A Win-Win

When I was younger, I had seen myself many times but we had never met. It wasn’t that I lacked self-awareness or even orientation. It had everything to do with the way I viewed myself in relation to others. Never did I think that people were out there for the taking, but I hadn’t ever considered the possibility that those around me were just as capable of hurting themselves as they were of hurting me. It’s ironic that we’re disappointed most often by the people we expect the most from, and it just isn’t fair to score someone against an impossible record. The greatest lesson is that no relationship has to be lost on you.It was very recently that I began understanding the notion of investment. And when you invest in relationships, you aren’t reaping someone else’s crop. You’re actually feeding your own.

When I love, I love in limbs; I always thought that had to be the height of investment. The truth that no one ever shares with us is that when you build something with the people around you, the stakes are as much in your court as they are in theirs, which is exactly why you can never lose. Not even if they break your heart or disappoint you. We may lose ties, but we can learn to not lose ourselves, even when it seems the whole world is in disapproval of us. In my own eyes, I had something hideous. My entire sense of self had eroded.

The loss of a good friend made a light in me dim. I had shrunken into a shadow of myself. Less than a wallflower, I was a stain. This ugliness had spread into the far reaches of my life and it was easy to see that I had let myself go.

It takes a lot of pain to split your own self and pit both sides against each other.

The guilt of resentment has broken me many times over and I’m sure it will a few more. Every time it has, all that could soothe me was forgiveness, even when I didn’t want it near me. For so long, I refused to forgive unfortunate situations for what they were, so they would sit in me so long that when I forced them out, they would never really leave me.

So when I forgave, I let myself heal.

In that, I began to see not only my shortcomings, but also the beautiful things given to me in what I had just lost. There’s an under-appreciated melancholy in that, and I think we need to honour it better. I believe in an Almighty God who is my deliverance from suffering, and in that belief, I honour the hurt as significant, but not all-consuming. We all have a vessel, and that is mine. I find solace in knowing that growing and shedding is promised so long as I live, and maybe I’ll do it enough times that I will learn to enjoy it.

There were people who inspired me and shared with me their love, their trials and their lives. Somewhere, the love was lost. Shedding the resentment I felt towards so many people on the other end of my failed relationships gave me back the right to continue.  I am still a strong believer in anger’s validity, but I can appreciate that the capacity to do without it may be one of the greatest tools a person can carry through life. Peace of mind is something we all need, and forgiveness is the reassurance that we are all privy to that peace of mind.



Delicately crafted genius in the telling of stories is engrossment so great you might accidentally slip into the account. Arms open, hands at the ready with shoulders caving inwards, and back bent, then extended, contorting to the twists and turns of the tale. I think truly riveting stories possess the teller every time.

Everything around us is based on a story: our upbringing, history, business models and even advertising. Some people are trying to sell to you, others eager to inspire, and a small few ask that you heed their warnings. Stories are written with soul, with words that encompass an event, a feeling, and then some. We tell stories all the time: when we document an event and its outcome, when we go back to something we said before, or when we’re lending our wisdom, we are running through a plot to paint a picture for our audience.

I like to tell stories because they encompass much more than ‘the point’. 

Within a story, loose threads tie into larger tales unknown to us, where the edge of imagination begins. It’s everything we’ve never done and never tried and never seen. From there, a great deal of our fears are born and bred, pushing us away from the places of adventure and innovation. Sometimes, we give up all restraint and let them box us into spaces of hopelessness and empty cynicism. Tapping into this wealth of “unknown” is how people imagine solutions and create awe-worthy content for you and I’s consumption.

There is, however, another dimension of telling the story that is more profound to me.

In Arabic, there is a proverb that goes,

”A kind word can break the hardest stick.”

I think about that a lot. Every time I’ve fallen into someone’s compassion, my sadness was at the mercy of their deliverance. And like the flower that blooms under the rain, I would wear my grief heavy, but the grip of a kind word kept my back straight. I want my stories like this, laced with warmth, and for the weary traveler to settle in them, for them to quiet all that is sore. In saying that, I remember all that has delivered me and kept me safe all this time. This is all that is beautiful about stories.

So I need to tell you that things can die in the world of imagination, too.

We don’t need imagination to write stories. We only need to be alive. So when violence is exacted time and again, don’t doubt that this is more than a fear and hatred of the unknown. There is a place where fear meets bigotry under a large willow, where they share ideas of intellectualism, conflating them with intolerance. Their stories have been told to me so many times that they have made homes in me. So much, my lips clamour to make noise in the place of pain. Especially when my hands are caught in places where my fingers run over their blades again, and again, and again.

What I am saying is, would they have still held my head under the water if I could have shown them what they did?

Could I have told a better story to soften them and change their minds? Please tell me that I could.

I want the tide to turn for us.


I’m a really introverted person. When I was a kid, I tossed and turned between extreme introversion at school and unabashed loudness otherwise. Even in my loudness, I was shy. I still am. What has changed is that with time, life became messy. Slowly but surely, that unchecked mess makes for an unruly image. And it isn’t just about what we start to look like to everyone around us: it’s a lot more about what we start to look like to ourselves and how that starts to affect our confidence and performance.

It would take me years to learn that in whatever part of your life, things that are uncommunicable and unpleasant create clutter.

It makes sense.

There are so many things that get in the way of a perfect, micro-managed image. Things like health complications, financial crises, personal circumstance, schooling and exhaustion can steal years worth of social credit in moments. A faux-pas isn’t the end of the world in the eyes of everyone else; I’m referring to self-crippling feelings of shame and guilt for not meeting a deadline or fulfilling a request. While it’s important to be considerate of others’ time, it’s essential to listen to your body and turn down an opportunity to please someone if it means avoiding self-sacrifice in the long term (just make sure to make it up as soon as you can).

This is where introversion comes into play. I thrive in aloneness. I love teamwork and friendships because I enjoy being in the company of others, but I love that I have time to do so much on my own. The downside is that I have never been good at letting others know what I need. I would rather put up with it myself. Which just isn’t how the world works.

If you’re working in a team or in any relationship, what you do has the capacity of touching everyone around you. You are a moving part in a larger machine. It took me a really hard time to swallow that pill, and I am still getting into the habit of acting on it. For every struggle you don’t communicate, you run the risk of having it blow up in your face. It’s our responsibility to act on due diligence if we can help it. And we can most times. I can let you know that I am unable to see you because my energy is low. I can let you know that I am taking space from you to work out my own problems. I might even tell you that my priorities have shifted. You, on the other hand, can understand that or decline to consider. Both are valid responses, but it’s where so much compassion is lost. I say this from (acute) personal experience.

While we aren’t responsible for what other people are going through, it’s courteous to offer understanding. It’s human. Sometimes it takes getting out of your head to see where another person stands not only in relation to yourself, but in relations to their life and experiences.

Rewarding interactions are transformative, not transactional.  A transformative interaction is an opportunity rather than a gain, whereas a transactional interaction leads to a closed-ended and measurable outcome. We need both in our lives. I am by no means an expert, but a transformative approach would take unpleasant situations and turning them into learning lessons, no matter the outcome. It’s how we grow and thrive, and how we learn to be considerate of where others are coming from. Being sidetracked by misunderstandings is unavoidable, but how we move forward and make amends changes and defines us.

There is always an opportunity to make things right so long as we are alive, and I think the greatest lesson to be learned from these awkward run-ins is moving forward with tact and withholding excessive self-judgement. The worst thing you can do for yourself is create your own rut and perpetuate it day in and day out. The need to put yourself down often has to do with accountability and feeling that you need to right your wrong. Everyone and every situation deserve their own form of making things right. It could mean coffee with a colleague, a sincere apology and peace offer made to a friend, or maybe doing better the next time around.