enraged you from a stranger is taken as a tasteful spoon of food for thought from them instead. This is the missing link from feedback-givers and receivers, why so many people feel like the world is out to get them– there isn’t a meaningful bond of respect, friendship or even trust among the two individuals. Of course a negative criticism by a stranger will be seen as an attack, regardless of the real intention behind it– what else would it be? Generally speaking, anyways.

Thankfully I have close relationships with people who mean well and I know it. Sometimes, just as things get lost in translation from one language to another, so can things get lost in translation through use of tone or misinterpreted facial expressions. Which is why giving the benefit of the doubt is crucial in any relationship.

I am very thankful to God that I have friends that I like so much I don’t even have to give the benefit of the doubt to, because they don’t need it. I already know they have hearts of gold, there is no doubt about that.

A dear friend of mine (who was never enthusiastic about Facebook’s existence 😉 ) , recently joked around with me that I had “weakened” to come back on the social network.

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Let me make something clear before I mention my reaction: all I’ve been getting since coming back to Facebook is congratulations left and right; actually, it sort of felt like a success in some way. This is actually really ironic because to me, success would’ve meant sticking with my goal of never logging in again– and in less than a year, my resolve broke. Although said in a very subtle and humorous way, Sirine was still the first person to call my return to Facebook, as I was thinking to myself the whole time, not a success– but a failure.

My first mental instinct was to get defensive, and to declare that I had my good reasons, and anyways it wasn’t anyone’s business, and I did nothing wrong, and so what even if it was, and yadi yadi yada (you know that annoying devilish voice in your head that is always quick to react!) But I quickly reminded myself that she wasn’t offending me–  she wasn’t accusing me of anything– she was merely making a statement and teasing me. But it was honest. It’s her honesty that I’ve long admired and respected because so few people are comfortable or know you enough to be honest with you like that. (You need that one person who knocks sense into you sometimes, and Sirine is the perfect person for that, even when she doesn’t know she’s doing it.)

So instead I just shrugged, smiled, and said, “I confess I am a human being and I weaken. My weakness is books. If there wasn’t a closed group on FB for a book club, I would not have returned.”

So I don’t really regret being back on Facebook. In fact, I would’ve instead regretted stressing out on my science courses in my last year with no Purification of the Heart and Life of Pi and Autobiography of Malcolm X discussions to brighten my days. Additionally, now there’s a Facebook group for the basketball girls’ teams, and it’s a really good thing I’m back on or I’d be confused when we’re meeting and when practices would be!

So I don’t regret being back on Facebook. But after her comment (which I’m sure she did not see a blog post resulting from it) I did begin to ponder on the reasons I left it in the first place. And a good thing I did, or I might have fallen into the same traps again. So why did I leave Facebook? There were, oh, so many reasons, but the two main ones were 1) waste of time and 2) uncertainty in intentions.

TIME

I was always running out of it. Time flies by so fast on Facebook. And yet I wasn’t the type to post up every photo of every dish I ate, nor did I keep updating my statuses about the toothpaste I used, the number of snowflakes falling outside and what time it was [okay, slightly exaggerating]. On the contrary; I used Facebook as a source of enlightenment, as a place to post up inspiring quotes and heartwarming pictures and relevant articles, to share my interests and joys with like-minded people.

… Which was the problem itself.

Now don’t get me wrong; I do NOT think posting up quotes and pictures is wrong. I still do it from time to time, and I like people’s statuses, and I comment on people’s pictures. They’re not crimes.

The problem wasn’t with the principle, it was with me. Did I say time flies by on Facebook? No, scratch that– in my case, time flies so fast for Facebook’s sake. I was uploading a minimum of one stunning image off Google with a matching inspiring quote on a daily basis, or finding an incredible video off Youtube to share with the world. Why? Because I almost felt like I had a responsibility to. People kept sharing them, I got so many likes and comments and positive feedback that I almost felt like I was fulfilling people’s needs. [The way your ego tries to make you feel good about yourself…]

(Aw, ain't this cute?)

(Aw, ain’t this cute?)

I often got asked where I got my pictures from, which websites, where did I get the quotes, and I received inbox messages from stranger-like-friends-of-hi-and-bye-convos to tell me “oh Aya, you’re such a wise person mashaAllah”–

Excuse me, excuse me. “Wise person”?! I was copying and pasting words. Downloading and uploading JPEGs. It is an effortless act the ignorant can do. The only criteria required is a keyboard.

Despite the simplicity of it, however, it was extremely time-consuming. It can take one five minutes to share a quick worthless quote, but it can take an hour to, for example, look up a quote that is really meaningful to me and that I think can be meaningful to other people, and yet another hour to find a picture off Google that sort of applies to the quote and that is heart-meltingly glorious to look at.

INTENTIONS

It later made me highly uncomfortable that I was spending so much time thinking about enlightening others that I was neglecting to use all this free time to enlighten myself. What happened to books? I love reading, but never had “time” for it. What happened to exercising on a daily basis? I love jogging, but there wasn’t any “time” for it. What did I have time for? What everyone always has time for: Putting up so much stuff on Facebook it looked like I’d swallowed a library’s worth of books to start with. And instead of showing my gratitude to God for my health by getting healthier, I just took my good health for granted and decided sitting for hours in front of a screen wasn’t so bad. But as 2011 drew to a close, I asked myself, what’s the point of sharing a bunch of advice that you don’t apply consistently? What’s the point of seeming smart and intelligent when you know you’re really not any wiser than the person you’re ‘teaching’? I do recall I was reminding ‘myself’ first and foremost, but really, was that all? (I mean, I already have a diary for that.)

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Furthermore, to my embarrassment [and possibly yours if you dare to admit it], there was something oddly satisfying with that red notification number at the top of the page. Maybe because it’s red and that’s my favorite color (maybe)… but the sense of pleasure, that tiny thrill of yes! I got every time I saw the red bubble appear, makes me sick now. Not the number itself– just the effect it would have on me. (What drug was I on, the ‘notifications’ drug?) Gosh. Glad I’ve set my priorities relatively more straight now.

I’m sure there’s a lot of weird thoughts being expressed in this blog post, and I know it’s bizarre, and possibly ludicrous. It’s past midnight right now as I write this, so you can’t blame me. If I shared this on Facebook, I probably wouldn’t get many likes. If I shared it on Twitter, I probably wouldn’t get many re-tweets. Hence the magical world of blogging was discovered, where receiving notifications or compliments or even any attention is not, was never the purpose at all, but just reminding myself of where I’ve been to keep focus of where I’m going is.

 I am glad I left Facebook for those eleven months
because I would never have searched for a way to fill the void in me that wants to express, express, express, even when the expressing makes no sense.
I would never have miraculously been able to devote two hours a week minimum for exercise.
I would never have suddenly had enough time to read books on top of the education course readings I was doing.
As a result, I would never have been able to give a 2-week crash course “7 Habits of Highly Effective Teenagers” during my last internship to my grade eleven students who claimed it was one of the most useful things they’d learned in high school because it was relevant.
I would never have appreciated the sincerity and bonding that results from truly meaningful emails between me and dear friends.
I would never have been– well, need I say more? I think I’ve said enough.

Basically:

I would never have properly realized that living life was so much more refreshing than merely stalking everyone else’s online.

In a nutshell:

  • Twitter takes care of my obsessive need to quote everything I hear and read.
  • Facebook takes care of basic communication. There may well come a day that I will deactivate for good once more– when university book clubs and girls’ basketball teams are a thing of the past.
  • Emailing takes care of nurturing my relationship with people who really matter to me, when I can’t see them in person, that is. There is a sort of purity, increased honesty, and depth to emails hidden from the world except to the people exchanging them… as opposed to a message on your Facebook wall that can be seen by 500 others. (Then again, maybe I’m just old-fashioned.)
  • And last but not last, blogging takes care of me.

surreal winter

I’m not sure how to end this post; I’m so bad with goodbyes. Perhaps I can end it all with a laugh on your part. Here is a hilarious 5-minute episode of Bath Bayakha (in Arabic only) that is centered around Facebook. The episode is called “Face Abook”:

Have a fulfilling lively day! 🙂
-A.S.
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Live The Question

Live The Question

“I beg you, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” (Rainer Rilke)

Poetic Riddle: Titleless

~

First blog post of 2013. Does time ever fly. May 2013 bring us all more relief, tranquility, happiness, love, success, trials we overcome triumphantly, and all the good stuff in life that make us better people. (Amen!)

So this poem was written a couple of days ago. Normally I give my poems a title, which is the logical thing to give any piece of writing– but the title of this riddle would have to be the answer to the riddle itself. And is it reasonable to give the answer before the question is even asked?

(I don’t think so.)

So you’ll have to bear with me that for now, the title is Titleless. I really am looking for a title, though, and a subtle-doesn’t-give-the-answer type, so if you have any ideas in that magnificent mind of yours, do let me know. 🙂

And here we go:

“Titleless”

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When you seek me, I’m not there
When you wish me gone, I’m everywhere
I am weightless but surprisingly quite measurable
I am promising, alluring, yet may be ironically regrettable
I am stronger than a tsunami in the sense I am unstoppable
Yet weaker than a memory for I am unretreivable
I’m symbolized by the swift, gentle trickling of sand
I am a reason the four seasons dress up the land.

I exist, and yet I’ve never been alive
For how can I live if I can never die?
I am invisible, colorless, soundless and yet undeniable
You think I’m yours truly but I’m not that reliable
I am the secret ingredient to the tasteful perception
Of a half-full or half-empty cup discussion
To visually imagine me, allow me to further explain:
Consider your life a photograph; then I am its frame.

I am given many names
And might be treated like a game
You try compartmentalizing me into perfectly neat blocks
As if I’m really as predictable as the ticking of a clock
I am often undervalued and misused
Worth no monetary value and hence abused
Yet I am worth much, much more, if you but only knew
Then perhaps you might change the way of the things you do.


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Use me wisely, and you shall be blessed
Use me ignorantly, and it is to your distress
It’s easier said than done, ‘tis true
I speak to the riddler before speaking to you
You’ve probably realized that this riddle rhymes
So likely you’ll guess the answer in the last line
Now who am I, in this rhyme?
It is I, and I am …

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Time.

~ May peace be upon you,

-A.S.