On Womanhood…

What does it mean to be a woman in the 21st century?

Some key themes emerge, including:

  • Independence
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Strength
  • Professional advancement
  • Education
  • Empowerment
  • Girl-power

Wonderful. What about key themes from previous times that continue to play an active role in the definition of womanhood today?

  • Home making
  • Compassion
  • Companionship
  • Motherhood
  • Spiritual devotion

Women are, as nature would have it, highly complex and adaptable beings. They are capable of absolutely anything. Yet, even in this generation that prides itself for its revolutionary admiration of women, society is severely lacking in its approach.

Every woman I’ve spoken to has a story to tell about exclusion, prejudice, judgement, stereotyping, abuse and marginalization. Yes, some of these situations are imposed by men, but this is no longer the global sentiment. More often than not, stories of microaggression are pointing to… other women.

You may have read my previous post On Feminism that addressed this matter. I feel compelled to write about this again after a small incident that occurred yesterday at my local bulk grocery store.

I was at the cash register with my husband, and I walked over to the end of the register to grab our cart of groceries as my husband paid. The cart was full of family oriented products: meat, vegetables, paper towels, shampoo, laundry detergent, etc. The cashier, a woman, pushed the cart towards me with a smirk on her face, then dished out this line: “Oh! Let me just slowly move away from the cash register so that IIIII don’t have to PAY!”

She laughed. At first, I wasn’t really paying attention and just smiled back at her. Then I looked at my husband’s face, and quickly registered what this woman had said to me. He bit his tongue and I bit mine. We don’t owe anyone an explanation about how we run our finances, and we don’t indulge in conflict as we run our errands.

We both walked away from that exchange feeling appalled. He was taken aback, and I was angry. “What is it with other women?” I asked him, “Why do they have to be so cruel? What’s it to her who pays for the groceries? Do her parents split the bill on everything? Do people not understand what family is anymore?”

He pointed out that people who pick faults in strangers typically have an inferiority complex. Fair enough. But that doesn’t excuse the behaviour.

I hear women, every day, insisting that women have the right to freedom. They insist that women have earned the freedom of profession, of faith, of association, of expression, of thought, of choice, and of opinion. Right? Yet, I also see women, every day, judging other women and attempting, typically through microaggressions, to suppress those freedoms.

Feminism is not about preventing men from designing our lives for us. It is about taking ownership of our own lives, and preventing anyone else from designing them for us. Letting other women coerce us into particular trends of behaviour and lifestyle is not feminist.

Moreover, men cannot be left entirely out of the picture, and leaving them out is not feminist either. We have to coexist with them in this world, and barring them from playing any role in our lives is counter productive. A relationship is a give and take, and marriage is a partnership. Anyone who says otherwise is either single or in a failing relationship. No marriage/relationship can succeed between two people who can’t fight the fight together. A family that splits its finances splits its mission, vision, and values. Any professional woman who understands the tenets of successful business knows that such a model would be unviable.

To the cashier, the intricate details of my family life are invisible. All she sees is a handsome man extending a hand to pay for a bill. She doesn’t see how hard he works. She doesn’t see how he pours his sweat, tears, and blood into the soil of our lives, for us to prosper. She also doesn’t see me running from morning to evening between my office and home, working late at my kitchen table after the homemade dinner I whipped up.

Would it be worth explaining it to her? Would it be helpful if she knew that my husband and I are strategic, that every dollar is budgeted, that we don’t walk through life letting things happen to us, and that his paying for the groceries is an intentionally determined process we designed together?

Perhaps. But the real question is, why do women have to explain themselves to other women in the first place?

In just the last week, other women have demanded an explanation from me for:

  • Why I cook so often, “since I work,” as though work and feeding my family are mutually exclusive responsibilities.
  • Why I haven’t had children yet, followed by a lecture about how my time is running out.
  • Why I got married, with the insistence that my marriage is unlikely to succeed because “most marriages fail” (for the record, the divorce rate is raised disproportionately by people who have repetitive divorces).
  • Why I still wear my engagement ring post-wedding, and why I’d even let my husband spend money on a ring despite this being an “archaic tradition”.
  • Why I haven’t hired a housekeeper. Another woman smugly retorted to this conversation with her opinion that women who hire housekeepers are failing women.
  • Why I would spend any money on a wedding.
  • Why I work in my field when I could be making more money in another.
  • Why I’m eating that.

You get the picture.

Women never give women a break and, instead of drawing a line and saying NO when other women take a stab at them, they tend to turn around and indulge in the same behaviours.

Feminism is not only about saying NO to men, it is also about saying NO to other womenNo, I will not allow you to tell me who I should be. No, I won’t allow you to define types of women and categorize me accordingly. No, I will not answer to you, I will not explain myself to you, I am not accountable to you.

Every one of us plays a fundamental role in protecting the freedoms of fellow women. It is our duty, our sisterhood, to raise each other, and to strengthen each other against forces that seek to break our spirit, whether the source of the offence is a man or another woman.

So, what will you do today to make the world a little bit safer for women? I’ve written this post. The cashier who took a stab at me will probably never read it, but so many others will, and maybe it will prepare them for a better response when they, or someone else, faces unnecessary prejudice. This time, my response was silence… next time, it certainly will be louder.

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Abundance…

To help Angelina: https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

We are all so afraid to miss out on our own time and our own money. “I’m too busy,” and “I don’t have anything to give” are two of the prime excuses for not putting ourselves on the line for other people.

93 people read my blog post yesterday. 13 read it this morning. None contributed to helping young Angelina get treatment for Lyme disease.

There are two reasons for this:

  • Either we believe we do not have enough of a secure financial blanket to share… (ex. “I already made my annual donation!” Or “I can’t afford to help other people, I can hardly help myself!”)
  • Or we are indulging in the bystander effect: the idea that we don’t need to help because someone else out there will… (ex. “Someone will surely contribute!” Or “she’s so close to her goal, I’m sure she’ll meet it without my help!”)

Both of these reasons come from a mentality of lack: the fear that what we give away cannot be replaced, and the belief that life is a zero sum game: if one of us has something, the rest cannot have it. This is false.

What if I told you that these ideas have been engrained in all of us by a society that wants to keep us all poor and broken? By conditioning every man to fight for himself, we have all become divided and individualistic, and this makes us weaker and hungrier than ever.

The truth is that this world is designed for abundance. Whatsoever you may give, out of the kindness of your heart, you will receive back two-fold. Don’t believe me? Test the theory for yourself.

Now, when you give a dollar, don’t wait around to get two dollars back (although this often happens, miraculously, like you wouldn’t even believe). Look instead for the moment of heartache or pain where you find unexpected relief… and so you will know you have experienced the universe’s abundance. Look for a spike in good luck and good health, and you will see how quickly the universe has responded.

I’ve written about this so many times before. So many of you reached out, agreeing with me. I am calling on all of you, my friends, to help me generate some abundance today. Help me prove my theory right… Today. Now.

I sign every post with the same words: remember… we design our own luck! The meaning of this statement is sprinkled throughout my last 65 posts. We design our own luck. Meaning: good luck is not random. It is earned. In order to find some, you must generate some for someone else. When we live in fear and lack, all we will find is exactly what we expect to find: more fear, and more lack. When we live in generosity and abundance, we will find exactly what we expect to find: more generosity, and more abundance.

This is the greatest truth of all: no person was ever lucky who did not act in the name of LOVE.

Feeling unlucky? Give a dollar and a kind message. See how your luck turns. (P.S. The GoFundMe tip is optional). https://www.gofundme.com/angiefightslyme

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Love…

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” – Stephen Chbosky.

What is love and where does it come from? Like luck, love is often perceived as a manifestation of random fate. Anyone who grew up with Hollywood (or Bollywood) movies playing in their living room recognizes the socially held notion that love just happens. It is out of our control, and is left completely to the whimsies of Cupid and his arrow.

I won’t deny that there is an element to love that is entirely coincidental. That being said, I don’t believe that coincidences are accidents. They are manifestations of the thoughts and desires that we project to the universe.

“How is that fair?!” my friend argues with me. “Do you want to give me the responsibility for never meeting a half decent guy?”

Yes. I do. We are all at least partially responsible for everything that happens to us. Bear with me.

Nothing is an accident, not even a car accident… our fearful thoughts can manifest in very real ways. Feeling undervalued? When was the last time you gave yourself a pat on the back and thanked yourself? Feeling unwanted? What words did you use this morning when you greeted yourself in the mirror? Are you in an abusive situation? How many times have you been in that situation with the same person, or with different people?

Our lives can be mapped onto very clear and repetitive patterns. If we pay attention, and track our thoughts through writing or recording, we may look back in ten years and realize that the cycle of thought is repeating itself. It is only when we recognize this, and take ownership of it, that we can forge a new path out of the cycle.

I always had a knack for inviting people into my life who had their own severe insecurities, because I felt called to “help them”. These insecurities would very quickly be projected onto me because I was like a sponge, ready to absorb everybody’s pain. Every guy I met seemed to be dealing with some great heartache, and every one was quick to deflect that heartache towards me.

“Why can’t you be more carefree like those other girls?” asked the one who would walk into a room a completely changed man depending on who he expected to meet inside. He couldn’t bear to be unlike others because he couldn’t bear to be unliked.

“Why don’t you lose some weight?” said another who didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone because he was unhappy with the way he looked.

“You’re such a nerd. No wonder your friends are all nerds!” whined the fully grown man-child who was too embarrassed to be seen with thinkers because it only highlighted and confirmed his insecurities about his own intelligence.

“Why are you so conservative?”

“Why don’t you drink more?”

“Why do you need to travel so much?”

“Why do you dress like this?”

“If I were you, I wouldn’t tell them about your belief in God. People will think you can’t think for yourself!”

… because following the status quo of secularism equals thinking for yourself, eh champ?

It took me a very long time to recognize my pattern. All of that time, I thought these people were highlighting flaws in me and wondering what I had done to deserve it… was I made weird, or something? Did I like being a punching bag?

Over time, I began realizing that all of these statements came from men who felt very small. Why they felt small, and whether or not their smallness was warranted, is besides the point. They all used the same strategy to feel better about themselves, and that was through keeping women in check by repetitively verbally crushing them. They believed they were unworthy, and expected to be left behind, so they attempted to cripple people from walking away by instilling the fear in them that they, too, are unlovable.

This type of relationship is a good example of cyclical and repetitive thought manifestation. On the one hand, one party feels unworthy and he keeps attracting partners with strong personalities that cannot easily be “tamed”. On the other hand, the other party feels called to help and heal others, and this extends into her personal life by attracting people who feel “broken” to her. As a result, both people come to painful realizations: 1) You cannot force someone to love you, and inspiring love from others is especially difficult when you do not love yourself; 2) Mending someone else’s heart could require breaking your own.

Around the time I started seeing clearly, I came across a fragment of Rumi’s wisdom. He wrote: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”

I decided to drop the pattern. I know I make it sound easy… because it is easy. The hard part was recognizing that something was wrong. Breaking the cycle is easy when you see it clearly. It was only when I decided that I did not need to “fix” anybody in order to love them, that I met someone who is pretty whole all by himself. This doesn’t mean he doesn’t need me. It just means he doesn’t need me to fill an endless void. As for him, being unafraid of being left behind means that he doesn’t need to break my spirit to keep me around. He’s fairly confident that I’m not going anywhere.

It is 100% true that “we accept the love we think we deserve.” 

Love is a choice. It is a series of actions and decisions. You are at a crossroads every day, and you have to decide what’s next. But, until you know the answer, until you know what you really want, it will feel nearly impossible to find it. Can you find a lost object if you don’t know what it is? No. You wouldn’t know what to look for.

And for those of you who prefer to believe in a little bit of coincidental magic… an Arabic proverb (derived from the Qur’an) affirms the role that fate plays beautifully: “What is meant for you will reach you, even if it is beneath two mountains. What is not meant for you will not reach you, even if it is between your two lips.”

Knowing what we want, and identifying the constraints that prevent us from reaching where we ought to go, removes the obstacles from the path of fate and allows it to do its good work.

Food for thought.

And remember… we design our own luck! 

M.

On Circles…

Nothing in life terrifies me as much as circles. It’s a privileged thing to say, given that much of the world lives in close-range danger. It’s funny, too, given that I am the product of two genocides… one would think that a circle is the safest place to be for someone like me.

Throughout my childhood, every year carried the possibility of absolute change. We could pack up our bags and go at any moment. Amidst this lack of stability and consistency, I would look at my friends and wish for the opportunity to find a circle: somewhere that I would belong, where I could trust that things won’t change so fast.

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On the Pursuit of Happiness…

What makes you happy?

Is it good weather? Time spent with friends? Love? Wealth? A nice house? Travel?

The majority of the world is charging ahead in pursuit of individualistic happiness that we can hardly define. I say “the majority,” because there are still a few cultures out there that seek out the greater good over individualistic happiness. In those places, group survival and success is happiness. Meanwhile, for the rest of us, theories of happiness are typically linked to very personal goals and ideals, and “happy” moments are often celebrated alone.

I’ve been quite dismayed to find myself standing friendless during my hallmark “happy” moments. My family, with its Eastern values, stretched far and wide across the globe to celebrate these moments with me. But my friends, a backyard distance away, didn’t show up when I needed them.

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On Mortality…

Last night, my friends and I were chatting about the impacts of putting certain things on hold in order to accomplish others. Yes, we talk about stuff like that on an odd Sunday. At this stage in our lives, we are dealing with the consequences of decisions we made when we were in our early 20s, and recognizing the vast differences between all the various life paths each of us chose to take.

This is only step 1, if we’re lucky. But, not everyone gets to live through steps 2, 3, 4… and so on.

When thinking about specific things I’ve witnessed people delaying for the sake of others (a family for a job, children for vacation, a home for a hyper expensive but fun rental, a career for backpacking, financial stability for the latest trends, etc), I’m not sure whether it is because we tend to believe that life is short, so we go for the quick and immediate pleasures, or if it is because we actually believe that life is very, very long.

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On Feminism…

The feminist path was the path least trodden for a very long time and, consequently, walking it was arguably a nightmare for the brave women and men who were fighting for gender equality right from the beginning. Today, there is still a significant plight that feminists have to endure internationally, but I think the barriers and obstacles are a little bit different.

For women, one cannot speak of lifestyle design and generating luck without speaking of feminism. For the men who love them, the struggle becomes more and more apparent with time, and it becomes a shared struggle for the sake of that love.

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