Red Lips & Battlefields

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The Butterflies

Fumble, tumble, mumble.
My tummy’s in a jumble.
Track of mind derailed into
My heart, and then it rumbled.

Flutter, stutter, wonder,
Of happily ever afters.
The wall around my heart has failed
To keep our love asunder.

– Anonymous
March 24, 2014

(For more information on the Kiss&Tell project, as well as access to other anonymous letters or to submit your own, click on the menu option at the top of this page titled “Kiss&Tell”.)

20 & 1 Lessons of 2013

  1. Every day grants you an opportunity for a new beginning. You do not have to wait for the new year, or the first day of a new week, or your birthday to start making positive changes to your life.
  2. Human beings are complex creatures. We often do not completely understand ourselves, yet we become frustrated when we cannot understand one another. Have patience. Accept the mystery.
  3. A story is never just a story. A movie is never just a movie. Every fictional human experience has been, at one time or another, lived by a real person. Even supernatural fiction is often a metaphorical reflection of reality. Allow yourself to absorb the happiness, the suffering, the spirituality, and the growth of fictional characters: it will make you more human.
  4. Never say that it will never happen to you. Pain, illness, loss, suffering, hunger, and war are all things that can happen to any of us, at any time. Happiness, friendship, love, growth, wealth, safety, and family may also be given to any of us too. Do not take anything for-granted.
  5. It is absolutely your responsibility to know what is going on in the world. If your living condition is relatively safe, it is even more so your responsibility to keep your eyes and your mind on the suffering of others. A slight twist in fate, and you could have been the one without food, without shelter, and without family. Don’t you ever forget it.
  6. It is also your responsibility to help others. You have two hands for a reason: one to guard yourself with and one to lend to others. Remember: what goes around always comes around.
  7. Express gratitude. Without gratitude, there is no life, there is no love and, ultimately, there is no salvation. Be thankful.
  8. Define yourself. People will always seek to describe who you are, and why you are the way that you are. They may also often present such convincing arguments that you begin to believe they know you better than you know yourself. Stop. You, and only you, are a free agent to decide who you are; Not your best friend, not your mother, not a wise stranger, and certainly not your therapist.
  9. Love is abundant. The more you give of it, the more you will have for yourself. You can eat your cake and have it too.
  10. Love is not painful. This is the greatest misconception of human history. Love that is painful is not love. Leave it behind. Seek healing.
  11. Everybody is unique, but nobody is divine. All human beings are worthy of your love, but none are worthy of your worship. Mind the thin line.
  12. If you do not value yourself, nobody will. If you do not respect and love yourself, nobody will. Raise yourself.
  13. The word “no” can sometimes be your best friend. Learn how to say it when it needs to be said. It is not always a virtue to bend yourself backwards for others.
  14. Be headstrong and firm in your values. Do not compromise your values to please others. “Those who stand up for nothing fall for anything” – Alexander Hamilton.
  15. Religion is not evil. Some human behaviors are evil, and many of those behaviors are often rationalized by men yelling the word “god”. However, what’s in a name? Calling an orange an apple does not make it any less an orange. Likewise, calling personal demons “gods” does not make them any less demons, and does not make God any less Godly. Know the difference between names and concepts. Beware of those who seek to confuse you.
  16. Political correctness is a conscious acceptance of public censorship. Be kind and mindful of others, but do not present all your opinions with a sprinkle of fairy-dust on the side. Speak your mind; you have one for a reason.
  17. There is always more to learn. He who knows that he hardly knows anything is the one most open to growth.
  18. First impressions should not be lasting impressions. Nobody over the age of 6 will reveal their true spirit to you upon a first encounter. Dig beyond the superficial, and give everyone a fair chance.
  19. You will constantly change, and the changes will sometimes be so drastic and come so quickly that you will hardly recognize yourself. Welcome these experiences with open arms: they are the building blocks of your life.
  20. You are wonderful, but you are not any better than anyone else. You are worthy, but you are not divine. Strip yourself of social status, of physical beauty, of material wealth, and recognize your mortality. “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be humbled; and whosoever shall humble himself shall be exalted.” Matthew 23:12.
  21. Take your homeland with you wherever you go. When you forget who you are, it will remind you.

MD 30/12/2013

Love Roads

There is a beach that runs alongside a beautiful corniche, popularly referred to as “Love Road”, in Muscat/Oman. Although it is one of the most beautiful destinations for relaxation and sun-tanning in the Middle East, Oman remains rather anonymous: hidden in a corner of the Arabian Gulf, she is protected securely there. When I walk her beaches, Muscat absorbs me and lends me the trademark of anonymity and safety that is so exceptionally her own. Facing her sea, I feel my heart (physically, literally) extend far beyond the horizon: stretching, stretching to a point of no return. I feel the thump-thump-thump of her heartbeat against my toes in the sand. For a moment, I know what it feels like to be boundless, infinite. For her, with her, I yield to the complete evaporation of my self.

Fast-forward a month later, and I am pacing through Crescent Street in Montreal, hopping between people, dodging the human traffic headed up from St. Catherine’s. I hold myself securely within my heavy coat, locking my right hand against my left shoulder, comforting myself through the hustle-bustle, the noise pollution, the madness. Suddenly, a stillness comes over me. I smell the Gulf of Oman, I hear her. I stop against a corner of the street, rest my back against the walls of a creperie, and I tell myself: “Evaporate”. Although Montreal forces me to entirely condense myself, I start to fight her. I touch the wall, let myself feel the thump-thump-thump of people sinking their teeth into nutella drizzled over bananas and strawberries, rolled in cinnamon-sugar, wrapped in the thin skin of a warm crepe. I notice, for the first time that evening, the light rain falling against my face. I stop shielding myself from it; let each drop fall and cool down my warm cheeks. A man who is zooming through the crowd pauses and locks eyes with me. He smiles, and slows down, but keeps walking. A smile, just for me, in Montreal! I am, once again, infinite.

MD 02/11/2013

City of Ice

I am always told that I walk like I’m on a mission: I always have somewhere to go, and I don’t pause to look around me very often. This is probably the result of living in the middle of a busy city which is excruciatingly cold for at least six months out of the year. When it is -40 degrees Celsius outside, nobody wants to stop and make small talk with strangers, believe me. Sometimes though, very rarely, I cross paths with an individual that makes me halt. I slow down and observe, and I choose to extend a hand and connect with a fellow human being. Such encounters help me remember what it’s like to fall in love. Sometimes, it is a child running around a park with his father. I stop for five minutes and hold out my heart on my sleeve because such a display of unmediated fun is extremely rare in the city of snow. Other times, it may be an old woman begging for change. People like her usually have a strained look on their faces that makes me stop, re-route, purchase a meal, share it, and head on my way. Most rarely, I see a different sort of face: the type that forces my heart to skip a pulse. I want to embrace that person. I want him to know that somebody cares. I want to love him. This is the strangest type of encounter, because it suddenly becomes painfully personal. It’s easy to keep walking, and to ignore the feeling. Extending a hand to give of my own self feels most risky and frightening. It’s easier to be an ice queen in the frozen city.

Today, I walked through the city for the sake of walking. I chose to see everything that is usually an ordinary backdrop to my ordinary life as though I was seeing it for the first time. The architecture here is most stunning: you’ll be met with a medley of modern corporate buildings sharing ground with historic monuments, up to three hundred years old. You’ll see crowds of business men in fancy suits running past old Churches that they’ve never entered, past gardens sprinkled with rugged youth dressed in tattered clothing and yearning for new beginnings. You’ll see human constructions sprouting out of God-given natural havens, clubs lining the shore of the St. Lawrence river, cyclists swerving through intersections rich with human traffic. It is a beautiful city, right out of a movie scene: the perfect place to fall in love. The perfect place to stop and look, connect, breathe; yet most of us are running. Most of us walk without looking left or right, speeding towards our obligations. I looked up at the sky scrapers that block the view of the mountains; I shuddered and sped through the cold as I giggled. Yes, it is easier to be an ice queen in the city of ice; but I’d like to stop once in a while. I’d like to stop and embrace it. It is often worth the cold.

MD 22/09/2013

Work of Art

Thick, dark curls swing loose
Around deep browns and
Soft Pinks.

She turns away from her reflection,
As she begins to create
Her Self:

Line the eyes with
Blacks and silvers;
Fill the lips with
Plumping hue.

Silence the
Overbearing whispers
In the heart that knows more
Than it can hold.

Lengthen lashes,
Raise the cheekbones,
Blend the hairline,
Define the jaw.

Hum a melody
Sans lyrics,
Practice the smile that’s meant
For show.

Pull the curls and
Heat the iron;
Burn through the charms
Nature bestowed.

Erase the light bridge
Between the eyebrows;
Erase from eyes
The signs of soul.

Cushion the breasts,
Squeeze the buttocks,
Fluff the dress,
Paint the toes.

Raise the height
With crushing heels,
And wrap the package
With a bow.

Straight hair falls, lifelessly,
Around grey browns
And muted pinks.

She embraces her reflection,
As she finally sees
Her Self.

MD 16/08/2013

No, Not I.

It is not I,
Who levitates merrily through a thousand skies,
Graces the world with abundant smiles,
And unquestioningly loves you.

No, not I,
Who sinks through the ageless rocks of this Earth,
Grinds herself into a fragment of self-worth,
And religiously loves you.

No, it is not I,
Who raises healing storms through the thundering clouds,
Who ignorantly evades what this life is about,
Who gallantly curses, like an angel in doubt,

No, Not I.

I am a woman,
I shall rage with the grace within me,
I shall shelter my children like an unbending tree
I shall walk with pride of royal decree,

Yes, that is me.

I shall carry the burden of a hundred grown men,
I won’t be blinded by the roses from which the thorns stem,
My role is not florid,
I am a warrior with a pen,

I am a woman.
And I shall be.

I will be.

MD – 02/05/2011

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