With a few unpracticed and child-like strokes, I was able to convey in full colour today's Doha driving madness. How very cathartic to capture 3 hours' distress in 15 minutes' creative release.Read More
Warning: This post does include foul words ... though perhaps not the ones you'd expect.
I'm going out on a limb here by generalising and supposing that cursing is a universal phenomenon. I may be wrong, but I've yet to hear of a nation or a culture that hasn't incorporated some type of expletive into its elocutionary fabric.
And while I don't consider myself a prude by any means, and even though cuss words don't make me cringe per se, I do try avoid using them simply because they seem like the lazy-man's alternative to thinking things through and giving true voice to feelings.
Though I grew up visiting construction sites with my Dad, where 4-letter words were commonplace but no less offensive than they'd be elsewhere, my parents were older (well into their late 30's/early 40's when they had me) and what one would consider old-fashioned for the times.
And so, despite growing up in the 70's, the 'Me' decade, where freedom of expression was expected, encouraged, even demanded, I basically grew up in a home where swearing as a form of self-expression was NOT the norm. Oh, I would hear my parents say '$h*t' or 'Dammit' on the odd occasion, but never when they knew I was close enough to hear. And contrary to many a French-Canadian household, profanity, particularly 'sacres' (the use of words from liturgy as a means of cursing in French Canada), was unacceptable and worthy of a serious tongue-lashing.
I first heard the ''f'' word just before moving to South America, sitting on a curb on a sunny summer day outside our house in Burlington, Ontario. An older boy from across the street asked me if I knew what it meant. I didn't, but of course I didn't admit not knowing. Even at that young an age, I was afraid to admit I didn't know something, afraid to look silly, afraid I might come out the loser in this test of wits, afraid to admit my ignorance of a term I should obviously have known at the wise old age of seven.
It would be a while yet before I'd learn how to 'sign' that nasty four-letter word, and years beyond that to realise that the word itself carries no real meaning other than the feeling and the emotions we impart onto it. But at the time, when I first heard it, I just knew it had to be bad ... because of the secretive and all-knowing way it was shared. I was afraid of what it 'might' mean.
And though my parents later explained it was a 'really bad word', somehow I always knew I could have gotten away with using IT rather than any sacred church words or a 'dammit' with 'God' attached to the front of it. Because the 'f' word really HAD NO MEANING.
This vulgar word, uttered across the globe, with a universal reputation of being so nasty ... it was nothing more than an empty vessel waiting to be filled with intention.
As I grew older, I started understanding my parents' perspective a bit better. It was what was behind the thoughts and the words that made them most damaging. It wasn't necessarily the curse itself, it was the intention behind the profanity that could really hurt. That stayed with me.
When we had Kiddo, we knew there were certain words we didn't want to expose her to in our home. While the traditional 'f' word was obviously on the list, much like my parents we've never considered the word quite worthy of the adulation it gets all on its own. Yes, I'd likely lose my 's&*t' if I heard her say it, but mostly because of the intention and feelings behind it, not because of the word itself. I realise she has no idea what it really means either, and that would basically render it meaningless and unworthy of too much attention.
What I've been much more concerned with lately is a far worse 4-letter word. One that has no place in our life, and that we rarely utter out loud, yet that creeps in almost daily and gives rise to a host of other expletives. It is a word that carries so much thought and significance behind it, and that is actually most harmful when avoided and ignored.
It is a word that very few people are willing to acknowledge, much less give voice to, whether in Canada, Qatar, Egypt, Syria, USA, Russia, or elsewhere.
That word, the nastiest four-letter word, the one that hurts more when it is silenced than when it is voiced, is none other than:
Elisabeth Kubler-Ross said ''There are only two emotions: love and fear. All positive emotions come from love, all negative emotions from fear.''
I've loved this quote from the first time I heard it, but I'd never put that much thought into it until recently. And though some might call Elisabeth's statement an over-simplification, I think the complexity of the concept is mind-blowing. Because it implies that you have to work your way back from every negative emotion to figure out what 'fear' is driving it. And that may mean finding some nasty truths along the way.
Truths that far exceed the ugly that a meaningless expletive at the forefront could ever convey.
Looking back on my 44 years, I can see a lot of ugly truths, negative emotions and misguided decisions that have been driven by fear:
- Staying in a failed marriage for far too long because I was afraid I couldn't actually make it on my own, because I was afraid to admit I'd failed, because I was afraid I wouldn't manage to be happy even if I left, because I was afraid that I was actually the single cause of all the unhappiness.
- Refusing to acknowledge the depth of my grief at losing my dad out of fear that it would so break me that I'd never be whole again, out of fear that I had to make it without him from here on in, out of irrational fear that acknowledgement equalled reality (reality is reality, whether acknowledged or not - denial is only a temporary balm).
- Refusing to write about my perspective on issues such as 'this' (kudos to my blogging buddy MB for the authenticity and 'real'-ness of his posts) because I'm terrified of acknowledging that humankind is capable of such atrocities.
And there is so much more fear that halts me daily, that stops me from achieving my true potential, that I unwillingly impart into my daughter's psyche, that bleeds into almost every aspect of my life.
There is my very obvious fear of heights. There is the fear I experience as a mother every time Kiddo heads out alone to walk the 8 doors down to her friend's house. There is the fear of failure every time I click on 'Save & Publish' for a blog post. There is the fear of not being able to cope if I throw out my cigarettes for once and for all. The list is long:
- Not trusting my gut (e.g. feeling I HAVE to step into an elevator with a shady-looking character), out of fear that I'll offend.
- Trying to be someone I'm not, out of fear of rejection.
- Not saying something, out of fear of being wrong.
- Not trusting, out of fear of deception.
And always, there's the fear of ridicule. This is the fear that was born of a burpee (nicely demonstrated here by Linora Low) and that gave birth to this post.
Last week, I was at the gym with the personal trainer I've hired to help whip me back into shape. He had me doing thirty (30, 3-0, THIRTY) burpees. I started uttering the 'f' word under my breath at five (5, FIVE). I started uttering ''I hate this'' quite loudly at ten (10, 1-0, TEN). At twenty (20, 2-0, TWENTY), I couldn't really breathe ... so I just replayed the 'f' word on a mindless loop in my head. By thirty (30, 3-0' THIRTY) I was sweating, crying, gasping, flopping around like a landed fish, crawling my way back up to my feet rather than jumping, cursing my broken body and my trainer in a single laboured breath.
When I got home, I loudly professed my distaste for burpees to Smilin' Vic, using every expletive I could think of to describe this most absurd and obscene 'exercise'. I didn't refer to them as burpees; I repeatedly used Smilin' Vic's military term for the manoeuvre (which sounds quite like 'mends and futher-buckers').
Not once during that hateful volley of meaningless curses did I stop to consider my own fear in the equation. I just went on and on cursing, growing more negative as I injected my fear into expletives without actually acknowledging that fear. Not once did I give actual voice to that fear. Not once did I use the word 'fear' to describe what was welling up inside me.
And the next day, I woke up sore. Sore and triumphant. Oddly energised. Oddly optimistic. Yes, I'd struggled. Yes, I'd been embarrassed. Yes, I'd 'flailed'. But I hadn't 'failed'. I hadn't quit. I wasn't pretty, but the burpees hadn't beat me; the burpies weren't the enemy.
And I realised I had confronted a fear. And survived.
I realised I didn't actually 'hate' burpees. I didn't actually 'hate' my coach for pushing me. I was simply afraid. Not afraid of the burpees - afraid of what the burpees had shown me: how far I'd let myself slide, how out-of-shape I was, how weak I was, how physically run-down my body had become.
I was scared to look silly. I was afraid my mind couldn't control my body. I was petrified that my will might be defeated. I was frightened by the fact that inwardly my body had been whispering to me for years that I need to get stronger, and that it was now shouting it outwardly after years of being ignored. I was terrified by the involuntary grunts expulsed from my lungs. I cringed at the knots in my guts. I recoiled at my inflexibility, at the burn in every muscle. I was horrified at the sweat pouring off my brow and from the crooks in my arms.
I was terrified anyone might see me and laugh.
And the 'f' word, the universally recognised 'bad word', couldn't convey all that, no matter how many times I uttered it. And it couldn't make things better.
But waking up the next morning and admitting my fear quite simply and literally erased the negativity. I'm heading back into that gym wearing my fear like a badge. I'm heading back into that gym ready to face that fear head-on. I'll strike at it, I'll flail, and I'll likely waiver and once again utter a few expletives. But I've exposed my fear. It's way out in the open now; there's no hiding from me anymore. It's not so strong now that it's finally been voiced.
I know that once I kill that fear, there's not a burpee that can stop me.
I'll conquer that nastiest four-letter word yet.
It won't be pretty. But bring it on ...
I have these moments ... these weird moments where I'm totally me, totally where I'm supposed to be.
They always freak me out.
Where I finally let rip on a consultant who outright lied to my face (honor rather than valor is rampant around these here parts ...).
I let RIP .....
It's not like I was graceful about it. Not like I handled it in a truly professional manner. Not like I was proud of myself when I finally walked away. But I simply COULD NOT TAKE IT ....
Another totally 'me' moment ... with my friends, tonight, having dinner and drinks at the Four Seasons Hotel ... Completely surreal, yet totally where I'm supposed to be.
Seated smack-dab in between the South African cursing queen and the British pinkie-raising, biscuit-eating, tea-drinking Queen's subject.
Talking about breastfeeding days that are far behind me and an old age home that is years away (In'Shallah).
The wine and cigarettes were a reward. For sitting in traffic for over two hours today. Total bumper-to-bumper, side-to-side, romper room fun ;-)
Driving in Doha traffic is hit and miss. I try to take it all in stride. But sometimes it gets the best of me. Sometimes I lose it.
I have these moments where I actually curse out fellow drivers. We're stuck in a quagmire of vehicles that is at a complete standstill and the driver behind me will start honking his horn.
And I will angle my rear-view mirror directly at his face, issue a few expletives (if Kiddo's not in the car), and give him my evil eye.
This all has zero effect on anyone else. But for me it is a huge release of steam. I get to be totally me in my Hyundai sanctuary.
I remember losing it once with Kiddo in the car. I didn't curse, but I raised my fist and shouted out "are you INSANE?????" to the driver of the half-ton truck with the camel in the box who cut me off as he headed down the wrong lane in the wrong direction (!). Kiddo calmly uttered from the back seat: "I really don't think he hears you, Maman". She was right, of course, but far too young to understand the gratification that comes with just "losing it" on someone, whether they hear you or not.
I have these moments, these moments that are totally mine, totally me. Where I let rip. Where I lose it. Where I smoke cigarettes. Where I drink wine. Where I lose it. Where I say the wrong things and don't feel bad about it. Where I cheerily ooze vino excess as I stumble through the front door. Where I'm not trying to be pretty, or smart, or cool, or proper. These moments in Doha.
These moments where I am totally me ....
I just lost an entire blog post ... about something entirely different than this post ... and I got over it.
No use bleeding all over the carpet about it, is there?
I called Smilin' Vic, who's out with a Canadian friend visiting Doha, and he commiserated as I described the horror of losing a 2-hour diatribe to the viciousness of a Safari Shutdown.
And he was duly empathetic. Smilin' Vic is the biggest GypsyInTheME supporter ever. I have to love him for that and so much more.
After losing all that, after the first time blogging in a while, I didn't feel much like putting any effort into writing.
I started YouTubing ... and came across "The Wrestler" by Bruce Springsteen.
And realized that sometimes I'm gonna "leave with less than I had before". I remembered that doing what I love isn't always about winning. Sometimes you write well; sometimes you write crap. Sometimes you lose everything you write. Sometimes you're just a 'one-handed' writer.
Once in a while, people will like what I have to write.
And tell me, Friend, "can I ask for anything more?"
It's so much like our life here.
We're in the rink. It's a fight. We've left everything behind. We're a 'one trick pony' and we're here to earn what we can off of it. Every once in a while someone smiles when our "blood, it hits the floor". But we can't ask for anything more.
We work day in and day out like a "one-armed man punching at the breeze" in the hopes that one day the bruises we display will bring us to that place we want to be.
We are "the one legged man" he sings of. Some days we are broken, but we refuse to be defeated. At the end of the day, we are doing what we know. Broken bones and bruises we display. A one-legged duo trying to dance its way free ...
Sad, but true.
Not so sad, actually. We're doing what we know, what we can, to make a life, to make a living, to wrestle our way to freedom ...
"Have you ever seen ... a one-legged dog makin' its way down the street?" That's us, slightly broken, but making our way home ...
We've pushed away the comfort ... we proudly display the broken bones and bruises, and one day they'll bring us home.
One lost post won't break me .... nor will life in the ME ...
Our blood will hit the floor, we'll be bruised, we might not be graceful ... but we'll make it. It's the wrestler in us, wrestlers in the ME...
The conversation started out with me announcing to Smilin' Vic that I no longer had 10 lbs. to lose to reach the dreamt of pre-pregnancy weight that has eluded me for the last 9 years.
Smilin' Vic: "That's great news, Babe."
Me: "Noooo, that's not great news. It's now closer to 20. I'm way past the Doha Dozen*. It's depressing. I'm running again, I'm trying to do f#<&ing pilates ... obviously the signals aren't getting through to my butt. This sucks."
Smilin' Vic: "Don't use foul language Babe. It's the wine, hot dogs and s'mores from the RV trip. Oh, and you should stop smoking. You'll see, it'll come off in no time."
I smile sadly as I silently curse Dr. Vic in my head. Why would he think stating the obvious would help?
I turn back to the computer.
Smilin' Vic: "Whatcha doin?"
Me: "I printed out a weekly menu planner. I'm typing out my weekly objectives. Then I'm organizing all my recipes and the shopping list. Tita L. always wants to help me cook, so I've decided I'm finally going to give in and tap into that. I'm relinquishing my control in the kitchen. These are all heart healthy and low-cal. I'm determined to get back into roaring shape by December. Slow and steady wins the race."
Smilin' Vic: "Have you noticed 'Me'? Not bad, eh?" (He flexes an arm and sucks in his abs for effect.)
Me (thinking "that's just the motivation I was looking for"): "Yeah, you look great." In fairness, he's lost about 10 lbs. since getting back from vacation. His approach to losing weight is thinking about it; somehow it works for him.
Smilin' Vic: "Well, I don't know about 'great', but definitely down from last week. I've been working out harrrrrrrd!" (He growls, flexes and calls out "youwaaaa" for emphasis.)
He relaxes and goes on: "You know, if you cut down on the carbs it's a lot easier?"
Me (thinking manicotti sounds like a plan right about now): "Is that the thought that motivates you when you eat 6 peanut butter sandwiches as a 'snack' after work?"
Smillin' Vic doesn't appreciate my sarcasm. "You shouldn't ask for help if you don't want it."
I'm confused... I asked for help?
Objectives # 1, 2, 3 and 4:
- I will run and/or walk at least 20 minutes at least 5 times a week.
- I will do pilates at least 20 minutes at least 5 times a week.
- I will make sure I log at least 20 km running a week.
- I will do a combined run/pilates of more than an hour at least 2 times a week.
I take a break from writing and go run 4 km on the treadmill. 27 minutes. Not bad!
I do 45 minutes of the new pilates "Rip Your Own Abs Out and Feel the PAIN" dvd I just bought.
I still can't do a stupid roll-up without anchoring my feet under something. When I mention this to people, they look at me like I've got four heads. I imagine them sharing this with a spouse or a friend afterward: "Can you believe it? She can't even do a friggin' roll-up! And all this time I thought she was fit!" Cue evil laughter: "Hahahahahahahahaha!"
I always fight the urge to qualify my inability to do a roll-up with a statement about how I was blessed with natural washboard abs 'til I gave birth so there was simply no reason to exercise those muscles and expend unnecessary energy. And even though I'm shallow enough to think that way, I have to wait 'til I lose the "hamburger patty between two buns" abs or else I'll look quite the fool. So I suffer silently.
Objectives # 5, 6 and 7:
- I will allow myself a glass of wine on weekends only.
- I will only eat what is included in my daily menu planner.
- I will log EVERYTHING (foods eaten, activities, cigarettes smoked, wine drunk).
Anyhow, after a decent workout and a shower, I come back downstairs, pour myself a glass of wine, enjoy the piece of pizza Smilin' Vic brings me (I'll log it later, I need to concentrate right now) and re-focus on typing out my low-cal recipes.
Smilin' Vic: "Watcha doin?"
Me: "Preparing recipes for Tita L."
Smilin' Vic: You're just like Michael (the little green monster with one eye from Monsters Inc.) in "Monsters University".
Me: "How so?"
Smilin' Vic: "You have lists for everything. You know, like Michael in the movie ... "arrive at university - check; unpack - check; introduce myself to roommate - check; attend orientation - check; graduate with honors - still working on it. Haha."
He makes a circle with his hands in front of his forehead to reproduce Michael's big eye. He's like: "This is so cool. For the rest of our lives, I can make this sign, and you're the only one who'll know what I mean. And we can laugh about it together, and it'll be our thing ..." His exuberance peters off as he realizes I have turned back to the keyboard. I type in ...
Objective # 8:
- Stop trying to figure out how Smilin' Vic can be such an @$$ and so funny at the same time...
I turn back to Smilin' Vic.
"A childhood friend told me my need to write lists stems from watching too much Sesame Street as a child (remember 'The Count'?). Hey, we should start running together again."
Smilin' Vic: "It's kinda hard to tandem on the treadmill."
Me: "No, no, I mean outside, like we used to, at the park."
Smilin' Vic: "The heat index is 55C today. And it's Ramadan. No drinking or eating in public. We'd die one kilometer into the run."
Me: "But we could get up at 3:30 a.m., like when we were prepping for the 10 km run. It would be fun."
Smilin' Vic: "We spent 15,000 QAR on a treadmill so we wouldn't have to wake up at zero dark thirty and listen to piped in 'bird chirping' and get sprayed with raw sewage when the sprinklers kick off, and now you're telling me you want to go back there?"
Me: "It was just a thought ... yeah, you're right. Wanna do pilates with me?"
Smilin' Vic: "Nah, Babe. I don't 'DO' pilates. I work out. I run, I lift weights. That's my thing."
Me: "That was harsh. We just don't work out together like we used to."
Smilin' Vic: "You're the one who suggested we stop going to the compound gym 250m down the road and set up our own upstairs. You're welcome to lift weights with me."
Me: "I don't like weights. They're heavy. Whatever. I'd rather work out alone anyways."
I pour myself another glass of wine. "It's the f*#&ing roll-up. It's my nemesis. It occupies every sleeping, dreaming, waking moment. It will be my undoing, Smilin' Vic. You mark my words. I'll go completely f'in mad and then you'll wish you'd have taken the time to do pilates with me."
Smilin' Vic: "Don't curse Baby. What's is a roll-up anyways? Show me your best."
I lay my wine glass down on the TV stand. I know he's taking me seriously; he's actually paused the UFC match on TV to watch and listen as I flail miserably through what a roll-up should look like. (Note: I raise up to about the second vertebrae, grunting like a stuck pig the whole while, I jerk, my feet lift off the floor, I just barely avoid a toot, and pull up to a sitting position ... very unlike the zen breathing and smooth delivery my instructor walks me through on the 'torn and shredded abs' dvd.)
Smilin' Vic: "Ok, your abs are obviously REALLY weak." He lies down and proceeds to do a perfect and effortless roll-up.
WTF???? I have pretty much lost the will to live. It finally sinks in that I have the abs of a slug.
He instructs me to put my hands under my buttocks, extend my legs, raise them straight up and push up towards the ceiling. "Do those tomorrow and every second day. Do them until your abs are on fire. You'll be doing a roll-up in no time, Babe. Don't give up. Those pilates are awesome. The running's great, but the pilates are what will keep you moving, so we can retire and be like that couple you just discovered on that blog**."
And just like that, he redeems himself. Because in the end, he just 'gets' me.
Objective # 9:
- Stop trying to figure out how Smilin' Vic can be such an @$$ and such an inspiration at the same time...
Thanks, Smilin' Vic. You keep me real.
P.S. Just to make me laugh, Smilin' Vic passed wind on his second roll-up. Keeping it real. Can't help but love him.
* The Doha Dozen is a well-known phenomenon to expatriates living in Qatar. The lack of pedestrian infrastructure, the overall unfriendly attitude towards pedestrians, the heat, the humidity; all of these add up to a sedentary lifestyle that requires a conscious effort to get up and exercise. Wine and lethargy often fill the active-living void, which eventually lead to packing on the pounds.
** Last week I discovered a blog called Honey Did you See That? Youngish, retired, fit, funny Canadian expatriates now living it up in a 5th wheel! Since we've just come off an amazing Canadian RV trip, are Canadian, and consider ourselves funny, Shelley is the newest addition to my "You Might Like" list. She inspired me to go back and give couples dialogue a try for this post (it's not something I do that often). If you didn't enjoy what you read at Gypsy In the ME, check out her blog by clicking on the link below. She is hilarious and will definitely be on The Ellen Show soon. Thanks for dropping by.