AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: December 2012 (Page 1 of 3)

How I Discovered the Secret to Happiness, and Other Things I Learned in 2012

In January 2012, I woke up one morning and suddenly decided that I will say ‘yes’ today. I will say ‘yes’ today and every day for as long as I need to because at that point, I needed newness in my life. It hit me then that I am turning 30 soon, having already wasted the peak of my twenties feeling dead from the inside.

At first, the ‘yes’es were comfortable. After all, they came from deep within my comfort zone; those friends I’ve had for years, the things I was expected to enjoy, and the thoughts I’ve always had. Yes, I’ll go have coffee today. Yes, I’ll come shopping with you. Yes, I’ll have that extra drink.

But with every added ‘yes’ in 2012, I pushed the walls of my comfort zone further away.

Then one day almost a year later, I was reflecting on the amazing experiences I had and all the wonderful things I learned in 2012, and I was struck by the surrealism of it all. Last month, I galloped near the pyramids atop a horse I learned to ride in under five minutes, taught by an old Egyptian man who shrugged when I told him it was my first time. “It’s like driving a car,” he had said. “Move the rein right to go right, and move it to the left to go left. Pull it towards you when you want to stop. It’s easy.”

Yes, I said, and I grabbed the reins. Easy. Life is easy.

2012 was good to me, really good. And it all started with a decision to start saying ‘yes’.

Yet what really mattered in 2012 is that due to my game of yes, I discovered the secret to happiness: systems. Systemize your life, your thoughts, and your expectations. Once you have a framework — an algorithm, a system — to work with, you can spend every moment of your life taking your pleasure seriously.

Apply If/then statements to your life. Find joy.

Here are the things I learned in 2012:

1. If two contradictory things feel correct, check for a pretense, because one of them is wrong.

2. If you are feeling something uncharacteristically strongly, run a scan over all your feelings and emotions systematically. You’re bound to find that the cause of the uncharacteristic emotion is something much more basic.

3. You are much smaller than life, and thus your life doesn’t really mean anything.

4. Nothing beyond your now and your near tomorrow matters; we will all die. Live your life. There is nothing more satisfactory than thoughts of simple happiness and joy as you lay your head on your pillow every night: imagine what would matter on your deathbed.

5. Bubbles are beautiful. Nourish your bubble and grow it.

6. Happiness lies in two things: curiosity and amusement. Look at all moments in life no matter how prosaic with these two things and you shall live happily.

7. Love deeply. Love your job. Love your friends. Love the smell of the air. Love the places you frequent. Love your family. Love makes a difference.

8. Fail fast.

9. The best way to deal with nakad is to exterminate. Even if the cause is a person you love. Nakad is contagious. Exterminate all causes, instantly. (It’s hard to translate nakad for those of you who don’t speak Arabic, but it roughly means “gloom”).

10. Most things won’t matter a year from now, but you will be a year older, so don’t let things matter now either.

11. Just say yes. I know you don’t want to, but do it. Say yes.

12. The materialistic things you accumulate will depreciate with time. The only useful thing you will always keep with you is experiences. So, let yourself experience things, even if they seem crazy to you now. Look at every minute in your life as if you’re collecting powers in a video game. Collect the shit that counts for most points.

13. Think critically. Over 90% of what you’re told is bullshit.

14. Always ask “why?”.

15. Do what you feel like doing: occupy your present.

Happy New Year. I hope your 2013 will be as awesome as my 2012.

All the wonderful people in my life who made the year so beautiful: Mama, Hisham, Omar, Gus, Abed, 7abeh, Basem&Asil (and the baby), Yasmeen, Karma, Rosie, Maghi, Nour, Soori, Sara, Fufu, Amid, Shady, Shadi, Shereen, Bilo, Raphique, Mais, Peeka, Basma, Ibra, Elke, Ronald, Yogi, Jimi, Turtle Green, Negresco, and mafia.

What the Fer3i Wishes for 2013

Lotus Flower

This is possibly the coolest video in history.

Noises that piss me off

I am blessed with the world’s most annoying ears. Regular, everyday noises resulting from boring, everyday activities like walking, eating, or breathing loudly PISS THE LIVING CRAP OUT OF ME. Even if someone is in a different room, I hear them chewing RIGHT INSIDE MY HEAD and it is the most agitating thing in the world (that’s why I always have earplugs in my wallet). Sometimes, I hold in my agitation for a while but then I burst into Monster Roba, which is not a good thing because Monster Roba is really mean.

On the other hand, I’m slightly deaf when it comes to more basic sounds like people talking. I find it almost impossible to hear someone speak to me when there is a lot of other background noise (even if they are right in front of me and are talking loud). I try to read their lips to ‘hear’ them, but I often just can’t process what they say so most of my conversations are composed of “eish?”, “shu?”, and “what?”.

Fun, I tell you. This is a big part of why I don’t watch movies or television, and why I’m often begging my friends to shut off certain kinds of music or shut-the-hell-up as “I can’t hear myself think”.

Stupid ears.

Not all annoying noises were created equal. These are the noises that REALLY PISS ME OFF:

1. People who drag their feet when they walk. Man, pick up your damn feet!

2. The sound of a television set.

3. Enclosed spaces with bad acoustics (too much metal or glass); it’s like the smallest noises are amplified by a thousand while someone is screeching on the side.

4. Certain kinds of music like hip hop or excessively-happy pop.

5. Sound systems with a hiss.

6. The sound of plastic bags.

7. People who chew with their mouth open (I will one day kill everyone who chews with their mouth open).

8. Slurping noises or sipping noises (GRRRR).

9. Loud music in small spaces like cars.

10. The sound of hairdryers.

I can’t explain to you how annoying these noises are to me. They make me want to commit homicide.

In Praise of Nivea

Goodness isn’t about the advertising campaign or how expensive a skincare product is, but often, our capitalist society makes you forget that.

That’s why this post is about Nivea: simple, thick, creamy Nivea, which makes amazing products that have made the past few years of my life oh-so-much-better. You see, I suffer from dry skin, and at different points, I tried everything available in the market from overpriced Clinique to medical creams recommended by the pharmacist with scary names and even scarier packaging. Nothing worked.

Then one day, the neighborhood’s corner store was selling discounted Nivea, and I couldn’t say no to a huge tub of moisturizer that was selling for 1JD. At that point, I hadn’t used Nivea as a brand since I was a child, because it never occurred to me somehow.

The package claimed that the cream can be used for the face, the body, and hands. I was skeptical at first, especially in this day’s disgusting trend towards overspecialization, where you’re not supposed to even use freakin’ face cream around the “sensitive eye area”. But then I thought WTF, and tried it on my face too, and oh man, I’ve never looked back.

I eventually started testing out their other products. I now have a tub of the quintessential 1JD blue Nivea in every single part of my life, including my purse, my desk at work, and next to my bed.

It’s not just for dry skin either. Sometimes when I’m angry, I open the tub just to smell the delicious, wholesome scent of the cream and everything becomes good again. There’s this relaxing aspect to it that sends me back to my childhood, when I was a little girl playing with my grandmother’s toiletries (the other smell is that of lemon colonya, which I somehow managed to find a picture of on the almighty World Wide Web when I searched for “كولونيا ليمون”, and I just must include it in this post. I never understood the obsession with lemon-scented cologne that our grandparents’ generation had. I still don’t understand it. But my grandma never ran out of lemon-scented cologne, and she always smelled like it too, but anyway…)

My most recent Nivea discovery is the most expensive one, at a still-modest 5.5JDs a tub: Nivea’s unfortunately-named Q10 Day Cream.

If you’re as obsessed with SPF as I am (my freckles multiply by a 1000 without SPF), you’d love it too. I actually stopped needing to layer on two different moisturizer brands AND SPF cream after I discovered Q10. It does it all. From one tub. I wish I can find a picture of the cream’s consistency, but I can’t. Just take my word for it: it’s like they somehow managed to breed butter with clouds, and it smells amazing too.

It also happens to be the first time I ever use anti-wrinkle cream. You see, I’m turning 28 this July. TWENTY-FREAKIN’-EIGHT. I still don’t have any wrinkles (I think), but I feel really old anyway, and old people should use anti-wrinkle skincare. To put that in perspective, I had just turned 19 when I started this damn blog. I was really excited about editing my “About” page to say “twenty-something”. Now I’m going to be THIRTY in a couple of years. I have to change it to “thirty-something.” Crap.

But that’s not the point. Point is, Nivea is awesome. And they’re not paying me for this. I just love their products so much that I’m willing to write this with nothing but love. Thank you, oh, Germany, for Nivea.

Jadal’s latest: ElMakina جدل – الماكينه

So, after quite a long wait, Jordanian band Jadal are coming back on the 29th with a new album. Today, they released the first single, “ElMakina”. I have a long history with Jadal, starting with when I first saw them play live at Champions in 2005 during the Battle of the Bands. But anyway…

“ElMakina” is a refreshing change from the Oh-I-love-you style that dominates mainstream music. Don’t get me wrong, it is a song about love, but it is a song about how love often isn’t the key, especially in our society where everything from the way you pee to who you get married to is dominated by social class, religion, and who your father knows.

هذا حالي هيك خذيني مع مصاري أو بلا
كيف مش مبالي لا أنا هيني ماشي وهيني بحرث زي الماكينة

لو قالوي أغزو بلد لقتل كتّاب الشعر وكل حامل قلم
هاي أفكار مش بس بتنكتب هاي ألحان تتغنّى لولد الولد
ولو صار و ما حد كتب ما أسهل تمحي اسم أي بلد

وحب وما بيكفيها قال وفن ما بطعميش الولاد والناس الناس شو بدها تحكي عنكوا الناس
وعرس يلبّسها ألماس وبيت بحارة هاي كلاس للناس للناس بس لنعبّي عيون الناس

I have a soft spot for angry music.

Lyrics in English (translation my own)
This is how my situation is,
Take me whether I have the money or not,
You think I’m irresponsible?
No, here I am working like a machine.
If they told me to kill every poet and every writer,
And if no one wrote anything at all,
Then it’s so easy to wipe out the name of any country.
Love isn’t enough for her,
They said art doesn’t satisfy the hungry mouths that demand feeding,
And what would people say?
And she wants a wedding with all the diamonds,
And to live in a “high class” neighborhood,
For other people.
To satisfy other people.

December 20

That day, she sighed and wondered in her head: Who are you today to know who you will be at a future point in time? Who I will be? There’s a fragile, explosive, uncontrollable uncertainty in being human. She imagined a Bunsen burner exploding. Look, fireworks!

Then she looked up and shrugged, giving in, “Whatever.”

That didn’t matter to her then. Things mattered less and less as the days passed. Barely anything matters now.

Previously:
One Short Year Later

What it feels like to be allergic to chicken

Most people won’t believe you when they find out that you’re allergic to poultry. How can anyone be allergic to chicken, they will ask. Safe, white chicken! The healthy option that’s always available. KFC. Grilled chicken breast. Wings. Turkey and cheese sandwiches.

You shrug. You just are. You’ve always been.

What would happen to you if you had chicken right now, they ask. You shrug again and answer simply with three words: “I throw up.”

“Oh,” they would say. “That’s really bad. Chicken is delicious.”

You shrug again.

People who have never suffered from food allergies cannot comprehend how annoying it is to eat something you’re allergic to. It starts with a harmless itch in your throat. Then the itch goes out of control, attacking you from the inside out. The itch becomes so bad that you would do anything to be able to scratch the living hell out of your brain, the insides of your ears, the back of your throat, the area behind your nose, your esophagus. But your nails can’t reach those spots, even when you try. So you start itching your cheeks instead. Your neck. Your nose. Your arms. Your eyes.

Then the itch abates and the pain comes. Your mouth and esophagus swell with a deep, dull, and uncomfortable pain. You get so nauseous that breathing becomes annoying. You end up leaning over a toilet seat, barfing your guts out.

But you don’t say this, and you feel nothing as people sympathetically ask you if you like the taste of chicken. Delicious, wholesome chicken.

You try to explain that you don’t really know what chicken tastes like, because you associate it with barf. You tell them how you already had a chicken allergy when you became aware of the world as a baby.

But allergies go away, they say. Did you try chicken recently?

No, you say. You’re too chicken for that, and you still get nauseous when you mistakenly ingest chicken broth or when the pizza comes with sliced chicken hot dogs instead of sliced beef hot dogs. You’re generally excellent at sniffing out poultry though; most of the time, you can tell that chicken stock was used from the way food smells. Twenty-seven years of experience.

The people shrug and express how sorry they feel for you, “We wish we can lie and tell you that you’re not missing out on much, but you are. Chicken shawerma! Club sandwiches! Msakhan! Chicken with cashew nuts! Farouj! Chicken soup! Stuffed turkey! Sheesh tawooq! Mlookheyeh!”

You shrug one last time.

Oh, well.

Create Your Own Future

A talk by Rula Al-Assi:

Amal Murqos: Yabalala

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