BLOOD ON OUR HANDS

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Blood on our hands

Extremists and The Internet

Every single one of us.

We are a generation of Google. A generation with the convenience of political history, geography and global history at our fingertips.

We are a generation of Youtube. A generation that can see with ease and without restriction in most cases a window to the rest of the world’s pain, perspective, starvation and misery.

We are a generation of Facebook. A generation that can send messages and connect with global audiences and persuade the change of social norms in a matter of seconds.

We are a generation of Twitter. A generation that can take two seconds to write a statement comprised of 5 words and bring attention to change makers without ever having any connection to them.

We are a generation of the smartphone, the notebook, the ipad, a generation of couch political pundit convenience.

 AND

This is what we did in the last few months.

We helped the Internet to discuss its attempt to temporarily break while we consumed the exploitation of female assets through the ambition of a reality star.

We contributed to e-commerce shopping sites to crash on Black Friday.

We helped people retain their celebrity status by watching videos with no substance – 20 million views in 2 days.

We made shows that show us gore, conflict and fictional mythical warfare global hits by watching them again and again and again.

We had tailgates, super bowl parties, tuned in every Sunday, Monday and Thursday – did our lineups and hid in fantasies.

We threw more parties, decorated more cakes, saw more movies, consumed beyond gluttony and changed the channel when we saw something uncomfortable.

BUT

Moderation is the key to joy. So what if we enjoy the unnecessary, the insignificant sometimes?

No problem at all,

BUT

We are not moderates.

We are extremists – in everything.

We spend minutes, hours, days consuming information that does not better ourselves or humanity.

SO

We tolerated the manifestation of institutionalized racism and, changed the channel.

We witnessed the choking of Garner, the police actions in Ferguson – but they were no match for the number of views compared to pop culture.

We watched and shared pictures of Gaza, Syria and effected little to no change on foreign policy.

We saw the news on gun shootings of innocent children – and we never had a national conversation on how damaged these individuals were and that they came from “normal” neighborhoods.

We raised our hands in pride and put our hands on our hearts and never officially accepted that we are a culture of torture.

AND

We are physically sick – overwhelmed in obesity, diabetes and heart disease. We take and take and take.

We are mentally sick – and have increased our needs in anxiety pills, watched as suburban moms have taken to meth, heroin, cocaine – and locked up addicts instead of offenders.

TODAY

We sit on our laptops watching the mothers beat their chest in pain and sorrow mourning over their children in coffins in Peshawar. We see the line of bodies wrapped in white cloth lining the floor of the childrens’ school. Bloodied green uniforms, torn book bags, and dead bodies.

We do breath. We can breath and we breathe easily. We eat, breath, laugh, buy and sleep.

We will scroll down the news feeds, change the channel, do the last minute buy and watch the senseless Youtube video to check out the hype.

What did we use our eyes, minds, clicks for?

LOOK

Look at what consumes you, Look at your search history, Look at what algorithms have provided for you as news.

We are a generation of Google, Youtube, Facebook. Twitter, Smartphone, Notebook, Ipad, and we have have blood on our hands.

The thoughts and consuming activities of your minds can be traced, repeated and placed in an attractive video showing your history in the new world of information and social media.

No dear, you cannot wash this blood so easily.

THE POLITICS OF BEING NICE

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THE POLITICS OF BEING NICE

This is written for all women who have ever wanted to be described as NICE.

“Sugar and Spice makes everything nice.”   If one was to look at the statement closely, it reads like a paradox. Sugar and Spice do not technically go together to make everything taste better. In fact sugar and spice cause symptoms of heartburn. Don’t worry, I am not writing a blog post on acid reflux – BUT I am writing about the personification of sugar. More specifically somebody that is sweet or dare I say nice.

Unlike food, as far as dispositions are concernedI would argue that sugar and spice do make everything better, because it is necessary. The spice – the attributes of honesty and setting boundaries balances our manifestations of nice. Unfortunately, I have seen that women have the hardest time with the spice attributes.

Have you noticed how mothers talk to young boys vs young girls, even as toddlers?  When they stop a girl from smacking their younger sibling with a ping pong racket or snatching a toy we hear,

“Sara, play nice”, When they stop a boy we hear “Adam! NO!”

Why is that? I would argue that as women we have been conditioned to have a nice demeanor while men are raised to see nice as a weakness.  I want to examine the dynamics of nice here so we can really see the unnecessary power it holds for many women and how many times it is misunderstood.  And hopefully, I can encourage you to replace your love for the word nice with better alternatives.

 

 

Let’s first flesh out the word nice itself.

 

Nice is defined as – pleasant; agreeable; satisfactory. The word is an adjective.

Technically, if one is nice – One is always pleasing, one always agrees and one is always satisfying the other.

Is that really what women should strive to be?  If we were to follow this description, we would never have any meaningful conversations, or honest exchangeof ideas that challenges our perspectives and analyzes our own flaws. In a nutshell if practiced, this definition can really halt us from growing.

 

NICE – A Tool for people pleasing and an obstacle in setting boundaries

According to this definition nice becomes a tool to enable you to be satisfactory to the other. What is this a symptom of? Yes, the dreadful disease that takes over every woman starting as early as childhood – people pleasing. We all know too well what happens when women fall under the pressures of this. Women by nature want to always keep the peace. I am a big proponent of maintaining peace but not at the cost of our honesty and authenticity.

How many times have you made a decision in your life or maintained a relationship in order to satisfy what other people expect from you? Again and again, I have seen women not only base their friendships on other peoples’ expectations but also make decisions that harm them just so they can be considered nice.

Now one may see it is not such a big deal to behave this way. But I would argue it is indeed a small deal, but a small deal that grows into a personal habit. They habit of being nice ( agreeable, satisfactory) at the cost of your own emotional health. It starts out with one’s need to be nice in your personal relationships to in turn, be nice in every scenario, making it hard to set boundaries.

To give you an example how this habit can reach beyond your emotional health, I wanted to share something that alarmed me. I heard a radio interview of a police chief speaking about sexual assault recently. Do you know the number one reason why women were in danger? They would invite the intruder in. Either by physical entry or by conversation because they were afraid they would not come across as nice.

Now, I know this is a more dramatic scenario but this goes hand in hand with women not being able to set boundaries to protect their emotional health and physical health by constantly trying to be described as NICE and falling deeper into the practice of people pleasing.

 

POLITE  – It is different from being nice.

I believe that you can still keep the peace, maintain respect for another without having to become insincere.

As I have started coming into my phase as an adult woman, I have more and more appreciated the manners and rules of etiquette. Words and phrases that I found unnecessary and bothersome in my ear from my mother I have come to have great respect for. You see, being polite actually gives you the tools to set your boundaries with grace. It is completely different from being nice.  It allows you to speak your mind with very precise accurate words without speaking in half truths.  Let me give you an example of statements of a NICE person

“No, I really didn’t mean that- I am so sorry.”

“Oh I don’t really care about that, don’ t be silly.”

“Sure, no you are fine.”

“Really? I don’t remember saying that. Don’t worry about it”

Now, here are polite statements

“Thank you, I am full.”

“No Thank you,  Its not something I am interested in.

“Let me finish what I am saying please.”

Do you see the difference? The practice of being nice is about satisfying the other, while being polite is about speaking your mind.

 

EVERYBODY’S FRIEND IS NOBODY’S FRIEND

My mother used to say this to me and I never understood it till I became an adult. Now I understand what it meant. Someone who is always trying to be nice to everyone will always be in a position where they will be in a insincere conversation. It is impossible to be nice to everyone at an equal degree because people, agendas and loyalties differ.

Without judgment, I would say that many people like to fall in this category not realizing that it can really harm their credibility for trust. And they put themselves in compromising situations and conversations that may be considered backbiting. Now does that not mean I am advocating that you should not be friendly with everyone, but I think the best is for one to strive to be polite and thus have varying levels of friendship. This gives you the freedom to step away from conversations that you do not want to participate in and still maintain a relationship that is sincere while giving others the opportunity to be the best of themselves. If you do not arm yourself with these boundaries you will step into acting out a less graceful version of yourself. And yes, we have all been there.

 

I heard a very interesting description of nice recently.

“Nice is a decision one makes on how to handle a situation, it is not an attribute. Many people can manipulate you by showing you that they are nice.”

I agree with that.  We should admire qualities of politeness and respect others even when they are not satisfying us or agreeing with us.

In addition, I would encourage you to want to be described as something other than nice. As a generation of women that are multitasking, taking charge of our affairs and raising families we should throw out this literally powerless word when it comes to describing a person and replace it with words that actually mean something.

I would suggest “Fair, trustworthy, honest, patient, and yes polite.”

I would teach my children, especially girls that being described as fair and trustworthy puts you in category of being useful to others. People will approach you for help and you can assist them because they confide in your honesty. All relationships should be based on respect and honesty not on a superficial exchange of two people not wanting to offend the other.

So next time your daughter or niece is about to whack another kid, tell her “Sara! NO! Play gentle please.”

 

 

Gwyneth Paltrow – “Conscience Uncoupling” So where does that leave the rest of us?

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I was shocked to hear the website “GOOP “ crashed after Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin announced their divorce. It signaled to me that many women are facing conflicts in their marriage and were disheartened, shocked and looking for answers on how celebrity marriages that do not have financial issues or concerns of lack of physical interest ( many celebrities attain fame through their looks) could fail.  Women were thinking “What does this say about us? Why am I trying?”  I also was shocked to see such a long explanation for the separation on their website and womens’ confusion about understanding it. With divorce being at such a high rate in the United States, it is always interesting to analyze how couple resolves their conflicts pre and post divorce. Celebrity or not, it is emotionally draining and messy.

We understand our culture loves celebrity but I do not want to contribute to gossip. So I wanted to share some pragmatic perspective. For all of you who want real people speak for what is “conscience uncoupling” and want to get a common sense angle on how to digest the news as well as how to resolve conflicts in their own relationships, here it is

As an attorney and a mediator, I have had the pleasure of mediating different type of conflicts including  divorces of women who are striving for an alternative to the phenomenon of a chaotic, highly intense divorce proceeding. Thus, I help women and couples lay out their differences, feelings and goals so they can work together in getting an amicable divorce or a healthier marriage. I do not give marriage counseling. Instead, I advocate for true feelings and perspectives of both parties, and when necessary, detach from the emotion a little and practice tough love.  Yes, I say pragmatically and with sensitivity what the couple cannot say to or see in each other.

CONFLICT RESOLUTION TIPS:

1)      I HAVE NEVER USED FANCY TERMS

I am not sure why fancy words such as exoskeleton and uncoupling give legitimacy to common sense approaches to resolving conflict. My first word of advice – don’t get hung up on labels. If you do you will start comparing your marriage and your approach to resolving conflict to others and will want to place yourself in a category. If that category is bad, then yes you will feel ashamed unnecessarily. Instead focus on your goals – for yourself and your partner. One approach does not fit all.

2)      “CONCIENCE” MEANS BEING AWARE- THAT IS IT.

This is a word I do use. According to the statement on “GOOP” conscience uncoupling refers to the idea that both parties are aware of other people’s feelings. That is the common sense approach I advise to my clients – being aware of the person by listening. Not just to your partner’s voice but also to his or her body language towards things you say or do. In a nutshell it means paying attention.

I give this advice to not just divorcing clients that come to me for mediation but anyone wanting to resolve a conflict. Each party wants to be heard. This is true when you are

separating and deciding child custody concerns or when you are speaking to an employer who has treated your unfairly.  We all just need to be conscience of what the other person is feeling – they may not be hearing what you are saying in a manner you think they do.

3)      “CONCIENCE” also means understanding another person’s framework of thought. We all come with a history, a set of circumstances that has led us to act in a certain way and led us to hold certain beliefs. Without acknowledgement of this history, one cannot ever give legitimacy to another perspective or forgive flaws. In one  of my sessions a woman was complaining that his her husband was too controlling and far too loyal to his mother and she could not take it anymore. Instead of letting the husband respond, I drew a chart that listed his major life stages since he was 15. The chart included an early divorce of his parents, financial responsibility of his family at a very young age and a mother who raised three sons on her own. This undeniably led him to grow up to be a doer in his life personally and become emotionally scarred and understandably devoted to his mother. Without recognition of these facts, I felt both husband and wife were missing the opportunity to resolve their conflicts in a much more introspective, honest and valuable way.

4)   CHILDREN SEE PARENTS AS ONE UNIT –This could not be more true. Absent domestic abuse and violence in the home, kids do not want to take sides.  Too many times I have seen parents speak ill and blame the other spouse for issues in the marriage. Temporarily, children do get emotionally involved and many times scarred by hearing such words. In the end, however they rather just you forgive and move on. In one of my cases, I actually had the children of a gentleman taking part in infidelity address their father and their feelings about the infidelity in the mediation session itself. I wanted the husband to look at the conflict not just as a husband, but as a father. I wanted him to come to terms with the fact that once you are married and have children your actions do not just effect the messages your spouse gets, but also the messages your children get.  They are looking for guidance on how to resolve issues so they may follow your approach in the future. They do not want to protect a parent in a conflict, they want the parents to protect them – ALWAYS. This dynamic between a parent and child never changes, whether you are 4 or 40.  In this specific session what he heard from his young adult sons is not blame, but more just hurt and a request for him to stop causing pain in the family. Kids are very astute to conflicts and can show you how your actions are impacting others if you pay attention. Do not be afraid of their emotional intelligence. Use this as a motivation, not an obstacle to resolve your conflicts amicably.

5)  DIGNITY – THAT IS WHAT ALL ONE IS AFTER – From discrimination cases, divorce to regular employee- employer relations; there is only one dominant factor that seals the deal towards a resolution – the maintaining of dignity. In any situation every human being, even when they have fallen want to be remembered as a person who is standing strong. This is an undeniable truth to human nature true to every person. Who does not want to be remembered when they were the best of themselves and wished they could ERASE when they were their weakest, least wisest, and least composed? If we all understand this in ourselves we should be able to give that opportunity to our opposing party or spouse so you may receive it for yourself. In the discrimination conflicts I have mediated, resolution has never come due to a monetary settlement or official sanction. These things are nice. But ultimately what leads to handshake, agreement signature, or hug is always due to the fact that both parties maintain a level of dignity and respect towards the other. Once a party knows they are leaving with their head up high, the sooner they want to cooperate towards a resolution.

TOP 10 OSCAR MOMENTS 2014 – THIS ONE WAS FOR THE WOMEN AND THE DREAMERS

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TOP 10 OSCAR MOMENTS 2014 – This was one was for the WOMEN and the DREAMERS!

A magical night it was!

We were worried after viewing last year’s performance by Seth Mcfarland (which prompted a lot of people to send backlash letters about the Academy and its respect for women, who could forget the opening number “We saw your boobs!”) that we would be cringing at our seats for another moment that would take the OSCARS into a night of unpleasant statements. BUT WE WERE WRONG.

This year, change was in the air.  From the dresses that showed elegance of powerful women, to the tributes to loved ones and a nod to the dreamers – these are our favorite TOP TEN moments from OSCARS 2014.

1)      Ellen, a woman hosts the OSCARS! She is not tempted to insult any of the women nominated or play on their sexuality. She acknowledged the talent in the room, even humbled us by feeding them pizza and shared the night with us with a group tweet of Hollywood talent. We love her grace and wit!

2)      Lupita Nyong’o wins for Best Supporting Actress for 12 Years A Slave

She thanked the Academy, Director Steve McQueen, the storytellers. But most of all, she gave a salute to women around the globe “No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid.” Beautiful.

3)      In an industry favoring youth and sexuality, Oscar Winner Cate Blanchett took a moment in her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress for portraying New York socialite ‘Jasmine’ to acknowledge Judi Dench – an actress ending her seventies as an icon of talent. “At the age of 79, her film was so successful she is India because she is doing a sequel. What a career!” We love Cate for reminding the world that age being an obstacle in Hollywood is a myth – that should be kicked in the gut!

4)      Jennifer Lawrence is a darling yes we know. But what was amazing was her boldness and frank attitude as she stepped out to announce the best actor category. She saw somebody laughing as she walked across the stage ( after she laughed about falling last year) and said right out loud

“Why are you laughing? Is this funny?” Jennifer does not follow Hollywood etiquette or any form of pretense and to us she is freeing.

5)      “Frozen” wins for best animated feature! A Disney movie with a female at the center who fights to mend her relationship with her sister, save her kingdom and her life. She is strong and courageous that Elsa. We could not be more pleased that Disney got recognized for showing a girl as a carver of her destiny, rather than a damsel waiting for her prince. We hope we never go back to sweeping chimneys and waiting for rescues. We love this way more!

6)      Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson win best song for “Let it Go” for Frozen and sing a creative rhyming song to break traditions and end the speech with a dedication to their daughters “ Katie and Annie, this song is inspired by our love for you. May you never let fear or shame stop you from celebrating the unique people you are. We love you!”

And that is why we love Frozen even more!

7)      Cate Blanchett wins an Oscar for best actress and gives an extraordinary speech! We know she is an empowered, talented person comfortable in her skin. But we loved her salute to women and their power in the market. She stated “ Thank you to Sony Classics for intelligently distributing the film ( “Blue Jasmine”) and to those in the industry who foolishly thought that female films with women at the center are for niche audiences. They are not. People want to see them. And in fact they make MONEY! THE WORLD IS ROUND PEOPLE.”  And we loved that the audience burst into applause. It’s about time!

8)      Jared Leto wins best supporting actor for his portray of Rayon in “Dallas Buyers Club.” And his date, his beautiful silver haired mother. He makes an incredible speech of gratitude and thanks the most important person to him – his mother.

He told us she was a single mom in 1971, pregnant with her second child and a high school drop out. “But somehow she managed to make a better life for herself and encouraged her children to be creative, work hard and do something special. Thank you mom for teaching me how to dream.”  Leto saluted the foundation of his dreams and we could not be more inspired.

He went on to spread the inspiration of his dream.

“To all the dreamers out there around the world watching this tonight, in places like the Ukraine and Venezuela, I want to say we are here, and as you struggle to make your dreams happen, to live the impossible, we’re thinking of you tonight,” Leto said.

We are always impressed when Hollywood remembers the world outside itself. We are grateful.

9)      Mathew  McConaughey  wins Best Actor in “Dallas Buyers Club,” for his portrayal of Ron Woodroof and in his acceptance speech he thanks GOD, his father  his mother and his wife . “She taught me and my two older brothers, demanded that we respect ourselves and in turn we will be able to respect others. Thank you Mom”

To his wife he stated “ The encouragement you give me is unparallel. You are the four people

( including his children) are the people I want to make most proud of me, thank you. “

Yes, is it obvious that we love it when wives and mothers are recognized for successes?

10)   “12 Years A Slave,”  wins best picture and director Steve McQueen gives an acceptance speech that we are thrilled about.

He thanks the cast, team , his inspiration and states:

“My publicist Paula Woods, I’m sorry about this, for her hard work. April Lamb, and my magnificent agents. I have to say this to all these women, I have all the women in my life and they’re all the most powerful. And my mother, obviously. Maha Dakhil ”

Yes we could not think of a more proud way to conclude the night!

WHO WILL TELEVISION PICK NEXT AS ITS FEMALE ROLE MODEL?

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We are all looking for role models. Women – we need someone to inspire us, someone to show us that we can achieve our dreams, fight the good fight, and remind us every day the value of our worth as women.  More than ever, women are stepping out of their comfort zones and opening new businesses, taking risks and fighting for love in their personal relationships. They are being vocal about the media and its portrayal of women, about businesses that degrade them while still make money off them and finally realizing they have been and are the heart and soul of all our communities.

Women are everything and instead of downplaying any of their attributes, they are ready to tell the world about it. They are cooks, mothers, wives, daughters, domestic engineers, tear wipers, hand holders, motivators, teachers, businesswomen, professionals, athletes, leaders.

They are far more than what Real Housewives show the world, far more than what advertising agencies show us in Glamour or Cosmopolitan or even Redbook or Time.

They are the smartest consumer of multi- billion dollar industries around the globe. These ladies purchase dollars provide jobs, growth and sustainability to nations. Let us face it – women are ready to own their power.

In this reality, which women leaders are reminding us of this necessary truth?. Who are the real role models for us? Who are the ones that accept women for who they are and think higher of them in the media?

It seems the media is trying to figure it out as well. It’s the million dollar question. Every national television broadcasting channel is trying to find a perfect match for its over 20 million consumer base. They are offering exciting topics, new sets to persuade women consumers that they have what they need.

Oprah gave us a lifetime of conversations, a lifetime example of dreaming big and doing the work every day by coming into our living rooms. She recently launched OWN with her own vision and it seems believes what all women are slowly realizing – there is more to life. OWN has done an excellent job in elevating women’s vision of themselves.

Bravo wants to convince women that reality TV is what they need every day all the time and nationally syndicated channels are looking for a host to engage stay-at-home moms.

We saw Katie Couric, the intelligent professional connecting with women on topics that really matter. Unfortunately she wasn’t able to sustain her viewers and she will bid aideu in June.

Queen Latifah has also embraced television, as always she has broken barriers and brought her unique charm, power and wit to daytime and as a result we will see her on the air for another year.

This week, we found out the next casualty will be  Bethanny Frankel, a brilliant businesswoman who was hired for her frank, straight up talk but perhaps proved to be not a good model for the channels executives.

This week we also watched NBC’s next talk show host and tv personality Meredith Vieira embrace the Olympics as the first female head anchor for the Olympics. I applaud her as this is brilliant and long overdue.

Ellen has continued to be the voice of wit, sincere conversation and a great entertainer.

One thing is for sure, the media recognizes it needs women and that women need role models because women have A LOT on their plate. It is nice to have guidance to be able to balance it all.

But here is the truth, no marketing strategy can do an analysis and come up with the role model that is chosen based on demographics and market analysis. Surprising to television execs I am sure.

The reality is women are still not one dimensional. Even in 2014.

Do Jay Leno, Jimmy Fallon, Tom Brokaw etc. Steve Harvey fit into a one-dimensional audience?

Contrary to many marketing experts in the media women are not sitting in front of televisions for hours wanting to hear gossip, conflict and subpar television.

Women are busy, they are thinkers, multi-taskers and doers.

So yes, they will love Katie, get elevated with Oprah, talk frank with Bethanny, laugh with Queen Latifah and root for on Meredith, dance with Ellen and occasionally indulge in guilty pleasure through reality television.

In a nutshell, women need role models that remind them of themselves, the real self. The sooner broadcast channels realize the jackpot – substantive content that speaks to the intelligence and diversity of interests of women – the sooner we will have a role model that represents the value of the audience.

Women want to make their life better, grow their families and learn more every day.  We need to see a face of honesty not market based content that devalues our worth.

We hope as television execs are going through their rolodex in order to find the new face of women, they look for a face that looks like our mirrors and a bio that reads like the ones on our laptops – diverse, bold, witty, creative, inspiring, honest and a mix of personal and professional and intelligence.

Most of all, we hope that the media thinks more of women and chooses to show them as they are and should be, elevated and powerful.

 

 

I am my Valentine

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by Maaria Mozaffar

Love –   “An intense feeling of deep affection”

Today is Valentine’s Day!  A Day of chocolates, flowers , kisses, hugs, I am sorry, I love you, I need you, I am crazy about you, I appreciate you!

Today is when restaurant reservation waiting lists are long and babysitters are called. It always amazes me that even in our busy life with work meetings and family obligations we as a people take the time to stop love and live.  Nothing warms the heart  more than a love that is reassured.

BUT I really want to change our focus a bit on Valentines Day .

You see, this year  has been a great year for me !  This year I learned about being brave in my personal life, professional life, I took risks, had difficult conversations, made some personal goals and am going towards them everyday.  I made a commitment in 2014 to make my relationships stronger, more honest and value the ones I love even more.

So, this Valentines Day I want to take the time to love myself, nurture myself and thank myself for nothing also warms the heart than a self assured love for yourself.

Not sure if everyone will be getting gifts this season of love so I want to encourage all of you to take the day for yourself with me and get to the real heart of the word LOVE .Trust me I enjoy chocolates and flowers, but I also know that these things do not translate into “an intense feeling of deep affection “. The LOVE you feel when you have your child, or the thumping of your heart when you pray for your loved one to get well, the butterflies in your stomach when your love is returning home from a long trip = these are all manifestations of love one feels for your beloved. What about the person whom has been with you the longest? Do they get to feel that appreciation too?

Let’s face it. In the journey of love search,  we  are looking for that one person who says

“You Complete Me” and that one person that ideally “Completes You”

But here is reality and in my observations of the ups and down of life an undeniable truth. One human cannot complete the other. Honestly  we are already a perfect package. We are  accompanied  with emotions, intellect  ;  all the tools to have  joy, inspiration and focus. The journey is finding all those tools within us and making them work. Nobody knows you or can learn about you fully other than yourself. Remember all the times you were nervous about a new job, new project or new relationship? Who calmed your heart and talked you through it spilling over with positive thoughts to help you face your fears?

 And in the journey of love search we are also looking for someone to make us happy.

But here is another reality, life throws curve balls. Yes, there are moments in which you just cannot be happy, simply because that is not the emotion called for in certain situations. This is not a bad thing, for those not so pleasant emotions are necessary for our growth. No person will come and replace that emotion with “happy”. But you will find the inner strength to strategize, plan and help you face pain. You probably already have opened the doors to joy so many times when you could have chosen fear.

And, of course we not only look for someone to not only complete us, make us happy, but also to make us feel safe.

Another reality, and unfortunately, one of the hardest lessons one has to learn. Would you not agree that  no human can protect another completely? Yes, curve balls again. There are situations that will come your way in which only your resolve will help you , safety is not guaranteed by your relationship with your beloved.

In my mediation practice, I have had the honor to meet women who have sometimes been betrayed by their lovers, husbands. Through the painful discussions and self discovery that these mediation sessions take you through the result is always the same : people realize that they shortchanged themselves when they convinced themselves that others loved them. But they also realize they shortchanged themselves by not valuing their heart. If you believe and know that YOU do love yourself, you will never allow your heart to be shortchanged. Its a good organ , pumping blood, beating for others and facing the unbearable – thank it sometimes.

 The truth is the most important person you CAN love , the person who CAN most protect you by caring for your health and life choices, the person that CAN make you the most happy by always having a limitless source of happy when required, the person who CAN complete you because he or she is so dedicated to your growth, your victories is YOU.

You, see not matter what, in the end its just your heart and you. People will come and go some by choice and some not. If you are able to lean on your own heart for growth and strength, its love is limitless. After all, we all want to give love. We cannot if we do not nurture the source first. I am lucky to have a husband I love. But I know I could not love him the way I do unless I love myself.

This Valentines Day I am celebrating my beloved but I am ALSO celebrating

my heart

my working body

my resolve

my  dedication

my courage

You have to believe me. Come what may, people may hurt you through their words and actions – but you will be alright.

My daughter who is four came home this week saying that a boy in the hallway called her “The ugliest girl he has ever seen.” She really did not know what it meant, and perhaps the other kid did not either. Apparently she was clowning around and the boy did not know how to respond so he chose the word UGLY.

Tempted to say a lot of things to protect her heart, I paused.

I simply told her that many people sometimes say things that are mean. This is not the first, and probably not the last. She just laughed and ran off.

Later she handed me a Valentines Day Card she made for me and her father. I embraced her. Then she showed me a third card – a Valentines Day for herself. In which she wrote her own name and her own message “ I love you”.

I realized at that moment – our hearts love us so naturally.I believe it comes from a undeniable source of our higher power, God given. This voice I feel has been the whispers in my heart all my life. So If I recognize myself I will recognize the source. Somehow we forget the sense and value of ourselves as we grow and let others define our worth either by their kindness or cruelty.

I carried her into my arms and kissed her so she knew how proud I was of her, but honestly I think she knew how proud she already was of herself – and this is all I hope she ever needs to know.

What I Would Tell My Children About Nelson Mandela

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Mandela

What would I tell my four-year-old daughter about Nelson Mandela, in a time when she lives in a country where we have an African-American President?  What would I tell her, when she lives in a country where she has the responsibility as a citizen to live in a diverse community, practice tolerance and engage with people different from herself? What would I tell my daughter, who will have the right to vote as a woman, a right to access, accommodation, property and the American Dream? What would I tell my daughter about Nelson Mandela that could possibly come close to framing in the most approximate accurate words the gift that he was? How would I do it when she lives in some way the world of the “haves” and not in the “have nots”?

Well, after much searching, I realized that I would be doing a disservice to Mandela if I painted a rosy picture of his journey, considering her own comfort as an American and her future role as a citizen towards the oppressive social dynamics that Mandela fought against. I have come to the conclusion that the best way to educate my children about Mandela is to speak about the thorny times and the perpetuation of the dreaded racial dynamics that are still at play today here and abroad. I should educate her not on just the points of history in his life she will be able to search on Google, but rather what those points on the timeline tell us about ourselves, as a people of collective conscience. The times that do not have Nobel Peace prizes, global acclaim and thousands of applauses for Nelson Mandela.  The times when he was alone, victimized and deliberately outcast by the so-called forces of good. And, yes, I must deliberately introduce her to the “have nots”, to those that deserve a better life but are suffering due to the color of their skin, on our watch in 2013, in our cities.

Nelson Mandela was removed from the terrorist list from the United States State Department in 2008. Let me say it again: 2008.

The manifestation of an unfortunate case of human nature at its worst is the need to protect one’s own interests over supporting truth.  I would tell my daughter that as she rises in her ambition and career, no matter what she does, to not forget the guiding principles she learns at home and from her heart. To speak for those who are speaking the difficult language of truth that is not popular. To support those that are on the ground in their limited means to make change with integrity. And to never doubt her truth, even if the majority tries to convince you that your truth without an official stamp of approval from the higher-ups is not valid. In 2008, Mandela had already served his time in prison calling for armed resistance, served as President of a nation, forgiven his oppressors, started a national reconciliation movement and introduced the policy of diplomatic and reconciliation internationally. He had already won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. He argued for reconciliation in the Middle East crisis, resolution of Kashmir in the Indian Subcontinent and resolution of national African conflicts and East Timur in Indonesia. He was adored by the world and the global community but was considered a terrorist in the United States. Why did we wait so long to join the rest of the world? Perhaps we thought our interests did not match his spirit of reconciliation. I am not interested in debating the ethics of such decision here.

I would tell my daughter: In her struggles and passion for what is right, many will not join you. Like Mandela, I would tell her to keep going, for the power of your principles will always win people over. Your principles are all you have and one must always be critical of who is receiving an applause and who is not.

Contrary to popular belief, during Nelson Mandela’s life, the same groups he fought for had factions that spoke against him.

Even after Mandela gave him life to the cause, serving as president of South Africa, serving a long prison term – factions within South Africa started forming and accusing him of selling out against the same principles he was advocating for.  What is the lesson in this? That being committed to the struggle does not guarantee unanimous unlimited support from the same people you are advocating for.  At many points in your life, you will want people to understand your motives, to give you a vote of confidence when you make a bad decision based if not anything, on your original intent to always do good. Not so. People in masses much like people in isolation can be fickle. We as humans practice short-term memory, we forget the good very often when things start to look grey. However, what you will be judged on is how you deal with the complaints of your greyness, for they may be valid. Do you ignore it, shun it, or call it a lie? Or do you take a seat and give the criticism your ear? I recently read an article by Zakes MDA who knew Mandela from childhood and is the son of the co- founder of the ANC Youth Council, Ashbey MDA, titled “The Contradictions of Mandela”. In it, he writes about the dissenting opinions against Mandela through the years by his own people. One of the most important points he writes is about how Mandela handled the dissent.

He writes “When he was president, I often wrote about the emerging patronage system and crony capitalism. To his credit, when I wrote him a long letter outlining my concerns, he phoned me within a week and arranged a meeting between me and three of his senior cabinet ministers. Although nothing of substance came of the meeting, the very fact that Mandela listened attentively to the complaints of an ordinary citizen, and took them seriously enough to convene such a meeting, was extraordinary for any president.”

I would tell my daughter: Never think you have done enough good or reached a level of untouchable success that makes you unaccountable to others.

Today in 2013, in the United States we are still in the living in a world of social, economic and opportunity disparities divided on the lines of race. The African-American population makes up of over 75% of the nation’s prison system. Today in the United States inner-city schools are mostly run by the system of property taxes; and minorities have a graduation rate in these schools that are on average less than 20 %. Today in the United States, in the land of natural resources, in cities like Chicago and Detroit many African-Americans and Hispanics live in “food deserts”, where there is not an accessible grocery store that provides fresh produce. As a result, we have communities that have the highest rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.  I would tell my daughter, just like South Africa in which Nelson Mandela was elected President, we have an African-American President Barack Obama. But these leaders are one person, and many times due to global limitation- symbolic. But changes have to happen on the ground by us. We cannot rely on leaders to fix broken systems by themselves. It is my job, my daughter’s job, as she grows up to right a wrong, to deliberately seek out places where there is injustice in a spirit to resolve even if she is told she lives in a world of equality. She does not. And unless she rolls up her sleeves, she will not.

Nelson Mandela is a symbol of what is achievable. His life exemplifies the struggles it takes to speak your truth and how it can reach to isolation in prison or even among your own people.

Perhaps that is the most important thing I can teach my daughter about him: Speaking your truth and following your heart comes at a cost. It is lonely, but without the sacrifice of wanting to be with the majority, the underserved minorities whether as a people or a truth will never be heard. Speak your truth, even if you voice is the only one you ever hear in agreement.