Since we all see the world through the lens of our individual nationality, the media, our family, religion, community, the schools we attend, our career choices, and the organizations we belong to, it’s impossible to deliver a message everyone can hear.
After a few individuals provided two-by-four feedback, I discovered that I had omitted a key ingredient in my message, one so significant that it deserves a prominent spot in the sunlight.
When a foreigner moves to a different country and becomes an expatriate (expat), to survive, they will need to make not just one, but numerous cultural adjustments.
We normally only see the cultural shock associated with fitting into the host country, but as we begin to interact with expatriates from around the world, we get hit by an additional two-by-four: language and cultural differences, prejudices and misassumptions that glue labels on our foreheads before we even have the opportunity to say hello. In response, many expats undergo the additional stress of finding that they no longer fit in anywhere. Many avoid this intercultural tightrope by clinging more tightly to the security of their cultural group, others venture out and succeed in creating international friendships that transcend stereotypes and misperceptions.
Through this communication challenge I also saw that because I arrived in Egypt alone, single, middle-aged and unemployed, some of my experiences were different from those who came to Egypt as part of a corporate/family package.
Lastly, I realized that no matter how much I refine my message of peace through understanding and respecting our differences, there will always be those who are unnerved by the possibility that how they see those around them has been built upon a mold of melting ice cream, they’ll dig in their heals rather than stepping outside their comfort zone.
While we’re all seeking the same destination, our paths are different. All we can do is to speak our truth from love. What someone else does with it is entirely up to them.
It is probably not new news to you that other than our essence, which is pure perfection, we’ll rarely see what we perceive as faultlessness in the behavior of someone we envy or look up to. This is because growth spurts and healing may leave them temporarily off balance. When our equilibrium is out of whack we may temporarily forget to remember what we already know and, horror of horrors, act like a normal human being, flaws and all.
Perhaps, when another’s behavior disappoints us, it’s our own fear of never being “good enough” that causes us to label those we see as more advanced as “hypocrites” or “frauds”. Or, perhaps it’s because their behavior may be a reflection of what we need to change in ourselves.
“Imperfection” is often a sign that someone else is on the cusp of stepping beyond a difficult life lesson. Rather than degrading them, how about shouting “Hooray!” because when someone else succeeds in climbing over the obstacle course of their own pain, they show us that we can do it, too.
In the past, I’ve written about how our fear of loss and safety sabotages our lives by bringing to our doorsteps exactly what we fear most and how our every unkind, uncompassionate action is merely an extension of a fear we carry as individuals or as a group. As the New Year prepares to create worldwide economic, ecological and humane crises’ on a scale that impacts every living being, our fears are already being reflected back to us on a global level.
I wonder if individual fears of not having enough, of not being loveable, of lacking personal power are the primary sources of the upcoming collapse of the world’s economy.
When we live with a focus of greed or a thirst for love that can never be sated, our energies are focused on how to get more of what we think we lack. In the process, we lose touch with the compassionate, generous parts of ourselves that are masked by acts that eschew our humanity.
So what if we make money from fake pharmaceuticals or products tainted by deadly fillers? So what if we take out loans we can never repay and our irresponsibility causes those who have worked their whole lives saving and living within their means to lose everything? So what if by stealing from the poor and treating others as if they are less than human causes them to live on the street or in refugee camps? Why does anyone think that they have the right to a good life while others don’t?
The devastation of our environment is another manifestation of greed. So what if polluting for profit takes away clean water from everything and everyone who lives in this world? Who cares if it destroys ecosystems and expands the impact of global warming? If we make enough money, we delude ourselves into believing that we will always be able to buy replacements for what we have destroyed---forever.
The fear of personal and collective safety enables us to dehumanize our enemies so it is easier to righteously kill them.
Maybe the Biblical “Eye for an eye” isn’t about hurting someone who hurt us, but the boomerang effect that will eventually bite us where it will hurt the most.
When we take no responsibility for how the racial, religious and socioeconomic fear-based actions we co-created bring us face-to-face with the rage that wears the mask of terrorism, who is really to blame?
In this New Year of atrocious challenges, there are beautiful opportunities to heal not only ourselves, but the world as a whole. Everything we do, think and say has an impact on everyone around us and, by extension, the world.
When we see, face and heal our fears as individuals and human beings, we create energy that touches every corner of the world with love that empowers others to do the same. Perhaps the most important slogan for 2017 is not “Make America Great Again,” but “Make America Love Again.” Love is how we can stamp out our own fear and those who contribute to it..
Life truly is amazing. We set out on one journey and then an opportunity to change our life path beckons or pecks at us until we do something…anything to get us on the track to joyful living. We have two choices: We can stay where we are, or we can go with our knowing and take the path that beckons us, the one that can lead us to both our heart and our destiny. Choice is always entirely up to us.
When I decided to move to Egypt, I chose not only a bumpy path, but one filled with sinkholes. I went to a strange country where I didn’t know the language, the culture or the rules, crucial missing information for a single, midlife woman who sailed from and into a tide of misassumptions from both shores.
In hindsight, the most difficult part of my journey was facing myself, the woman who, despite her age, didn’t know who she was and had relied upon others to define her.
Living in Egypt and having the opportunity to write about my first, most tumultuous life-changing year there, offered opportunities I could never have imagined. Because I was befriended by numerous Egyptians who became my Middle Eastern family, I had the unique opportunity to learn about the culture from the inside and then share it with you. And, because they accepted me for all of who I was and loved me because I was me, I learned how to befriend myself.
It was through their eyes and gentle patience that I saw how my background, my national identity, my family, my community and fear of the unknown had held me back. They showed me, as Neale Donald Walsh says, that my way of doing things isn’t the right, wrong or only way, just a different way.
It was their patience that enabled me to begin to re-remember that I couldn’t change anyone else, only myself. Through them I learned that if I was to bloom in a foreign culture I needed to understand, respect and embrace our differences.
I have received many gifts in my life. Egypt is one that tops the list. Developing friendships with Egyptians put me on the fast-track to understand her major faiths, culture and societal norms. I learned about and then had the opportunity to share my experiences with the world. I met my magnificent husband Chuck in Cairo just as I was planning to return to the United States. I wrote a book I hope will serve as a bridge to peace through understanding our differences as well as inspiration for those who need a nudge to do what their heart knows they must.
Our paths are different and yet they’re all the same: We all seek to find our place in the world, the one where we know we belong, where we can use our talents to fulfill the destiny awaiting each of us. If I can do it anyone can. That’s a no brainer!
5. Writing is easy. All you do is sit down
at a typewriter and open an artery.
(A version of a Hemingway quote)
When I suffered my first bout of writer's block, reading a beautifully written book was enough to stimulate my writing juices. Cleaning or baking had the same powerful impact. Today, physical labor and connecting to the earth through gardening and meditation is where I find myself inhaling grounding energy, my personal smorgasbord of creativity.
Writing is not an instantaneous process, but a cumulative one. Working with the earth and animals gets me out of my head and into my heart, the place where my best work shines forth. In this state, a blog is written in an hour or two rather than over several excruciating days or weeks. Sometimes blocks are a gift from the Universe. I have learned that when nothing percolates it may be because I need to wait patiently for new information because the ability to write from my heart is a gift that ebbs and flows. When the right energy is absent, what I create falls far below what you deserve to receive. When the energy is filled with insights, it flows with clarity that does not require bloodletting.
6. When you come to the end of all the light you know, and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: Either you will be given something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.
When I arrived in Egypt alone, I wasn’t infused with courage or a complete understanding of why I knew that Cairo would become my home. Nor did I know that I’d remain there for five years rather than just one, author an award-winning book and meet my American husband Chuck. What I did know is that if I followed my unshakable knowing that there were reasons for me to move to Egypt and to go with it rather than embracing my fear of the unknown, I would find out why.
Although I’m a journalist and author, I still find it nearly impossible to adequately explain what “knowing” means to me. Sometimes I think you have to be in the middle of it to fully understand; other times I feel that there must be a way to communicate the experience so that someone else doesn’t miss it when it happens to them.
I think that perhaps “knowing” is seeing the synchronicity in our lives, what many would call a series of “coincidences” that opens doorways we may have never considered entering.
Synchronicity shows us the path we can take to use our unique talents to their fullest. “Fullest,” in this context means to utilize the unique talents gifted to us to make the world a better place.
When we follow our knowing by observing the synchronicities that land in our laps and see one obstacle after another fall by the wayside, it’s a sign that we’re ready to take the path of living our life to the fullest, the one that will lead to our destiny, our reason for having been born.
I think I’m beginning to get it, to see that when anyone of us is unhappy with who we are we tend to act in ways that expose the psycho babbled “Inner Child.”
No matter what our age and no matter how hard we’ve worked to become emotionally healthy, there may always be something that will trigger a childhood fear imbedded in our subconscious and cause us to act in ways that may, at a later date, make us cringe.
New age teachers talk a lot about “living in the moment,” of focusing completely upon every experience as it happens, no matter how simple.
While I recoil at the thought of taking living in the moment to the point where I’m communicating with the water and mechanisms of a toilet as it flushes, or embracing the contents of my garbage as I put it outside my flat for the trash man to pick up, I think that we all need to focus more upon the feelings that the moment brings up and to monitor, embrace, or release them as appropriate before we do or say something we regret.
Personally, I’ve begun to see that when something ticks me off, rather than reacting, if I immediately put it in perspective by stopping and asking myself, “Will this matter next week or next year?” or “Will I remember this next week or next year?” the reasons for feeling annoyed in the first place will be identified, dissolved and immediately released. Even better, I won’t have to gag on words that hurt when I swallow them.