I feel very passionately about the subject of today’s post. It is a human aspect that I have been more or less aware of throughout my life, but never more so than in the past fifteen years. There are young men and women who are aware of it, and there are some men and women my age who have no idea what it’s all about! So, here goes . . .
. . . When people you haven’t seen in a long time – perhaps ten, fifteen, twenty, or more years – say:
“Oh, it’s so nice to see you! You haven’t changed at all!”
Really? That’s not quite true, is it? They probably do mean it as a compliment; however, it isn’t the truth, for, of course we change as time goes by! So when people tell me that I haven’t changed, I smile, but in my head I’m saying: I hope that’s not true!
The biggest compliment I have ever received in this regard was from a good friend whom I had not seen in about fifteen years, and who after a long visit, looked at me and said:
“I love what you have Become.”
Many people Become. Many others remain where they have always been ever since they turned into young adults. They do not change; not their outlooks, not their beliefs; not any of their isms; hardly even their generation’s traditional looks or styles. How do they do that, I have often wondered? Have they not had any experiences; ups; downs; setbacks; been through any upheavals on a personal, societal or political basis? Have they not fallen in and out of love? Have they never been touched by any of life’s events? How can one remain so isolated; so intact; so insulated?
It is what life wants to teach us, if we are open to learning.
It is how our experiences shape us, if we open the space for them to do so.
It is what is minimally expected of us, if we partake in Living and not merely in Existing!
Many years ago, I loved and accepted the reality that I am a flawed human being. I was also very aware of the fact that this Me is like an unfinished sculpture that needed a master’s honest hand to chisel it and to smooth out its many rough edges. I began working on that while continuing to do all else that I was doing – and “all else” was juggling a lot! In other words, I did not put everything on hold until I Became for this is an on-going mission. The chiseling and smoothing I am making along the way, and every day, give me an incredible sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. What a delightful project that is, and what a long way it has brought me from where I was as an awkward, over-sensitive, over-serious, introverted, ignorant, naïve, terribly insecure teenager ( and even young adult!) to what I am today!
Sometimes we can be fast learners, at others slower than a snail. At times we might catch on quickly, at others we could be late bloomers. But, eventually, we must Become that Finer, Truer version of ourselves; not a Perfect one, for that is too tall an order for anyone to attain!
A few of my friends have Become. I guess, at this age, we all realize: what the hell?! There’s not much left of our journey so we might as well! And, sadly, I see many who are in my daughter’s age group who are still reluctant and hesitant about emerging from their traditional and familiar cocoons!
I remember when I delivered my son after having two girls. Everyone began calling my husband: Abu Marwan. He strutted around like a peacock! I, on the other hand, bristled when the first person called me Imm Marwan.
“I am Imm Rana,” I said defiantly, “she is my first-born!”
My sister-in-law, knowing how I felt about such matters, said: “And are you now going to change thousands of years of history?”
“We have to start somewhere!” I responded.
Needless to say, I never succeeded in my task! However, that’s when I began screening all my past experiences, thoughts and beliefs and implementing them universally: feminism, honesty, integrity, equality, justice, democratization and all the values that I held dear. If I really believed in equality, for instance, then it must apply to all people and everywhere: to the maids, the laborers, the rich, the poor, the young and the old, my friends and my enemies. Otherwise, I thought to myself, it would be just empty talk, and isn’t there enough of that already in our world? Applying equality in my environment was controversial, to say the least, and it took many years before I was satisfied that I had attained that premise. However, that was the path I had chosen to follow in order to Become that Finer version of myself that I wanted to be. Therefore to Become we have to dare shed those traditions, beliefs and cultural walls surrounding us and step out and away from them to explore what other viewpoints and ideas exist out there in the world and adopt some of the more enlightened thoughts, and, sometimes, totally changing our judgments and what we had always believed was “right” is a huge undertaking and one that requires courage, conviction and confidence in one’s self. We cannot say, for instance: I am a compassionate person, but when discussing homosexuals say: Not that! See, it doesn’t work that way. Compassion, as all values, is either across the board, or not at all! It’s as simple as that! Our “feelings” about such matters though, are not that black and white and we are entitled to our feelings about any issue. It may even be a Personal, Religious or Ideological Belief. Thus, we might like or dislike, approve or disapprove of homosexuals, atheists, or “tree-huggers.” That is our feeling. However, we cannot pretend to be compassionate human beings when we do not apply compassion, justice, equality and all other values on All without Any exclusion whatsoever.
My favorite case in point: Maysoon Zayid is a Palestinian actress/comedienne/humanist who has Cerebral Palsy (CP). However, what comes across when you see her performing is a beautiful woman – she is very attractive, but her beauty is more a radiation from deep within her – who is confident, aware, knowledgeable, committed and professional. She is a perfect example of how a person can Become for she knows exactly what she is and what she isn’t, and has accepted her condition and then taken it where very few dare to go with it, emerging as a glowing and inspiring human being. Absolutely incredible! Had Maysoon lacked the confidence, courage and conviction to go where others feared to, she would have never Become the exceptional person that she is.
That does not happen just because we wish or want it to. Nothing ever does! It only happens when we honestly open ourselves up to life, when we assess why it is that we feel or think the way that we do, how our experiences and dramas might give us a different perspective and how they can subsequently shape our true identity.
The confidence to change, to discard ideas that do not work anymore, to adapt to life’s changing landscape is a gift that many choose not to avail themselves of. Instead, they are constantly ruing the past and the “traditional” way of thinking and doing what they grew up with rather than be excited and enthusiastic about how our world, in so many aspects, is definitely changing for the better, and how we, too, can do that no matter what our age, circumstances, traditions, religion or where we happen to reside.
We allow ourselves to Become the best selves that we have the potential for becoming by exulting in every stage and phase that enters into our lives; by being curious, adventurous, excited about learning something new; daring to go down the untraditional path in order to learn about it and about ourselves and, yes, at times we might exhibit all the angst available and question, as I often did and still occasionally do: What is life all about? Why did that person die so young? Why do I believe this or that about any life issues? Why am I so depressed? Why did this person wrong me? Why did I fail in this endeavor that I poured all myself into? Why do wars keep happening? Why is corruption so prevalent? Why are politics so convoluted? Good questions when they prompt us to do something tangible about them, because if we just accept without asking, doubting, wondering and doing then we will never Become. And, if we never Become then we have not really Lived. We have merely Existed. That is such a terrible, terrible waste of a lifetime!