I was doing my morning comb through Facebook today when I came across a picture of a friend’s wife. The capture said Natasha in the Kitchen. It was a beautiful black and white photo of her standing front of an ironing board, holding a sheer fabric. I thought boy, doesn’t he have a beautiful life. He has a backstory, though. He had to leave New York to go to Moscow and reclaim his child a few years ago. And he had to stay in Moscow, at least for the time being. Since then he met Natasha, got married, and now has a beautiful second girl. He blogs about his life and posts photos as art projects regularly. But then I realized it’s not necessarily his life, but the lens he has on his life that makes it so rich and beautiful. He appreciates what he has. He could have easily put on the victim lens, yet he has chosen not to. And this view is what makes me, living in the U.S., where he probably prefers to be, admire his life in Moscow.
What lens do you have on your life?
If you want more about Marco, you can find him here:
We make choices in life based on the information available to us and our readiness. If you don’t like the consequence of a choice you made (small or big), there’s no need to continually criticize yourself. Change direction starting with this upcoming step. It’s not over while you are still alive and can make different choices.
I write a note on my stepdaughters’ blackboard every time they come to visit us. This image and its corresponding message left such an impression on me that I drew/wrote them on the girls’ black board. Think how much more exciting the world would be if people didn’t spend so much time and energy blending in.
Your mission this week, should you choose to accept it, is to get out of the box and let the real you come out and play. Release a few balloons into the world. Give the world a dose of your unusual.
Cheers and happy Monday.
You don’t work out to kick your own ass or morph into what you think looks good to the opposite sex.
You don’t work out because you ate too much.
You work out because it’s fun, because it gives you the same feeling you used to get as a kid on the playground.
You work out because you want your body, the only one you’ve got, to be healthy and strong, feel ready to play, run around, and enjoy life.
You work out so that if for whatever reason you have to use your body, whether it be to make love; run around with your kids, nieces, nephews, friends; or run away from danger, you can.
You work out to get more blood flow to your organs. Blood to brain means better working mind.
Same is true for eating.
You eat to nourish your body.
You don’t follow every diet fad out there. Instead, you eat healthy, whole foods, because they help your body and mind feel wonderful.
By the same token, you don’t disrespect your body by putting in more than it asks for.
Listening to your body also means letting it do the activities it feels like trying. If it wants to dance, take it to a Zumba class. If it’s curious about kickboxing, then take that class or do a video. Don’t judge it if it wants to take a stroll or maybe try a pole dancing class. Just let it play.
When you start living from this place, you’ll choose the activities that are fun rather than work, eat what your body asks for, and feel GREAT.
Lastly, the gym is for everybody regardless of size, coordination level, or knowledge of the equipment. People who work there are there to teach you how to use the equipment.
That’s it. The rest is superficial bullshit.
ABROAD, ABYANEH, ANCIENT, ARCHITECTURE, CHADOR, COVERING UP, DRIVING IN IRAN, FARMS, FARSI, FEMALE TRAVEL, GETTING SET UP, IRANIAN MEN, IRANIAN WOMEN'S DRESS, ISLAM, LOVE TO TRAVEL, MODESTY, mosque, MUSLIM, PARTHIAN PAHLAVI, Persian, PINK PANGEA, QOM, RAMADAN, RELIGIOUS, SHRINE, Taarof, travel, TRAVEL MAGAZINE, TRAVEL PICTURE, TRAVEL PICTURES, TRAVEL WRITING, VILLAGER, WALNUT, WALNUT TREE, WANDERLUST, WOMEN, ZOROASTRIAN
Originally Featured in Pink Pangea
The day before Ramadan, my father arranged for his work driver, Mr. Zand, to take us to Abyaneh, an historic village in central Iran. He planned this to stop me from going there with a man, a childhood friend, who had recently expressed deeper-than-friendship feelings for me. As far as dad is concerned, no one is good enough for his daughter.
By 6:10 AM, Mr. Zand, who has an unruly passion for speeding, picked us up. Sans coffee, my best attempt at politeness was a quick hello and a little smile. My mother, Ms. Manners though, still did her pleasantries we call taarof.
“We’ll be bothering you the whole day today, Mr. Zand,” she said.
“Oh please, ma’am. It’s no trouble at all.“
For Iranians, language is a dance of little formalities that roll off the tongue and color the culture.
As soon as we reached the highway, Mr. Zand started speeding to make up for our 10-minute delay.
It was the time of year when by noon, even air molecules melt and bend with heat. During the two months of my stay there, I learned to predict the weather by how the morning air felt. That morning’s breeze left me with some hope for our trip.
We drove to Qom, the most religious city in Iran. It is so religious that women are required to wear a chador (a cloak that covers one from head to toe) any time they step onto the street. Mr. Zand dropped my mom and me off at a diner just outside the city since neither of us was wearing a chador. He would return after taking my dad to work. Before getting out of the car, my dad warned me to fix my scarf and cover all of my hair. We ate breakfast and then left for Abyaneh.
Abyaneh is a mountainous village in the desert. An hour into our drive, the scenery started to change into hills dotted by desert vegetation. In Abyaneh, the earth has folded on itself to create knolls reminiscent of nude figures. We passed the salt lake, which has become a white ribbon due to receding water. Warm air gusted in through the driver’s open window. The heat brought abundant peace, a welcome respite from Tehran’s high decibel noise pollution.
To conserve gas, Mr. Zand kept the air conditioner off. At 9 AM, it must have been 80 degrees. With certainty, in his baritone voice, he informed us: “Today is a good day. It’s still cool. Typically from noon until about 5 PM, people don’t drive.” I felt oddly responsible for putting him through the hardship of this arduous drive and worried that his car might liquefy, but I only had limited time in Iran.
As we made the turn to head east, we passed a few farms–including pomegranate and melon farms. Mom said that melons taste sweeter in more arid environments, where there’s less water. Once the road signs for Abyaneh appeared, Mr. Zand told us: “Get ready. We are heading into the belly of the mountain now.” I perked up as the ascent began.
The scenery changed to one that boasted trees, which helped cool the singeing air a little. As soon as Mom commented in her always-look-on-the-bright-side, “It’s much cooler here,” Mr. Zand draped his arm out of the car languorously. Then he started pointing out the different types of trees. Passing walnut trees, studded with green fruit, he stopped the car and got out to pick some. I, unwilling to forgo any new experience, followed. Seeing me struggle to reach the fruits, he pulled down one of the branches and held it so that I could grab onto the fruits.
A few minutes later, we got back on the road. Mr. Zand gave me his share of walnuts. “Oh thank you, Mr. Zand. But you should take some home for the kids. Please. I insist.” He took two, opened the glove compartment, and instead of putting them in, removed a pocketknife. Then, in the Iranian multitask-while-you-drive style, he cut the walnuts and handed them to us. I had to silence my thoughts about the cleanliness of his knife so we could all enjoy the fresh, soft, white walnuts, inside their green cocoons.
Authoritatively, he claimed: “You know you are not supposed to sleep under a walnut tree. It gives off carbon monoxide and can kill you.” In all of my research, I still have yet to find that fact.
We arrived at the crimson village, Abyaneh, called Vionah (land of willows) by the locals, at noon. It was due to its color that I knew we had reached our destination. Clay houses, born of earth, pleated the mountain skirt red, which were interrupted by curtains of willows. The rooftop of one acted as the courtyard of another.
I was excited to see the women’s costumes I’d read about.
Mr. Zand told us to meet him at the entrance of the village. Mom and I stepped into the feverish air and started walking through the rippled narrow roads. The ground heaved heat. I ran my hand on one of the walls just to feel the rough texture. I saw that the terrain twists, turns, dives and rises. In a distance, we finally spotted three women.
Since arriving in Iran, some of my opinions had changed. Instead of nude photography, now women’s chadors, worn around their waist, attracted me. Mr. Zand was right. Women here were robust. He called them short and plump. They all wore the same floral scarf: white with hot pink flowers, which reach their waist. They all weartanban, pleated calf-length pants that resemble skirts.
Shops, like colorful ornaments were scattered throughout the red background. One woman invited me into her little store to show me that she carried everything, “even English books about Abyaneh.” When I asked permission to take her photograph, she said, “Why not? If I can’t live in America at least let my picture go there.”
The history of this village may date to 6,000 years ago. People speak an ancient Persian language: Parthian Pahlavi, but then switch to Farsi with tourists. Those loamy houses were built to become stronger over time with the elements, like rain.
My mother and I have different interests. She came alive when we walked in the garden lanes that probably remind her of her own childhood. My interests lie in architecture. I lit up when I saw mosques, shrines, and lattice windows. Or when I learned that the delicate woodcarvings on the Great Mosque’s door made it so desirable an object that it was stolen. After its recovery, a fence was built in front of it and caged it like a rare bird. I also felt proud when we walked under what used to be a Zoroastrian fire temple. The village had relics from multiple Persian dynasties.
Mr. Zand kept the promise he made to my dad to look after us, because everywhere we go, in that maze of alleys, we somehow “ran into him.” I wished he would nap in his car instead, so he wouldn’t doze off on the way back as he did on the way in. I had to spend most of the drive watching him and making up questions as soon as his lids started drooping. Occasionally I elbowed my mom for help. She kept offering him fruit and juice.
To find our way to the car, mom and I stopped to ask directions from a group of women. One of them looked at me, “You cover that neck of yours from all the men’s eyes if you want me to even talk to you.”
“Not from me.” She protested. “Who is this husband of yours who lets you expose your neck like that?”
“I don’t have a husband.”
“No husband? Well. Then we should find you one.”
Not knowing what to say, I answered jokingly: “Only if he’s willing to leave the country with me.”
One old man sitting close by chimed in about this eligible bachelor, “Ah no. I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t go.”
Still she pointed to him. He was her candidate?
As I thought of the right way to turn down the offer, he spoke up again, “Nah. I have no use for her.”
Did a villager in Abyaneh just reject me? I wanted to start presenting my accolades. I have a doctorate, a house, a car, plus I exercise daily, I almost said. But, in reality, he had no use for those, either.
Where was my father then to see that this time his daughter was not good enough?
Watching the Christmas lights twinkle in the branches of the green fir, it dawned on me that my green is probably different than yours.
Can we possibly be thinking of the same thing when we think Green?
Green is enchantment, magical, infinite.
It’s pine needles and garlands, a celebration.
It’s a fractal, a sign, a go.
Green is freedom, comfort, choice.
It’s forgiving, peaceful, and transitory.
Green is embracing, protective, nourishing, breath giving, antiestablishment, pro-equality, a veil, history, stability, a window to the soul, a mountain skirt, a valley.
It is guidance, answers, wisdom.
Green is a lake, an insect, a bird.
It’s a hunter, a soldier, an army. Green is decay.
Green is a political movement, a trophy, a plaque.
It’s a jewel, a corroded metal
It’s health and wealth.
Green is a fast song.
It is a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Green is justice.
Green is life.
This morning my partner and I boarded the plane to Grand Rapids. We have a dual life these days because of his work: one week in Austin, TX, one week in Grand Rapids, MI, so he can be with his two lovely children.
While we were waiting for others to board, he started griping about how there’s so much to do in GR. He has to do the groceries, clean their place, and cook for the girls. He thought about it a little and said: I need a wife.
It occurred to me I need a wife too. Heck, I want the 1950’s kind of wife. You know the ones who wake up, make themselves pretty, and then tend to you the whole day? The ones who put on cute aprons to cook? You know, the Mad Men kind of housewife sans drama of course. My wife should be emotionally independent.
I want a wife who would decorate my house, even have theme kitchen towels based on the season, and light candles all over the house.
I want to wake up to the smell of freshly brewed coffee. I want a wife who would make the bed, prepare breakfast, and give me the freedom to eat at the table as we have a conversation or go to work depending on my schedule. When I start working my wife can begin cleaning up the dishes and the rest of the house.
I want a wife who wouldn’t interrupt me at work and wouldn’t nag me… ever. She needs to understand that my work is important. I have a mission in this world. I’d like to leave my imprint before I die.
I want someone who’d make a meal plan every week, do the grocery shopping and not expect me to participate.
I want a wife who knows how to cook. In fact, I want the aroma of her home cooked meals to beckon me from my home office to the elegantly set table for dinner.
My wife also takes care of laundry and dry cleaning. She understands that I am much too busy for those mundane tasks. I have more important things to do.
I’d like a peaceful life and see no need for complaining… ever.
I want a wife who would take care of the Holiday, birthday, and baby shower gifts. I expect her to invite my family and friends over for the special occasions. When I bring home an impromptu guest, I expect her to be prepared.
I need a wife who understands my need for space and does not question me when I have to take time off for work or for me.
The wife I want knows that I don’t want children. End of discussion. Though if I did, she also understands that they are her responsibility.
She would greet me in our spotless home every evening with a welcoming smile, always dressed and made up.
All I have to say is:
Hi honey, I’m home….
In residency, my professor used to caution against cockiness. “If you get too cocky, the hand will pull you down to the ground.” I thought the hand was for residency only. Don’t think you know it all. But I was so wrong.
Back in the summer, when my partner, S, was away for work, I had plenty of time to shop. Enough in fact, to buy unnecessary items. One such compulsive purchase was a nice fedora style straw hat, which I bought, placed in the closet, and forgot about it.
Fall came. I was visiting a friend in Dallas and decided to bring my hat for a girls’ night out. Not wanting to carry it, I wore it on the plane and kept it on for the rest of the day.
My friend was still at work and I wanted to eat with her later. To help me forget I was famished, I went for a walk, by now too used to the hat to even remember I had it on.
One store’s sale sign beckoned me. The door dinged as I opened it and I heard mumbles from the direction of the two sales women. I assume they said hi because at that moment I was busy hushing my stomachs screeches of hunger and pain. About 30 seconds later, when I saw them still looking at me waiting for a response, my brain registered hearing something about a hat. Yes it took it 30 seconds to pick up the sound signals from the ear and process it into a thought.
“Oh thank you,” I said because I suddenly remembered wearing a hat. And then quickly added some noise to the scene in the form of a comment. The kind that shows you are engaged and you were right there with them the whole time even though it is totally untrue.
“Oh. It’s my first time wearing it since I got it. Just didn’t have the guts.” One of the girls said something that sounded like she loves shoo hats. I smiled and nodded vigorously, like I knew exactly what she meant. Truth be told, I had no idea what she was talking about.
“Of course,” I replied.
She went on: “I had the blue one? But it was hard to wear.”
Here was my opportunity to stop nodding and partake in the conversation. “Well, you gotta carry it and own it.”
“Yeah. And my hat is great but yours is badass.“
“And you wear it well.”
Naturally, by now my head started to swell. With that high, it was time I browsed the clothes rack like the fashionista that I was. I puffed out my chest, swung the left hip and just as I went to swing the right one, my foot slipped in the stupid wedge flip- flops and off went the badass feelings and then some. Back on the earth, chest suddenly caved in, I spent the next few minutes intently focused on balancing my torso on my legs until I could get myself back to the door.
“Have a good day.” I said. Ding.
Damn you, Hand!
Essentially, the thyroid gland starts to overwork, and the rest of your body joins in. Your heart beats faster, blood pressure runs higher, metabolism increase, your thoughts and words move at the speed of lightening. As it turns out, this is the disease of “a lot of.” A lot of hunger, a lot of thirst, a lot of anger, a lot of bathroom visits, and a lot of pain. What you don’t have lots of, are patience, compassion, and tolerance.
In other words, you turn into a rabid beast.
The whole world moves in slow motion, as far as you are concerned, and it makes you mad.
Everyone is stupid and they can all go shit in a hat: the movers, who can’t put your bed together fast enough (you actually called them apes); the guy who sticks his filthy hand in the bowl of m&m’s despite the large spoon; the insurance agent who asks too many questions before canceling your policy, as you requested; anyone who finds your attitude less than perfect; and the rest of the crybabies in the world.
With a low tolerance and inhibition, you tend to speak up more often and are hellbent on proving your point. For instance, if an editor wants a 1500-word article, you don’t simply say yes. Oh no. You argue for 1000 words. If your boyfriend asks for more time together, you decide you need a lot of space. In fact, it suddenly becomes clear that you are not even relationship material, with all the space you need. No sir. You are meant to enjoy life on your own. In fact, despite moving to another state recently, you consider moving back. Grand Rapids, Michigan has a very famous annual art festival. Instead of enjoying it, you criticize most pieces and change the name from Art Prize to Craft Prize.
The diagnosis certainly puts your mind at ease. At least you are not going totally crazy. The meds start to control the pain. And your loved ones let you win most arguments or don’t argue at all.
The trouble is…this illness can last for a few months.