Thursday, October 24, 2013

A moment when you need to feel free

There are small things in life we wish to do but unfortunately we never had the courage to do them even though they might be costless and take no time. Walking under the rain is one of those things that I had on my wish list since I was a child, but I never dared to do it. I can’t clearly define the reason behind my hesitation. It could be because I am afraid of getting sick or ruining my shoes, jeans or simply my hair. Silly reasons no?

Not a long time ago, I started asking myself why I am not really doing what makes me happy. What is the thing that’s stopping me from enjoying precious moments in my life? And, why am I not being able to remove simple things from my check list? It was then that I decided to start ENJOYING and DOING what I want to do. Unfortunately, walking under the rain was still on the list until last week.

Last Friday, I was visiting Tripoli with a dear friend. The old souk and the castle were one of those to-do things since 2006 and finally, I did it. You can’t imagine how free and happy this made me. It was like seeing the souk and the castle for the first time. Thanks to my friend, I took my time enjoying the walk and contemplating every single detail: The streets, the mosques, the houses, the faces …everything! We were buying Ma'amoul when it started raining heavily and since we didn't have an umbrella, the owner, a sweet old man, invited us to wait in the shop until the rain stops.  Although I wanted to enjoy the rain, I was happy to stay there and have a chance to look at the way the Lebanese sweets were displayed taking back to many of my childhood memories. At the end of our trip, we decided to go to Mina, a must see area in Tripoli. While walking and taking beautiful photos of the sea and the boats, it started raining heavily again. My friend, his brother and I started running seeking a shelter in vain. Laughing like crazy, we kept on running trying to reach a taxi.  

At that moment, I couldn't but be worried. Then, I asked myself, why?
Here’s how I answered this question:  “Soha, It is just happening right now, a thing that you always wanted to do. Why don’t you just enjoy it? It is surely a Gift from God, especially that it was not planned for today. Instead of being worried, you can simply wash your worries away with the rain along with your soaked hair and drowned clothes. What is the worst thing that can happen? Getting down with the flu? Then, it is the easiest problem on earth that can be solved with a warm shower and a hot cup of tea. Let’s just enjoy the RAIN!!”
This internal monologue suddenly changed my laugh and made it deeper and FREE.

I am sure that ruining a happy moment, by worrying instead of simply enjoying, happened to many of you. This is probably because you’re facing lots of problems or maybe you’re worrying about the future. But, every time this happens, you must ask yourself three simple questions:
  • Am I hurting myself?
  • Am I doing anything that can hurt someone else or at least people I love?
  •  Am I doing anything that’s against my values?

If the answer to all of the above is no, then there is no reason to be worried. You have the full and unconditional right to enjoy the moment. Just forget about the problems you’re facing because I am sure they won’t be solved on the spot. Forget about what will happen next, because you don’t know and you can never know what the future holds. Free yourself from everything and ENJOY. As Pearl S. Buck said: “Many people lose the small joys, in hope for the big happiness”.

didn't want to lose the small joys in Tripoli. I walked under the rain laughing like crazy, happy and FREE. I enjoyed it and it was an amazing and unforgettable moment.

I just felt FREE!

Timothy singing freely with his parents


Thursday, October 17, 2013

أهلاً بك أيها العيد

هم ليسوا فقراء ولا أطفال محرومون من ثياب العيد وألعابه. ربما يملكون ما يكفي من المال لشراء ما يريدون و لكن الحزن يملأ قلبهم ليلة العيد.

لا يملك ذلك الشاب، الذي تخفي عيناه البراقتان حزناً ملأ قلبه، من العيد سوى ذكريات طفولة ملأ الصراخ والشجار ليالي أعيادها. لا يذكر أنه حظى يوماً ب "جمعة العيد" حيث تعلو الضحكات في بيت "العيله". كيف هو هذا البيت على أي حال؟
وتلك الفتاة كرهت العيد منذ طفولتها أيضاً. فرغم الثياب الثمينة والنزهات كان هناك دائماً  ما ينقص في العيد، عاطفته. ترى كيف هي تلك الغمرة العميقة؟
وفتاة أخرى لطالما عاشت وحدة العيد. فلا عائلة متماسكة ولا فرح على وجوه أهلها. لم يكن لديها ما يسليها في العيد سوى صديقات تظل تراسلهن منذ اليوم الأول فيأتي الرد موجعاً بعد طول انتظار: "بتعرفي أول يوم عند تيتا وثاني يوم عند خالي. بركي ثالث يوم منعمل شي!!" لم تدرك صديقاتها الاثر الذي كان يتركه ذلك الجواب. ألم الوحدة والإنتظار من جديد.

تعددت الأسباب ولكن النتيجة واحدة: كره للعيد ولياليه وزينته.
منهم من يغلبه الكره فيظل يرافقه لسنوات ومنهم من يتمرد على واقعه فيحتفل بالعيد على طريقته. فتراه في العيد يسرع لزرع البسمة والمحبة أينما استطاع. يضيئ الساحات و يملأ شوارع المدينة بضحكات الأطفال ويوزع حلوى العيد ويزور المستشفيات.
تخرج نشاطاته البعيدة القريبة من واقعه ما في داخله من حزن وذكريات، فتحولها إلى فرح عارم يملأ كل مكان.

هكذا هو، لا ينكسر أمام الوحدة، فيحتفل ويضحك ويرقص ويلعب محولا" "عيدٌ بأية حالٍ عدت يا عيد" إلى "أهلاً بك أيها العيد".










Thursday, October 10, 2013

A story of a survivor

In May 2012, I had the chance to participate in a program called CSR in Action. Participants had to apply Corporate Social Responsibility practices by working in a group of three on a sustainable project that helps the Lebanese community.

I personally worked with 2 other women on a cause that we really believe in: helping people fighting chronic diseases to find a job. Unfortunately, one of the team members left the group one month later due to personal reasons. And, here I am, working on a project, called Forsati, with one partner, a young, friendly, enthusiastic and extremely hard worker lady, Rima.

Forsati’s main mission was to help people with special medical conditions such as thalassemia, hemophilia, multiple sclerosis and others, to find a suitable job opportunity in Lebanon and to be financially and psychologically independent even if they depend on medication. Well, it was definitely a new yet hard to apply idea especially in Lebanon where there isn't a law to protect those people from discrimination while working or searching for a job.

Ever since our first meeting as a group during the workshop, I have been told that Rima is a cancer survivor. She had Leukemia in the past, of which she was cured and is living a very healthy life ever since. I worked with her on Forsati for 6 months. During this period, we were seeing each other every day to work, discuss ideas and assign tasks. We partnered with some corporate institutions and NGOs in Lebanon, we recruited candidates, we organized events and we even created a motivational video about a person suffering from heart disease. Everything we worked on was hard but we were extremely passionate and motivated.

As a marketer, I didn't find difficulties in doing all the activities but discovering the chronic diseases, meeting with the candidates and interviewing them was something unusual and different. Although I was a member in the Lebanese Red Cross, youth section, and I've already worked with lots of unprivileged people, this time it was different because I had to ask our candidates very sensitive and personal questions related to their medical problems and their capacities. In this area, Rima was the expert. She knew what to ask them during the interview. She knew how to approach them and how to address them. In her eyes I could easily see the fact that one day she was feeling what they’re feeling and that was the different part. In addition to the technical terms to some diseases, medicines and kinds of treatments, I was learning from her the skills of interviewing candidates who are suffering and looking for hope. She was just excellent! She was relying on me concerning the marketing which is an easy part compared to what she was doing during the interviews and while matching the vacancies we have with the candidates' profiles and capabilities. At the end, any team can work on the business part with the help of a mentor but no one can easily deal with those people and help them the way she did.

During our last week and while we were preparing our final report, I finally had the courage to ask her about her story. She told me what she went through and how she fought the disease with strength and faith. When she saw tears in my eyes, she tried to reassure me by saying: “Don’t worry, don’t worry, I am fine now. It has been 4 years and I am healthy, my tests results are amazing. I am really happy”. 

Rima's positivity and strength were so inspirational they made me ask myself: If Rima hadn't had cancer one day, would she be able to work on this project the same way? Would she had the same passion while dealing with Forsati candidates? Definitely not.

Forsati didn't win the final prize but it was one of the best projects, and people’s feedback was amazing not only because we worked hard, but because there was a painful story behind it.
I remember in Helen movie where Helen and her friend were suffering from a clinical depression. Helen’s husband asked her about this friend: “What does make her so special?" Helen simply answered: “She doesn't ask me what I feel…she knows”.

One day, Rima knew and felt what Forsati’s candidates were feeling and this was the secret of our success.

Rima is celebrating today her 5th year of winning the cancer’s fight. This post is dedicated to her and to all survivors.






Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Heartbreak

I've been hearing a lot lately about people going through what you may call “post-breakup syndrome”. It’s that special person you deeply loved and spent what seemed like eternity with, built dreams together and planned the future, together as well, that I’m talking about here.

If you are in a post-breakup now, you might feel sad, angry, tired and lonely. You might be suffering from sleepless nights, loss of appetite and low self-esteem. And the hardest symptom is a big pain in your chest. You simply can't breathe. You think it’s the end of your life and you can't see your "tomorrow".

The bad news is that there is no medicine that can cure that pain immediately and make you feel better. But, here are some tips that can help you kill that terrible pain.

Pray: 

No one can fully understand what you are really feeling deep inside except God. So Pray. Ask God to help you handle this and to enlighten your way.  If you want to have a peaceful heart that is free from hate and pain, prayers are the answers. And believe me, God will answer you, sooner or later.

Cry:

Crying is amazing. It's OK to cry. It doesn't mean you are a weak person, not at all. Crying helps you feel better, it helps your eyes and your heart. If you can't cry, try to scream. Go with a good friend to a place where you can do one big scream. WOW! Trust me I've tried it many times when I was suffering from these hard symptoms and it worked like a charm.

Don’t listen to negative people:

You’re probably trying to talk to a friend, your sister, your brother or any other person who’s ready to listen. Usually, some people think they are helping you when they say: “Stop crying, you don’t deserve him/her”, or, “you deserve another guy, a real man”, or, “It’s your fault so now you learned”, or, “I told you he’s not the right one” etc.
Oh My God!! Well, it might be your fault and yes you deserve to be happy but this is the last thing you need to know right now. You will discover all this later and by your own. At this moment, you’re suffering. What you need is a huge hug, a lot of compassion, a sprinkle of positive vibes and a whole lot of cheering.

Keep yourself busy: Hang out, volunteer, exercise

  1. Hang out! When I was going through this, a friend of mine tried to help me by saying: “Soha, please don’t stay alone”. She was totally right. Walking along the sea alone so you can relax is the worst thing you can do. It won’t help. What really helps is to hang out with good, positive and funny friends. Also, meeting new ones and discovering new places are excellent ideas because new things don’t remind you of your past and they might help you know yourself even better.
  2. Volunteer! Helping the community is one of the greatest activities you can do to feel better especially if it’s with kids, elders or poor people. Seeing their problems and what they are going through will make you see your problem much smaller. In addition, the effort you’ll be doing to draw a smile on their face will cheer you up as well. As Booker Washington said: “if you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else”. Don’t forget the new people you will meet and the team work you will be doing that can add value to your life.
  3. Exercise! We all know that sports activities help fight depression. If you don’t have money to go to the gym, you can subscribe to some YouTube channels like Befit and exercise 3 times per week or more. Well, I am not a sports expert but the best advice I can give you here is to undergo a body combat or a kick boxing class. They will make you think like you’re hitting you ex on their face. For sure you won’t do it in real life (you should not do it at all), that’s why those classes are pretty good. 
PS: Kids, don’t do this at home.  
Make your dreams come true:

For me, what happened was a wake-up call. It was like someone slapped me on my face and woke me up to say: “You had dreams. Where are they?”
So I started working on making them come true. I started by the biggest one: my masters’ degree. Although, it was really hard to do it due to my financial situation at that time but I said to myself, no matter what I will do it and NOW. So I took a loan and did it. I made it come true and made other smaller dreams come true as well like travelling, attending the concert of my favorite singer and many others.
Achieving dreams and success is the biggest retaliation you might be seeking right now. So think about yourself again, think about your dreams and do things that will really make you a happier, deeper and more successful person. Do things that will make you extremely proud of yourself.

Use the above tips or do whatever you want to do to get rid of that pain but don’t do anything that might hurt you or make you lose your dignity. Remember that what’s happening now is temporary and you’ll be surprised how it will change by time, maybe slowly, but it will change.
I want to wrap this post up by an amazing quote by Regina Brett that I love: Time heals almost everything, give time time”. Once you do, you will suddenly discover a new you: a stronger and wiser person.