Planning. It is essential to plan as it is a way of formalising our intentions. However, more often than not, our plans get derailed and we have to become flexible to accommodate the unexpected in a graceful and creative manner. If we don’t, then frustration ensues taking with it in its stride any hope for a harmonious pursuit.
I planned a giant log cabin pattern for this quilt. Mind you, it is the first quilt that I design from scratch and for which I have had to make calculations. Needless to say, my quilt maths is in dire need of help and as I started piecing the patchwork for this quilt, I quickly realised that I had made a blunder. One of my measures had been halved across the board. And so, I had to improvise with all the pieces I had so carefully cut and prepared and labelled, and ordered... I had to toss the original idea. forget about what the quilt was meant to look like and shift to the reality of what was laying on my table. Passed the disappointment of my mistake, I decided I would be curious about the outcome and see what comes out.
Did I achieve my goal? Yes i did. I did piece the quilt with the colours I intended. I did quilt it with orange thread as I had set out to do. I did bind it with orange fabric as I had planned. The only part that was left to chance in the end was the piecing of the patchwork itself. Bottom line, this little episode confirms what I have known all along: Planning is important and it is only as relevant as you can be flexible to accommodate for the unexpected. Planning sets a direction and gives a solid ground to any future improvisation. I try to use planning as a framework really, more than as a strict guideline.
In general planning is something very challenging for me. My perfectionist, anxious, neurotic nurture - yes, that’s right, not nature - means I have quite the distorted sense of what is really important. At least that’s how it used to be prior to my burnout. I used to have everything set as a priority in my life and I would frantically try to maintain very high standards in all aspects of my life. And I did that, for a while; successfully. Until I broke down completely; because the reality of life is that there is in effect a hierarchy to what matters. In order to find out what matters to me, in order to figure out what my nature truly is, I had to dismantle the structure of my beliefs and values and look at each one of them closely. I had to find out how the sensations in my body actually were the purest form of expression of my own truth. I am still figuring a lot of that stuff out. I still struggle to clarify the priorities in my life, which makes setting goals difficult, and achieving them even harder. For now, I will more than gladly use my quilting practice as a training ground to hone down my planning and goal setting skills.
With love and candle light,
I have been an expatriate for the biggest part of my life. I have lived in Dammam, Paris, San Fransisco, NYC, London, Dubai and Abu Dhabi over the past fourty-nine years. I am French by my mother, Lebanese, by my father and naturalised American, because i thought it would be a good idea. I moved to Paris when I was five years old and i left France just after my twenty second birthday. Although i do have French blood in my veins, from Montpellier if you ask, I never quite felt at home in France. My first and last names do not sound French. It is only when i moved to NYC that I felt a sense of belonging. I belonged to a whole that identified itself as one large melting pot. I could be whoever i wanted to be and still fit right in. Eventually, life happened and ‘I” became “we, and “we” moved to London, then to Dubai and to Abu Dhabi. In none of these places did i ever belong. I loved them all, for very different reasons, but i did not belong. A part of me always felt "left out”. In England i felt i wasn’t “white" enough. In the UAE, i became a long-term guest; "guest” being the key operative word. I had never contemplated living in Lebanon because my parents being agnostic and atheist respectively never felt that we could grow happily in such a sectarian environment. We were raised on “Lebanon is not for people like us”, and I did not question the separateness of the “like us” statement. Instead, I tagged along obediently and unconsciously.
Fast Forward to 2019. About to become empty nesters “we" felt that the time had come to bid farewell to the UAE after a lovely seventeen year visit. Life was asking that we make a move. And so we took a leap and opted for Beirut. We can always go back to Europe, but before we do, if we do, I wanted to try Beirut. I could not move into the next phase of my life without confronting the elephant in my room: Why couldn't Lebanon be OK for someone “like me”? I had to give it a go. I had to see it for myself. I could not just keep going on in my life taking my parents’ beliefs at face value anymore. The age of separation was drawing up to a close. And so, Hani and I decided to move into our summer flat, in the Lebanese mountain in June 2019.
it will soon be six months that I am here and I am loving it. It feels as though i have always been here. I know just enough people to feel a genuine sense of connection, but not that many that I am overwhelmed. The fact that we live out of the city allows us to tip into and out of the city as we please, on our own terms. The physical distance provides a buffer between the excitement and the chaos of Beirut and the peacefulness and beauty of the nature in the mountain. This sense of belonging however comes from the way people interact with each other. There is such a level of humanity in people’s exchanges, so many smiles, so much kindness all around, that I feel so welcome. I am greeted wholeheartedly everywhere i go. People are kind. Just genuinely kind. Unlike anywhere else i have lived before, the Lebanese are a people who wear their kindness on their sleeve. That is just so refreshing in a world that is over competitive and where kindness is often interpreted as a weakness.
Today as I am writing this post, Lebanon is into the 60th day of its revolution. The Lebanese people, led by their youth and their women, have finally rallied against sectarianism and corruption. It is something that older generations never conceived of. Yet, it is happening and young and old, and christians and muslims, and rich and poor; are all one. It will take time for a new paradigm to emerge and take its rightful place. But there is no turning back. The wheels of change are well in motion and moving. It seems that the age of separation for Lebanon is also drawing up to its close. If anything, our decision to come and live in Lebanon could not have been more timely. In the end, “coming home” really means coming to terms with separation and finding peace in unity. And what a gift from Life when what is happening around me resonates so deep within me.
May we all stand united in the face of unfairness, may we all find the courage to speak out and stand-up in the face of injustice, and may we always find strength and encouragement in each other’s comforting smiles.
With love and candle light,
Wrought iron. My father had a serious workshop in the garden at our countryside home. In there magic happened. He welted and forged some gorgeous wrought iron. With patience, precision and the mindfulness of a true master crafter. I miss my father. I wish we had had more time together. To get to know each other and to learn from each other. The wisdom I have gained over the years is much like the batik wax-resist dyeing technique that allows patterns to emerge through negative spaces. What I have learned has come from his absence.
Today, as I sit in Lebanon, looking at Beirut through the wrought iron of my Godmother’s balcony, I can only be reminded of the sacrifices my father and my mother endured to honour their core belief that “Children do not ask to be born. When they come into this world, you owe them everything.” And everything I did get. What I did not know then, was the extent to which this chorus would make me an unwilling prisoner to the implicit expectations of sacrifice - self-imposed or perceived.
As I continue to struggle with the ongoing growing pain of adulthood and individuation I realise that the unspoken pain of sacrifice, and the implicit expectations that make it worthwhile to the parents are a very heavy debt on the children who did not ask for it in the first place. Not only is it a debt that we can never repay, but we would be very well advised not to repay it forward... sacrifice then becomes a generational debt.
The sting does not come from the fact that love comes to us in such a painful form, it comes from the silence of that passed-on pain. It seeps through and catches you by surprise the day your life derails from those unspoken expectations. The day your life deviates from what kept the pain at bay; namely you matching those implicit expectations born to sacrifice; you are greeted with unfathomable guilt and shame.
From where I stand now, at the midpoint of my life, I am grateful for the presence of my mother, the absence of my father and the weight of their sacrifice on my life from which I can safely extricate myself today. Bruised a little, wise a lot. Stepping now through the wrought iron frame...
Vulnerability in order to be made visible requires empathy and compassion. Nothing is braver than showing your true colours to those deserving of seeing them. Nothing is truer than providing a safe space to receive the vulnerability of those we trust. That, to me, is the highest form love.
First, move. Then, transition.
In moments of transition things feel blurry. I lose clarity and gain mystery. The “not knowing what anymore” feels groundless.
So, here I am, taking my time to establish new routines and develop new habits in this new environment. There is in that process much letting go and much openness. Much vulnerability in there too!
But, truth be told, groundlessness, vulnerability and lack of clarity are all essential ingredients of life. We are only human to the extent that we can navigate these murky waters with empathy and kindness towards self.
It’s a good thing then that I can swim.
On my way to BEY... what a summer this has been; talk about a move! I’ll take the weekend off, rest, relax and anticipate the 286 boxes that will land on my doorstep next week.
For now, I will just savour the satisfaction of the accomplishment: not so much that I have managed three moves on three continents, that I have parted from my children, that I have moved to a place that I had resisted all my life, but that I have done so without falling apart, without breaking down, without losing my shit. Even better, I have done it with a certain amount of peace and trust. Sure, those 10mg of Prozac help. But I will pat myself on the back today, just today. Because, where I come from, this is an achievement.
Crossing the line.
Sometimes it is a must; you have to cross the line in order to stay free and true to your core.
“When you get to the place where you understand that love and belonging, your worthiness, is a birth right and not something you have to earn, anything is possible” Brené Brown
Today, as I complete my 49th summer on this lovely planet, I am reminded of this unconditional truth.
I give thanks for all the fortune in my life, for the love that I bathe in everyday, for the support I receive from my amazing family and my cherished true friends. I give thanks for all the experiences I have gone through, the present ones, and the surprises to come. I give thanks for the whispered Presence that God is in my life, surrounding my heart with warmth and light. I give thanks to Life for being born and being given the chance to inhale and exhale, to look and see, to hear and listen, to taste, to touch and feel the entirety of this human experience that is my life.
May the Light in me always meet and greet the Light in You!
Remember this: do not compromise on what sets your heart on fire. Not now, not ever. And if in life the job you get does not ignite you in some way, that’s OK; just ensure that you maintain a commitment on the side that keeps that fire alive. That warm light is your soul, your essence.
Always keep in mind Metzmama and your father. Their curiosity and appetite for life is boundless. They are the models to follow. Their fire is intact. Follow in their stride.
With mighty love,
When I was sixteen, as I was finishing high school and getting ready for university, I somewhat decided that I would either be a full-fledged career woman or a full-time mother. Excellence, I thought, had to come at a very high price. The notion of “AND” was inexistant in my very binary reality. A comfortable lifestyle meant an absent father working hard abroad. Academic achievement meant no fun. A good mother meant strict rules, no play. Good values meant rigid beliefs. I was stuck and I did not know it. I went on to work hard and achieve and by the age of twenty-two with a prestigious MBA in my pocket I launched myself into a career that I thought I wanted. When I finally made it into that top-tier bank I just wanted to climb up the ladder and kept on waiting for the “right time” to have children. Eventually Hani nudged me as he was getting close to his big four-O. And what I had decided at the age of sixteen then materialised: in nine months my very driven self shifted its focus from asset management to motherhood and parenting. Unconsciously and given that I couldn’t easily shake my “this OR that” view of the world, I neatly tucked myself away into the mother-wife role. The outcome is this: I have a kick-ass family that I adore and cherish and my sense of self is still fragile. No regrets, just facts. I haven’t practised being Dania in such a long time... My role as a mother and a wife has taken the forefront of most of my adult life and today, as I stand at the edge of a tremendous void, questions and possibilities filled with hopes and fears abound. Who am I going to become?
No more hashtags.
Living: learning, healing, sensing, growing, getting stuck, creating, making mistakes, waiting, observing, feeling, stumbling, taking stock and begin again.
Begin again; but from a place with more compassion, greater benevolence and loving kindness to turn this imperfect and chaotic life into an inspiration to those who see you, truly see you.
Note to self: go through what you’re going through... sometimes change is just allowing yourself to feel scared shit for a while. Stay with it, go through it:
Say “no” to distraction, “no” to deflection, just “yes” to what is and how it feels right now. May the fear of the void and the uncertainty of the transition be the source of your strength.
Feeling very emotional and unsettled this morning. My last day as a resident in Abu Dhabi. I chose this picture because this Starbucks in Khalidiyah has a history in our family. It has acted as the “library” where William, Ines, Mia and Ella have studied and done most of their revisions over the years.
As I write these lines I can see all the years that have passed by, I can literally visualise so many moments and so many memories are coming back with an uncanny clarity.
Dubai & Abu Dhabi: I have loved you and I am grateful for all the experiences, the lessons, the encounters and the memories I am now carefully folding into my heart.
As a “nomad” myself, I totally relate to the sense of belonging everywhere my heart is. Belonging is no longer a sense of place. It has now become a sense of being. Fortunately I can make that happen anywhere so long as my authenticity finds ways of supporting my attention.
My heart is now moving to Lebanon. I am coming home to a place where I was born but where I have never lived. Familiarity and curiosity intertwined.
Today, I pray for all of you who are part of my life, from near or far, in the present or the past. I pray for all of those I haven’t met yet and those I may never meet. I pray that each one of us continues on a path where awareness and kindness, where determination and respect, where resilience and gentleness pave the way for our words and our deeds.
With love, gratitude and a wink;) D.
Behind this genuine smile there is also fear, sadness, curiosity and hope. This is a big move. On so many levels. Not only wrapping up seventeen years of life in the UAE, this move marks a turning point towards the unknown for each one of us.
Uncertainty is the only constant in life. We spend our time and energy trying to minimise it, control it. Yet without it there would be no place for curiosity and surprise.
Transition is a very funny moment in time. It is a space in its own right, where one is invited to sit with the discomfort of so many emotions. It is despite everything that is happening on the outside, an opportunity for stillness amidst the mess and the chaos. So here I am, sitting right smack in the heart of contradictions and behind this genuine smile there is also profound love and gratitude for IT ALL: the past, the present and the unknown.
We are all different, we are all the same, we are all unique and there’s always a context in which we are the exception to the norm. The very place of this peculiarity is where we are given the opportunity to practice courage, trust, patience and compassion. Wherever we are the exception is our chance for growth.
Siitting in the lounge at the airport where I landed over 16 years ago... I had not traveled from DXB T1 since - I can’t remember. Today feels surreal somehow. It marks the beginning of our move. On my way to BEY to settle Pixie before we leave AUH at the end of June. My heart is filled gratitude for all the blessings in my life. It is a sheer privilege to be able to look back and see that I have loved everywhere I have lived so far in my life, all the cities I have gotten to know, all the people I have met, all the friendships I have made, all the souls I am connected to... I am a citizen of the world in every sense of that expression. I have multiple origins, I belong everywhere and my heart and my mind are open wide. Truth be told: the “borders” I have encountered so far in my life, have always been self-inflicted. Somehow this very trip to Beirut via Cairo - courtesy of Pixie being a brachicephalic dog - allows me to practice open curiosity for endless possibilities.
Stencils. Is there a stencil I can use to filter my thoughts? So I don’t have to keep on repeating to myself most of the time “that’s not true, that’s just your usual deprecating self-talk, don’t believe your thoughts!” I need a stencil that keeps me out of my own way.
My craft is not portable but my creativity travels. It makes its way into my journal, into my photo taking, into my writing, into my doodling. The only constant is that I need to use my hands. My hands are precious to me. They were my lifeline when my world was upside down. I remember those middle of the night visits into our garden, laying down my anxiety on the grass... Sensing each and every sprig beneath my hands was my only way to connect to a reality that had escaped me. Today my hands are my anchor and they are my way to freedom.
This is my colour of choice to express balance. It is neither dull, nor blasting. It is dignified, it carries depth and a certain coolness as if to say I have got a perspective on things. I am not carried by the torrent of my thoughts or the wheel of my emotions. I am here, right in the middle of it, and if feels fine.
Freedom... Freedom... Freedom... FREED!
From what? From whom? The prisons we live in have so many different faces. Some even feel desirable. Could it be then that discernement is the only freedom we can really enjoy?
I’m of the teary kind. I have learned over years of practice in the domain, that my tears are the expression of my speechlessness, of a consciousness rising. Tears are freedom in a liquid form, particularly when I am crying of laughter!
It is not always that I can see. Often - and always unconsciously - fears, anger, sadness or guilt may cloud my vision and I end up with a story that is unreal but oh so believable! Seeing reality for what it is, unabridged by our emotions is a training of a lifetime.
The word ‘gratitude’ has been used, overused, commercialised and vulgarised. Nonetheless, it speaks of one of the hardest attitudes to develop within oneself. It is so very difficult to be grateful towards that which we so persistently try to avoid and resist... Maybe one day I can become an outstanding athlete in the field of GRATITUDE. Currently in training.
Filters, Special effects, stickers... so many ways to reinforce that whatever we’re showing is not good enough.... I plead guilty: I love how these not-so-innocent tools allow me to pretend to myself that I am more than I actually am.
Time: anything worth doing takes time. If we can apply this as a filter to most of the activities and actions we perform during the day, then maybe we can get a hint at what matters for us. Maybe those things take time so we have the opportunity again and again to come back to feeling the pleasure in doing them instead of rushing through them.