Feeling Grateful on Canadian Thanksgiving for the Gift of Every Moment

In Canada we’ve been celebrating Thanksgiving on the second Monday in October, expressing gratitude for the harvest and other blessings, since 1879. Typically, traditions involve family feasts with a roasted turkey as the main attraction, as well as an abundance of other dishes such as mashed potatoes, gravy and stuffing and ending with pumpkin pie and whipped cream.

As a self-proclaimed Foodie and a person who loves to cook, I look forward to this autumnal festival. I also appreciate the opportunity to express gratitude for the many blessings that have been bestowed upon me.

As an ex-pat living in Saudi Arabia, I have participated in large pot-luck dinners with our friends in the Canadian community and have hosted more intimate dinners as well. This year Mister and I decided to tone down on the preparations and focus on the gratitude, creating a romantic Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us. We toasted our love and appreciation for one another, which for us is the greatest gift of all.

 

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Canadian Thanksgiving in our villa 2017

 

Counting your blessings and making space to acknowledge gratitude can be a rewarding experience that turns your perspective outward, onto others. It has to the potential to lift your spirits and have you feeling the grace of God at work in the world.

I use gratitude as a tool for discerning what my goals, values and intentions are and I create vision boards as a visual inspiration. I discovered this powerful ritual when I first watched The Secret, back in 2007, and have been making vision boards as part of my positivity practice ever since.

 

 

 

My vision board is a visual representation that shows clearly what matters most in my life. It reflects how much I value family, friends, and relationships, especially my partnership with Mister. It also focuses on my passion for writing and my goals of moving to Panama, learning to speak Spanish, and opening a restaurant. Interestingly, the word gratitude is featured prominently.

 

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my current  vision board

 

I’m a writer and a keeper of journals and I’ve been using the Sacred Journey Daily Journal for your Soul by Cheryl Thiele for many years now. Expressing gratitude is a part of each month’s exercises, along with affirmations, opportunities and goals.

I’ve seen people posting gratitude challenges on social media and how those challenges have the power to lift them up, creating feelings of joy and happiness.

There are several Ted Talks on the theme of gratitude. In his presentation, “Want to be happy? Be Grateful,”David Steindl-Rast posits that choosing to live a life of gratitude has the power to change the world. He argues that living in awareness that each moment is a gift is the opportunity and key to our happiness. He also suggests that even our greatest difficulties have the opportunity for us to experience gratitude by learning something through the challenge of overcoming them. His method for living gratefully is: stop (or at least slow down), look (open your heart) and go (take action).

 

 

There are also a multitude of books on the subject of gratitude. Words of Gratitude for Mind, Body, and Soul by Robert Emmons and Joanna Hill, A Simple Act of Gratitude: How Learning to Say Thank you Changed my Life by John Kralik and Gratitude by Oliver Sacks, are a few I’ve discovered. Google books about gratitude and you’ll be sure to find something that intrigues you.

You Tube has a long list of songs about gratitude including Kelly Clarkson’s Thankful, Celine Dion’s Thank You and Alanis Morissette’s gritty version, Thank U, my personal favouriteTake a listen and see what resonates with you in your list of things to be grateful for.

Actions speak louder than words, or so they say. For me, the most powerful experience of how gratitude has the ability to transform has been in witnessing how Mister engages with everyone he meets. Whether he is speaking to loved ones or with perfect strangers, he thanks them for their every effort. He thanks me, every single day, for everything, big or small that I do, never taking even the smallest thing for granted. His actions inspire me to be more mindful and I find myself emulating his example of expressing gratitude more often.

Ghandi urged us to be the change we want to see in the world. I believe that practicing gratitude daily, in every moment, is one way of being the change.

So yeah, I’m feeling grateful on Canadian Thanksgiving for the gift of every moment.

Feeling Triumphant, Transforming the Traumas of my Life Through Storytelling

Recently I viewed an inspiring Ted Talk by Andrew Solomon titled, How the Worst Moments in Our Lives Make Us Who We Are. Solomon presents a provocative argument outlining how challenges have the power to change us when we use them as opportunities to forge meaning in our lives. He then expands to the next task, which is to build identity, and in the process, change the world.

 

If, as Solomon adheres, stories are the foundation of our identity, then the stories we tell about ourselves are vitally important. I decided to look back at the worst moments of my own life and examine how I might forge meaning and build identity and tell a new, empowering story.

When I was four years old I was sexually abused, repeatedly, by my babysitter’s son. It is extremely difficult to forge meaning from that, but, if nothing else, I developed resilience and strength from that experience. I protected my light and I kept my faith in humankind. But the gifts were even greater. In therapy, years later, I had a vision of that time. God took my face in his hands and turned it away so I couldn’t see what was happening. That trauma gave me my first opportunity to accept and receive God’s love.

At the age of fifteen, I was raped. The triumph for me inside of that worst moment was in my ability to forgive. I recognized his insecurities and lack of self-love. I felt sorry for him, that he was so deep in the darkness. I knew what happened ravaged my body, mind and emotions, but it didn’t touch my spirit. He tried to steal my light, but he could not. My faith in God grew stronger, and accordingly, my inner strength.

I was pregnant with my second child when I was diagnosed with Diabetes. The doctors presumed it was Gestational, but as it would turn out, I had Type I Diabetes as well as Hyperthyroidism. Having two chronic immune diseases has been a gift for me in so many ways. It has given me deep empathy for others who suffer from illness. It has given me a profound appreciation for my life. I am grateful for medicine and invention and life-saving insulin.

Solomon conjectures in his presentation that being married and having children has special meaning for him because it hasn’t always been that way for the gay community. In fact, it is a right recently granted, yet still denied in many places across the planet. I feel similarly about having Diabetes. The discovery of insulin was only made in the 1920’s. Before then, I wouldn’t have survived. But for the miracle of when I was born, I did. I am a survivor.

My father passed away when I was only 34 years old. I was a Daddy’s girl. My relationship with my father was one of ease and flow. I always was present to his unconditional love. I loved how I perceived myself through the mirror of his eyes, and when that was gone, I felt lost. My grief took me on yet another spiritual journey, where I learned how to love eternally. It took me seven years, but I finally understood that my father lives forever in my heart.

In 2007 I experienced a major depressive episode. I was 41, and my age, wisdom and maturity created the possibility for incredible transformation. I was determined to uncover the causes of my extreme unhappiness. It was uncomfortable as hell, digging through all the muck, but the excavation of my authentic self and the revelation of many truths was a priceless outcome.

Most recently, at the age of 51, the most devastating and difficult to overcome trauma occurred in the form of a disclosure. It was horrifying. It turned my life upside down. It re-wrote the story of my life and challenged my identity. But it also had the power of making some of my relationships even stronger and deeper than they were before. It had me call upon my inner strength and my faith in God and brought me back to daily prayer.

I am beginning to learn the spiritual law of detachment. My ability to discern is developing. And I am making huge strides in my Letting Go journey. As I said in conversation with my Mister, “Life’s challenges are the sandpaper that smooths out our rough edges, revealing the masterpiece that God created us to become.”

According to Buddhist teachings, difficulty is inevitable and in fact is an important part of the spiritual path, where real transformation can take place. Pema Chodron states, “We can endure a lot of pain and pleasure for the sake of finding out who we are and what this world is.”

 Adversity is addressed in the Christian faith, and in James we read, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.”

My perception of reality and my relationship with myself and the world all work together to create the story of my life. Yes, there has been great pain. There has also been great joy. That is Life, for all of us. I get to choose my reality. You do too. What is your story? How can you reframe the worst moments of your life to forge meaning and build identity?

 

So yeah, I’m feeling triumphant, transforming the traumas of my life through storytelling.

 

Feeling Confident I’ve got the Tools I Need to Live My Best Life

As my daughter once aptly stated, we are each the guru of our own lives. I agree with her wholeheartedly, but sometimes a few guideposts along the way can be helpful. It isn’t always easy to attune to your authentic self, and because the nature of life involves change, being aware is a constantly evolving process that requires frequent reflection.

There is such a plethora of specialists and self-help books to inform and advise that even knowing which book or podcast to begin with can be inundating.

One of the first resources I found useful was Goddess to the Core. In her book, Sierra Bender identifies four aspects of self: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. She states it is important to honour each aspect and achieve balance. I’ve discovered in practice that what might sound easy enough is anything but easy to do.

In his book, Finding Your Element, Ken Robinson provides an opportunity for self-discovery by examining your life to discover your aptitudes, passions and attitudes. He encourages you to consider what makes you happy and to identify your circles of well-being.

I’ve sketched and cut out clippings from magazines. I’ve engaged in workbooks and creativity resurrecting activities. I’ve read so many books. I even wrote my own authenticity outline that I use and refer to often to help keep me on track as well as acknowledge growth and change. The resources are out there, you just have to choose what feels right for you.

But figuring out who you are, what your talents are, and what you feel passionate about isn’t necessarily the key to happiness. Despite the fact that we are living in the most educated, wealthy and technologically advanced time ever, people are struggling more than ever. Suicide rates are up. Mental illness is more prevalent. Autoimmune diseases are on the rise. What are we missing?

Recently I viewed a Ted Talk titled There’s More to Life Than Being Happy. Emily Esfahani Smith spoke enthusiastically, believing she may have the answer to that very question. She posits that our goal of achieving happiness is misguided and that in fact chasing happiness creates unhappiness.

 

Esfahani Smith states that the key to living your best life is through finding meaning. She identifies four pillars for meaning: belonging, purpose, transcendence and storytelling.

Belonging is about being in relationships where you are valued for you are; your authentic self.

Purpose is not about what you want, but what you give. It is about using your authentic gifts, talents and strengths to make a difference. It might be achieved through your career path, but it can also be manifested through relationships, family, volunteering and other activities.

Transcendence happens when you feel the connection to a higher reality. It may be a spiritual experience that is manifested through religious beliefs and prayer or through other ways of connecting with the Divine such as yoga, meditation, and creativity.

Storytelling in this framework refers to the story you tell yourself about yourself. Emily posits that we all make up stories based on our experiences and what other people tell us is our truth, but we have the ability to edit and rewrite our story of who we are.

Emily Esfahani Smith summarizes her presentation with the words, “happiness comes and goes, but when life is really good and when things are really bad, having meaning gives you something to hold onto.”

So far, most of what I’ve been discussing is quite esoteric. It is wonderful to contemplate and examine the higher aspects of ourselves, but I think an important key to living a good life is through your actions. After all, we are physical beings, and our bodies need nourishment and attention to be at their best too.

I recently viewed a documentary that was making a case of correlation between children’s success in school and their routines at home. As a retired teacher, I can attest to the amazing difference introducing solid routines had in managing students with ADHD, FASD, and other broad-encompassing challenges.

As an adult, I see how I benefit from my routines as well. Just like finding your purpose, your routine should be individualized and reflect your specific lifestyle and needs. My Mister has a high metabolism, so eating regularly is one of the top considerations for him. For me, sleep is the most important. I need at least eight hours of solid sleep to function properly. Having Diabetes, I need to check my blood sugars frequently, eat regular and balanced meals, and take appropriate insulin doses.

Every day I am thoughtful about what I need to function optimally. I choose foods from a variety of sources at each meal to achieve a healthful diet, including lots of vegetables. I know that exercise gives me energy and invigorates me mentally too, so I practice yoga and go to the gym three to five days a week. Being in connection with my circle is vital to my health too, so I try to balance quiet and meditation with social opportunities, conversations, and facetime chats with my family.

Psychologist Susan David presented a powerful Ted Talk on the Gift and Power of Emotional Courage. As she spoke about concepts like emotional agility and authenticity, I recognized the truth in her words. Managing our emotions with honesty is challenging in a society that values positivity, but fake positivity is just as destructive as inauthenticity in any aspect of self.

 

 

The tool box for living your best life is complex. Determine your authentic strengths and talents, passions and aptitudes. Find a community where you feel like you belong. Identify your purpose. Transcend to connect with a higher reality. Start telling a positive and empowering story about who you are. Work to achieve balance across the four aspects of self. Create a routine that sustains and energizes you. Honour your emotions. Start wherever your heart calls you.

So yeah, I’m feeling confident I’ve got the tools I need to live my best life.

Feeling Blissfully in the Flow, In Panama with my Mister

After departing Victoria and a brief lay-over in Toronto, Mister and I were heading to Panama on Air Canada Rouge, a stripped-down airline service where everything from alcohol to food to movies is not only limited, but costly. We’d flown with them before, though, and knew the drill, so at least I had purchased a gluten free sandwich at a kiosk prior to boarding. We also had an iPad, fully charged, with the Air Canada App installed and a splitter so we could enjoy watching a movie together.

Lucky for us it wasn’t a full plane and the extra seat in our row remained vacant when the boarding completed announcement was made. What would have been a cramped and uncomfortable space became bearable. We settled in, watched a well-done documentary titled There’s No Free Lunch, rested and read and soon we were landing.

Peering out the tiny window, my gaze was drawn to the sun peeking out of the clouds and illuminating the impressive coastline dotted with shiny skyscrapers and the sparkling ocean. I could see the forest spreading out in all directions from the city, shade upon shade of green, and I felt excited that I was about to get reacquainted with Panama. I love Panama.

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Panama City Harbour

 

We were staying the first three days in the city, at a condo in the Amador Causeway we’d rented from our friends at Patty’s Casitas. Patty and her husband Rudy greeted us warmly at the buildings entrance and helped us load our massive amount of luggage onto the lift.

The condo was beautifully appointed and pristinely clean, just like the units we’d rented from them in the past in Casco Viejo. They’d left a complimentary bottle of wine so we opened it and toasted our arrival over a glass.

After unpacking our things and freshening up we walked over to a local restaurant Patty had recommended, La Fabrica. We were able to communicate sufficiently to our Spanish speaking server and I ordered the Salmon Marrakesh that was full of flavour and textures. The ambience was friendly, welcoming and relaxing and as we sat under the canopy of a star-filled night we felt content.

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La Fabrica

Our first day started early as we were being picked up by a driver arranged by our lawyer who was taking us to apply for our cedulas, the national identity cards in Panama. We met two Australians in the line-up and engaged in interesting conversations on topics from politics and economics to humanity and health, making the two and half hours fly by quickly.

After our business was taken care of we decided to celebrate our success over lunch at one of our favourite restaurants in the city, La Fragatta. The architecture and interior design created the experience of being on a high-end cruise ship. The well-dressed waiter, who spoke not a word of English, greeted us with professionalism and warmth and directed us to a cozy booth.

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La Fragatta

Mister took the liberty of ordering us a bottle of Catena Malbec, una botella vino tinto por favor. We glanced at the menu, but we were both eying two of the appetizers we’d chosen at our last visit. The cheese plate featured a variety of sharp, tangy cheeses, including a luxurious manchego that was my favourite. The grilled vegetable platter consisted of a variety of delicious delicacies, seasoned and cooked to perfection.

Friday turned out to be Fabulous Friday, as Friday’s often are. We slept in. We took a long stroll along the causeway. We shopped for window coverings, a phenomenal experience with the expertise of Susana at Nostalgia Designs. We refreshed over a light lunch at Paul’s and then did some more house shopping, buying a gorgeous gray leather sectional and stunning floor-length mirror.

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Mister & Me on the Amador Causeway

Back at our condo we indulged in Happy Hour, which turned into happy, happy hour. Feeling like cats and canaries and the day wasn’t even over!

Fabulous Friday concluded with a taxi ride into Casco Viejo for a romantic dinner at Grapes. We walked into a cozy space with inviting décor. The tables were dark wood with chairs upholstered in crème leather. The side wall featured an impressive wooden built-in wine fridge. Black chandeliers of intricate design hung from the ceiling, and although not to my taste, suited the space.

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Me & Mister outside Grapes, with a view of downtown Panama

Our server was pleasant and very professional. When he informed us the bottle of wine we’d requested was out of stock, he suggested an alternative, much more expensive Argentinian Malbec. It was one of those wines where the first sip is alluring but with each taste grows more and more pleasing on the palate.

We decided to go all in with three courses. I started with the corvina ceviche, a local favourite dish, whilst Mister savored the trio of tacos. For our mains I chose the stuffed chicken breast in a curry mint sauce that was phenomenal. Mister ordered a filet of beef which he reported to be masterfully seasoned and cooked to perfection. For dessert I had the house made crème caramel which danced silkily over my tongue and Mister chose the chocolate brownie. Throughout the two-hour experience we engaged in fluid conversation, easily moving from light to deep topics and I felt blissfully in the flow.

We’d planned to take Saturday off, but then we received a call from our builder. He was requesting we make a trip into Tech and House, our appliance store. I was feeling a little frustrated, but when we arrived to discover the air conditioning at the shop was down and I had a low blood sugar, a little became a little bit more. It hit the ceiling, though, when an accident on the bridge had traffic backed up in every direction downtown and what should have been a ten- minute taxi ride home became two hours.

The next day we packed up and checked out of our casita. Rudy was driving us to Coronado to view our home for the first time since we left in February. It is difficult to describe how it felt, but I’ll try.

Upon entering the house, Mister and I were both impressed right away with how magnificent our floor tiles looked. Stepping into the office immediately to the left, it was barren, with no murphy bed, desk, or bookshelf installed, as requested. Apparently, their carpenter had been unwell.

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Living & Dining Room of our House

We next viewed the bathroom off the office. The large matte tiles were gorgeous and complemented beautifully by the shiny small black mosaic tiles. The granite and sink both looked amazing. But the window was mounted over the sink instead of the toilet, leaving no space for a vanity mirror. The tempered shower glass doors were not installed and the toilet was taped over; plumbing not yet available.

In the kitchen the cabinets looked gorgeous but there were no knobs or handles. The wine fridge and dishwasher were too tall (even though we’d sent the dimensions long before), requiring them to take off the granite counter. Finally, the fridge wasn’t installed because the builder informed us it was also too large for the space provided.

Appliances became an issue once again when we viewed the laundry room, which quite frankly looked horrible. One could barely open the washer and dryer because the hall was so narrow. The walk-in closet was the final disappointment, resembling more of a cave or dungeon.

We went outside and were pleased to discover the completed pool filled with clear, clean water. As a few flies buzzed around me in the heat, I couldn’t help but feel disheartened. I was realizing that there was no way we were going to be able to move in to our home in three days with the amount of work still to be done and I could only hope the condo we’d rented for three days at Coronado Bay would be available for seven more.

Feeling our mixed feelings, we drove to the rental, relieved when the owner assured us that we could have the unit for the duration of our visit. We were even more thrilled when we found out that because it was low season and late in the day, it was only going to cost us $900 for ten days for a one- bedroom, two- bathroom condo right on the beach.

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View from our condo balcony

We didn’t have the energy to cook ourselves dinner so we walked over to our favourite restaurant in Coronado, Luna Rosa. The atmosphere was inviting, and the food was, as always, fabulous. It was one of many more to come in following days, and I felt grateful.

Over the next seven days our schedules were filled with meetings with the builders. They were generous in accommodating us and together we came up with creative solutions to the challenges we’d identified.

There was more shopping in the city, a few good work-outs and yoga practices. All of our packages that we’d ordered from Amazon and Wayfair were stacked in the garage and it was like Christmas as we unpacked and revealed the items we’d purchased. Everything from our dishes to wine glasses looked amazing.

Mister and I shared quality time together, taking advantage of the rooftop pool and ocean access that our rental provided. We ate great food and drank beautiful wine.

As the trip came to an end, I found myself in the same frame of mind I’d been in Canada – grateful to be taking on life’s challenges together as team. Bien equipo. I know in my heart that our home will be perfect when it is all done and that we will both love living in our space, in our happy place; Coronado, Panama.

So yeah, I’m feeling blissfully in the flow, in Panama with my Mister.

Feeling Aware of My Ability to Choose to be a Part of the Solution

It seems like everywhere I turn there are stories being shared by people who have survived trauma and it’s no wonder; according to statistics, one in three girls and one in five boys have suffered abuse.

Theo Fleury, a famous ex-NHL player from Canada, spoke on Goalcast in a powerful presentation called Play Your Part. He describes a childhood of neglect and fear, living with addicted parents. He shares his story; that he was raped, repeatedly, by his hockey coach.

Fleury tells how after writing Playing With Fire, at his first book signing in Toronto, he met his first MeToo confidant. He goes on to share how one person turned into over 500,000. He states that trauma is the string that binds us all together and that we have an opportunity to talk with compassion, love, and connection, to have the tough conversations and be a part of the solution.

 

What truly inspired me while listening to Fleury speak was the choice he made when he decided to take the gun out of his mouth. He chose not to punish himself or blame others. He chose to embark on a healing journey. He chose light. He chose life.

Choice. Few things drive me crazier than people who pass off their responsibility by claiming they didn’t have a choice. You always, always, have a choice. Some choices are harder than others. Some take a great deal of strength and courage. But there is always a choice.

In 2007 I was in a similar place as Theo Fleury. I didn’t have a gun in my mouth, but I was contemplating suicide as the only choice. I felt desperate and hopeless. I was in an unhealthy marriage to a controlling, abusive and manipulative man. I had three children. I had debt and a huge mortgage. I was afraid. I didn’t know how to free myself and I definitely couldn’t see the choices I had available.

In the end, I too, chose light. I too, chose life. I walked into the Emergency department of the hospital where I lived, taking the first terrifying step forwards. That step led to being admitted to a short term mental health unit. With the stereotypes our society has towards mental health, that choice wasn’t easy. But with the support of my daughter, and many others, I did it.

That was the beginning of my healing journey. In the hospital I received more support, as well as education and skills. When I was discharged, I advocated for myself. I engaged in intense counselling therapy despite objections from my husband about the financial costs. I engaged in positive relationships. I found meaningful work that I immersed myself in. It took time, but eventually, in 2011, I had the confidence and courage to leave.

At that point I embarked on my grandest of journeys; to discover my authentic self. I drove the epic road trip from Calgary to Vancouver Island and started a new life. I found out who I was and I liked her way more than the mask of me I’d been parading around as. From this place of openness and honesty, I met Mister. I’m currently writing a book about that time in my life called The Healing.

With that one hard choice, of speaking up despite the shame and seeking help, I opened the door to an entire life I never could have imagined. A life that every day, no matter how joyful or challenging it is, I feel gratitude for the blessings of my crazy, beautiful, complicated life.

In her presentation on Ted Talks, The Revolutionary Power of Divine Thought, activist Elif Shafak shares her story. Elif claims that NOW is the time, a vital moment in global activism and sisterhood movements to make change. She urges, “One should never, ever remain silent for fear of complexity.”

 

Life is complex. There are a myriad of social issues including economic, educational, and emotional challenges. There are people making the dark choices of complacency, numbness, isolation, competition, greed, and corruption. In my experience, there are far more people who choose Light. Who choose activism, sensitivity, involvement, generosity, cooperation, balance, and equality.

Equally complex is the relationship of dark and light. They are the polar ends of the same entity. Life and Death are the same thing and both forces live in all of us.

As a modern society of the information age, we have foregone our wisdom in the quest for knowledge. We have exchanged the complex stories of our ancestors that address the complexity of our nature for Disney versions where good and evil are dualities expressed in separate characters. Children are denied the teachings that were layered in fairy tales. We need to tell the scary stories. We have to engage in the tough conversations.

We cling to our life-happiness-positive-good model. We ignore or pretend that darkness-sadness-negativity-evil do not exist. When we do acknowledge evil, it is outside of ourselves, in the other. It is contained within a different religion or country or person. With this head-in-the-sand mentality we don’t learn how to confront the negative forces inside ourselves. We don’t learn how to win the battle in our minds; how to feel, release and then return, by the power of our choice, to our Light.

Darkness may have the power to swallow light, but Light has the power to enlighten. If you ignore the darkness, it doesn’t go away. If you surround yourself with positive people, their light will join with yours and ignite to create a powerful and enduring flame.

What will you choose?

So yeah, I’m feeling aware of my ability to choose to be a part of the solution.

 

Feeling Radical, Ready to Channel my Rage Through the Power of Love

I was feeling overwhelmed, like there is no justice in this world, like I had no control to do anything about it. I sat at my altar and prayed, asking, how do I best serve humanity? As I sat there a memory returned of Mister telling me our highest purpose is to love. And with the perfect synchronicity that is God at work in the world, articles and information on the power of love came flooding into my awareness.

The first, and most impacting, was a Ted Talk by Valeria Kaur, an American civil rights lawyer and activist. Her topic, Three Lessons of Revolutionary Love in a Time of Rage began with a vivid description of her personal labouring process in birthing her son, which she used as a framework for the themes of the fire of pain and the determination to push through.

Kaur described her reaction to 911 and the murder of her uncle in the aftermath. She talked about forgiveness. She spoke about feminism. Referring to a diagram that outlines the expression of revolutionary love towards ourselves, towards the ones we love, and even towards our opponents, she encouraged us to see the wound in the ones who hurt us. She ends with the question, “What if this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb?” and the invitation to breathe and push with a Warrior’s heart and a Saint’s eyes, to be a part of a future waiting to be born.

 

 

I was reading The Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Este and was taken aback when I read the section titled The Boundaries of Rage and Forgiveness, central words in the Ted Talk I had just viewed. Pinkola put forth the idea that the release of rage is required and can be a teacher if allowed.

“We can use the light of rage in a positive way, in order to see into places we cannot usually see… We can learn from it and transform it.” Pinkola suggests that once we recognize it, bless it, contain it and release it, rage can impel groups or individuals into dialogue and action towards accountability, progress and improvements.

Later that day I picked up my copy of Warrior Goddess Training and to my delight the next chapter was titled Open Your Heart. Heatherash Amara discusses the healing practice of Metta; the ancient Buddhist meditation of loving kindness. The practice involves visualizing during meditation sending loving kindness to a family member or friend, to an acquaintance, to yourself, and finally, to someone you dislike.

Heatherash also refers to the Hawaiian poem of forgiveness, Ho’oponopono:

I love you

I’m sorry

Please forgive me

Thank you

I first made acquaintance with this simple yet powerful sentiment when I attended Dance Church in Victoria, BC with my daughter. It seems perfect to be reminded of the wisdom in the words of this prayer now.

Praying led me to open my bible. In Matthew it says, “love your enemies and pray for those that persecute you” and in Mark, “and if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them.”

Toltec wisdom states, “Our true nature is happiness, freedom and love; when we master love, intent and faith we master the dream of our life.” The road to mastering the dream is not easy, but you can begin to change the world by changing your own life, recognizing you have both the choice and the responsibility.

Pema Chodran, a Buddhist monk and spiritual leader, urges us to choose to cultivate love rather than anger. She also postulates that it is necessary to recognize your kinship with others. On the subject of rage, Pema encourages us to use the tools of meditation and loving-kindness to access the tenderness of an awakened heart, to see behind the hardness of rage and not allow it to harden our hearts.

On Super Soul Sunday Oprah talks about making the world a better place by extending yourself in loving kindness with an open heart. Similarly, she advocates that healing the world starts with healing you.

 

Alana Fairchild dedicates in her introduction to the Sacred Rebels, “to those who aren’t afraid to rattle cages… from a place of loving service to the spiritual evolution of humanity… (to) create a world that is fully awakened to love.”

I’m not going to delay any longer. I’m going to start now.

I send loving kindness to someone I love; to my Mister, David.

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You are patient and kind

You tell me it is going to be okay

And somehow it is, inside of your love,

A love more pure and divine than any I’ve known.

 Your love has been the greatest gift of my life.

Your love has taught me love’s power and

Has propelled me to be my best,

To fulfil my purpose, which is as yours; to love.

 I send loving kindness to an acquaintance; to Diane.

I send loving kindness to myself.

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I send loving kindness to someone I dislike; to Nancy.

I send loving kindness to all of humanity; I send loving kindness to you.

So yeah, I’m feeling radical, ready to channel my rage through the power of love.

Feeling Called to Action, Ready to Speak Up for Women’s Equality and be a Feminist

Thursday, March 08, 2018 is International Women’s Day and this year the theme is the Time is Now.

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Around the world events are being run by women’s networks, corporations, charities, educational institutions, political parties and media. In London they are celebrating women in Technology; in Alberta the focus is on influential women. Brisbane is hosting a fun run while Melbourne’s theme is 1000 Women, 1000 Futures. In Vancouver they are presenting Making the Case for Women’s Equality: Reframing a Hyper-Sexualized and Pornographic Culture. In Ontario they are hosting a Shefights amateur Mathai event; in Dubai there is a women’s Art Expo and in Nigeria the main event features Fashion Business. The possibilities to get involved are myriad, with something to inspire everyone.

The Women’s March movement has shown endurance from its inception, with more than 120,000 protestors gathering in New York City advocating for causes from reproductive freedom to immigrant’s rights. According to a statement made in Vox on January 20, 2018, “We’re not going anywhere.”

Movements like #MeToo and #PressforProgress are calls to action to end patriarchy and support gender parity.

The lack of gender parity in education is one of the most important situations that needs to be addressed. It continues to be a significant factor in many parts of the world, including Pakistan, Africa, and Afghanistan, to name a few. In a powerful Ted Talk titled, To Learn is To be Free, Shameem Akhtar advocates for change in opportunities for education in Pakistan. Shameen is a trailblazer for a woman’s right to an education in her community. Posing as a boy to receive her own education, her success planted the seeds of change for other women and girls.

 

Global Sisterhood is a movement of women devoted to transforming themselves and transforming the world together. Their vision is one of a world where women respect, trust, and uplift each other.

You don’t have to join a movement to make a difference though. You can start right now, by making a conscious choice to empower the women in your community. You can notice when you think or speak judging statements and reframe them, choosing to practice compassion and empathy instead.

Currently I’m reading Warrior Goddess Training by Heatherash Amara. One of the activities in the work book was to explore female role models in your life with the goal of identifying their qualities that inspire you. My list was long, but my top three were Oprah, Margaret Atwood, and Brene Brown. Oprah for her awareness and commitment to make a difference, Margaret for the power of her voice in the written word, and Brene for her willingness to be vulnerable and address social issues. It is my wish to embody those attributes in my commitment to myself and to making change in the world.

Living as an ex-pat in Saudi Arabia, I have witnessed incredible change since my arrival in May of 2015, and progress for women is no exception. In October 2017 King Salman decreed women would be allowed to drive, to be effective in June 2018. Women no longer need a man’s permission to travel, study or make complaints. There are more women in the workforce. Recently I read an article where a religious cleric advocated that women should no longer be required to wear abayas; that it should be a choice.

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Choice, freedom, and equality are the central themes of feminism. Unfortunately, the ideology of feminism has been given a bad reputation. Some men who feel threatened by women reclaiming their power would have you believe that all feminists are lesbian man-haters, but these ridiculous statements are merely smokescreens to distract men and women from creating real and honest change. Writer and self-proclaimed feminist, Ngozi Adichie, speaks passionately in her Ted Talk, We Should All Be Feminists. She urges us all to be begin to dream about and plan for a better world, where men and women all take a stand for equality and women no longer need to shrink themselves to feed a man’s ego.

 

It isn’t only women who suffer from the restraints of a patriarchal legacy. Men suffer too. They are driven to be hard, macho, insensitive and unfeeling. They are told not to cry and to buck up. Men need to be given the space to embrace their fullness as human beings. They are so much more than the genetic result of the y chromosome.

As for me, I feel called to contribute using the talents and gifts I have been given. I choose to be a positive advocate for change by using my most powerful tool, which is my voice. I choose to speak my truth, to be open and honest in my conversations. I will continue to write my blogs and write my books. I will not tone myself down to make other people more comfortable.

I choose to change the world by changing mine. To quote Maya Angelou, “I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.” I may not be a young girl, but I’ve still got some ass-kicking left in me.

So yeah, I’m feeling called to action, ready to speak up for women’s equality and be a feminist.

Feeling Devastated, Wanting to Speak Up About How to Identify and Recognize Predators

I woke up sometime after midnight. Hot. Anxious. I checked my phone and there was a message: We need you.”

Within 24 hours I was on a plane.

As it turned out, we all needed each other.  A family secret was uncovered that had us all instantly and thoroughly plunged deep into the darkness, having to somehow wade through the horrifying details. I can’t be more forthcoming; it is still too raw, too unresolved. It was and is the single most agonizing time of my life.

The feelings. An anvil of heaviness, of guilt and shame, sitting on my chest, crushing my heart. My mind exploding in agony, trying to reconcile what I thought was my life with what is. My spirit, crushed, with the shame, anger, grief, regret and despair. These are only a few. They stay with me, my first thoughts upon rising, my last before sleep. They even haunt my dreams.

Despite everything, or perhaps because of, I was blown away by the integrity, courage, and solidarity of my family. I know that in time there will be healing. I don’t know if there will ever be any earthly justice. But I do know that each when the time is right I’m ready to speak my truth, go to battle, and be a warrior in the fight to bring down the patriarchal legacies of abuse and power.

I took inspiration from Oprah’s Golden Globe speech where she addressed a myriad of issues. She talked about the media’s insatiable dedication to uncover the truth and expose corruption and injustice. She called out to the tyrants and victims and secrets and lies. She spoke about the MeToo movement.

 

The words that Oprah spoke which impacted me the most were, “What I know for sure: speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have.” When Oprah concluded that “their time is up,” and that survivors overcome because they have an ability to maintain hope for a brighter morning even during their darkest nights, I took solace. Oprah proclaimed, “A new day is on the horizon,” and that “we will fight for a time when nobody has to say ‘me too’ again.”

I wrote about my own MeToo story in my blog, Feeling Anything but Shocked, Compelled to Action by the MeToo Movement.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes in The Women Who Run with the Wolves about the archetype of the wild woman, of our feminine instinctive nature and the Life/Death/Life force. She identifies the wild woman as the one who thunders after injustice and maintains that the remedies for repair are contained in stories.

Estes writes about the natural predator, the most deceitful and powerful fugitive. She tells the story of Bluebeard, the dark man, the innate predator, who fools the naïve woman with his false charm. He is filled with a heartless pursuit of the light of others and to restrain him it is necessary for women to remain in possession of all of their instinctual powers.

Many women have lived the Bluebeard tale, including me. They enter into relationships while they are still naïve or are have injured instincts and they choose someone who is destructive to their lives. They are determined to cure that person with love. My bluebeard even tried to warn me once, admitting he cared for no one but himself, but I refused to believe his confession, thinking I could love him into rekindling the light I imagined still lived inside him.

Predators desire superiority and power over others. It is unfortunately the harsh reality that all beings – young and old, male and female – must learn that predators exist and look to understand the predator so that they are not vulnerable out of naiveté, inexperience or foolishness.

Clarissa states, “when a woman is attempting to avoid the facts of her own devastation her night dreams are likely to shout out warnings.” This was true for me. When I was first dating my Bluebeard, I had a vision of a wolf coming to my window. I didn’t know at the time what the wolf signified in my own psyche; I discovered much later, in therapy, that the wolf represented the sexual predator of my childhood. I didn’t have the teachings. I didn’t trust my intuition. I was vulnerable.

In, The Women Who Run with the Wolves, Estes describes how to retrieve and restore intuition:

  • Expose yourself to the shadows and navigate the dark
  • Be your authentic self, even if it causes you to be exiled by many others
  • Feed your intuition by listening to your heart
  • Respect great power and recognize your power as a woman
  • Live and learn
  • Honour your cycles
  • Learn fine discrimination and discernment
  • Observe and learn about the Life/Death/Life cycles
  • Trust that some things belong to God
  • Refuse to allow anyone to repress your vivid energies, opinions, thoughts and values

In our society, we do the opposite. Instead of educating our girls we train them to be nice and ‘make pretty’, which causes them to override their intuitions. This must end now. We need to dismantle the predators by maintaining our intuitions and instincts and resisting the predator’s seductions. We also need to learn to recognize the predators who live amongst us.

Which brings me back to my story, my truth. I was absolutely and completely shocked that I did not recognize my predator. But in the time since my discovery I have become educated. First of all, predators who prey on children are most likely a male in your family. We’ve done a great job teaching about ‘stranger danger’ and warning our children about men in vehicles offering candy. But that is a myth. Child predators gain access to their victims by carefully constructing facades that fool us into trusting them. They are master manipulators and cunning concealers.

Predators by the very nature of their sickness should be identified as sociopaths. They possess a clear disregard for the feelings of others and have the ability to lie in order to achieve their goals. When they do something wrong they accept no responsibility but instead they blame others or circumstances. They are often delusional to the point they believe their lies are truth. They lack emotional empathy and are great at charming people. They understand human weakness (and who more vulnerable than a child) and exploit it maximally. They use diversion tactics as smoke screens. They think they are superior. They are selfish, needy, and often highly intelligent.

If someone you know demonstrates several of these tendencies, you should consider them red flags. An appropriate response would be to cut them out of your life completely, but at the very least you should do some investigating.

I ignored the red flags. I fell for the manipulations and lies. He offered evidence of his true character in a drunken confession, but I toned it down and tried to bury it. I was sickened and disgusted. I wanted to leave. But I was afraid. I sought counselling and was advised that it wasn’t appropriate to condemn him for a disclosure that was a thought, not an action. And it is something I will forever regret.

I felt ashamed that I was duped, but as I dug into the issue of child predators I discovered that it isn’t just us who are naïve and trusting who get fooled. In fact, lawyers and judges in our legal system make these errors in judgement too. A devastating example is the recent case reported in the news in Victoria, Canada.

A judge ordered shared custody despite reported violence and sexual abuse and now two little girls are dead. Andrew Berry, the father, filed for shared custody. The mother, Sarah Cotton, fought against him in Supreme Court for five days before the judge declared, “this is not a case where family violence is a significant factor,” and proceeded to grant shared custody. This decision was made despite knowing that Andrew Berry had a previous restraining order and two investigations by the Ministry of Children and Family Development for inappropriate touching.

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A complete opposite conviction was ordered in the case of the judge who, disgusted with his abuse of power and privilege, sentenced Larry Nassar for up to 175 years in prison for molesting young female gymnasts.

As I endeavoured to identify the predators amongst us I conducted a search on Ted, one of my favourite forums. I found an interesting talk by Pamela Meyer titled, How to Spot a Liar that gave me a few more tips to add to my growing file. Apparently, when giving a statement, liars will use more formal language than usual, will use distancing language such as that woman (think Bill Clinton) or the boy, the child, and they use qualifying language like, in all candor. Liars sometimes have body language slips like freezing their upper bodies. You can fake a smile with your lips, but not your eyes, so if their smile doesn’t reach their eyes, it is likely inauthentic. And there is often a discrepancy between their words and actions.

 

Of course, these again, are only red flags, not proof. But as in the markers for sociopaths, if someone in your family or circle of friends displays these lying tendencies, it is worthwhile to at least conduct an investigation.

Brene Brown is one of my role models who speaks the truth even when it is uncomfortable. On Super Soul Sunday she spoke out about sexual abuse and shame. She stated that victims keep sexual abuse a secret from a feeling of shame, but secrecy, silence and judgment allow the abuse to continue. In her book, Braving the Wilderness, she talks about facing the challenging social injustices of our time with, “a strong back, soft front, wild heart.”

 

So yeah, I’m feeling devastated, wanting to speak up about how to identify and recognize predators.

Feeling Inspired; Lifting the Weight of the World off my Shoulders by Opening my Heart to Love

I’ve been feeling the heaviness of the destruction, devastation, and darkness in the world. One day I woke up and felt so tired of feeling hopeless. And then the awareness returned to me, that I already knew, but had somehow forgotten. I needed to open my heart to all the love and light in the world. I set about searching and before long it was like an avalanche had been created with that simple intention.

It started with music. I decided to listen to some of my favourite inspirational songs while walking Lola around the compound. As I listened to Michael Buble crooning about a new day and A Great Big World telling me “You’ll be okay,” I felt the truth in the words and a spring returning to my step. I even noticed beauty in the self-described barrenness of the desert, in the vast blue sky. By the time India Arie reminded me, “There’s Hope,” I was beginning to blossom. A shift was occurring, not in the world, but in my perception.

 

I thought about the list of Affirmations I’d posted to our bulletin board and I took it down and read it. I was present to the many gifts and blessings in my life. Beginning with the love of Mister. He is an inspiring man to be in deep partnership with, his solid faith in God and in humankind demonstrated in his daily acts of integrity and character. His love for me has been my constant, his solidity a rock in which together we have built our foundation.

 

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I thought about how fortunate I am to have four beautiful children. The two eldest are already making change in the world with their passion and commitment. Scarlet has created Women’s Sacred Wisdom ritual and retreat to empower women and embrace the feminine. Tamara has developed her own website offering her gifts in massage, yoga, and art. She also continues to post spiritually inspiring blogs on Anuttara Tantra. The two youngest are still discovering their passions, but share their hearts and minds with courageous vulnerability.

I brought into my heart the loving memories of all of my family, those living and those who have passed. I was present to the gift of friendship, with my tribe here in Riyadh, as well as so many others here and back in Canada.

I continued to focus my thoughts on the positive. I made mental lists of the things I appreciate about my community, the country of my birth, and the world around me. By this point I was clear that I needed to allow myself to receive love and support and to put my energy into giving my light and love to others. I collected inspiration from an eclectic array of sources that I will share in the random order that they manifested.

Throughout my life the Bible has been a source of strength and confusion for me. While I can easily accept the basic premises, truths, and commandments, I get hung up on some of the smiting and punishing and judgment that appears, especially in the Old Testament. But, even there, in the very first words of Genesis, God said, “Let there be light, and there was light.”

I flipped through to the book of Matthew. Verse 28 states, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, I will give you rest.” It was so comforting to remember that I could lay down my cross and God would carry it for me.

Matthew goes on to list the commandments, revealing as the greatest, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind… Love your neighbour as yourself.” I cried tears as I felt how I’d let my pain separate me from God. I’d been letting the darkness in the world turn me away from feeling love for my neighbour and for myself.

I was ready to “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on you own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5). I recognized that I don’t have the wisdom to comprehend the complexity of life and death, good and evil. And it’s okay because I can give it to God and relax in my faith.

I had just finished reading Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness. She wrote about the power of courage in the face of pain. About having a “strong back, soft front, wild heart.” She encouraged her readers to practice integrity and authenticity and to “believe in and belong to ourselves and to each other.”

I decided to log onto Face Book and scroll through, searching for positive posts. There were so many choices: Now This, mindful.org, The Mighty, Ted.com, Expand Your Consciousness, Good News Network. And of course, one of my favourites, Goalcast.

I chose Randy Pauseh’s lecture, Live the Right Way, to include in this blog, because listening to him speak brought tears to my eyes. He was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer with only months to live. Instead of feeling sorry for himself, he was alive with the energy of spreading his message. To live with humility and integrity, to tell the truth, and to apologize sincerely when you are wrong.

Randy asked, “Are you a Tigger or an Eeyore? Tigger’s are energetic, optimistic, curious, enthusiastic, and love to have fun. I knew who I was at my core, even if I’d been traipsing around like a Moping Moper.

 

A few scrolls later I discovered another moving video titled Live Every Moment by Muniba Mazani. She described how she had been at the edge of despair after a devastating car accident left her with a spinal injury. She shared her healing journey of recovery, found partly through the act of painting. She said at some point she made a conscious decision to live her life for herself, and everything shifted after that. It started from within, and she went about making her dreams become reality.

 

I was surprised to find my next Face Book inspiration from an article posted in latimes.com. Featured was the humble and wise Dalai Lama in an article titled We Need an Education of the heart. He stated that to live together as brothers and sisters in peace, we must learn to practice compassion, mindfulness and justice. Furthermore, he postulated this emotional intelligence can be and should be taught as part of a global curriculum.

I set my phone down, and suddenly my feet seemed to literally carry me upstairs to my meditational room. I picked up Deepak Chopra’s Seven Spiritual Laws of Success and reviewed them, slowly and mindfully. Practice non-judgment. Wherever you go, whoever you encounter, bring a gift. Bring your choices into conscious awareness. Practice accepting all people, situations, circumstances and events. Release your desires to the Universe, trusting that life will unfold as it should. Allow yourself and the people around you the freedom to be as they are. And lovingly pay attention to the spirit within you. Wise words, but very challenging to practice consistently.

I sat on my pillow and gazed softly at my vision board. My eyes were drawn to the four agreements, which are a part of the Toltec wisdom. Be impeccable with your word. Don’t take anything personally. Don’t make assumptions. Always do your best. I hadn’t been following these basic tenets. I hadn’t been practicing love, intent, and faith.

To add another perspective, I thumbed through a pocket book I have with thoughts from the Buddhist monk, Pema Chodron. She begins by explaining that we are all born with bodhichitta, a Sanskrit word meaning noble or awakened heart, and it is this noble heart that heals us from the difficulties we face in life. She offered tools for being connected to our hearts: meditation, loving-kindness, compassion, joy and equanimity. She also urged us to be kind to ourselves, to recognize our kinship with one another, to rejoice in the smallest of blessings, to have no expectations, and to be kind.

My journey ended with yet another perspective, illustrated beautifully in Louie Schwartzberg’s Ted Talk, Nature. Beauty. Gratitude. A photographer, he shares the miracle and beauty of nature through his artful time-lapse photography, along with the wise words of Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast. As I watched my soul stirred. When he said, live this day as if it was your first and your last, I knew I had to do something different.

 

Clearly, I had all the tools I needed at my disposal. I had to stop complaining, focusing on the negativity, and living in the past. I was already present to my blessings, but I recommitted to keeping a gratitude journal. I knew I had to celebrate the gift of my life and live it. I felt a renewed energy coursing through my veins and sat down in my chair, ready to write.

So yeah, I’m feeling inspired; lifting the weight of the world off my shoulders by opening my heart to love.

 

Feeling Excited to be an Expat in Saudi Arabia, Witnessing Historical Change

It seems every day I tune into social media there is a new announcement being made that reflects the extraordinary changes underfoot in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

On October 1, 2017 I was incredulous as I read in several articles, including Arabnews.com and Riyadhconnect.com, that King Salman issued a decree allowing Saudi women to drive. To the uninformed reader this decree may not sound earth-shattering, but Saudi Arabia has remained, until now, the only country in the world where it is illegal for women to drive.

 

The next day Blue Abaya posted that Ford Middle East was gifting a mustang to Sahar Nassif, a Saudi woman who has spent years campaigning for equal rights. In the past, Sahar was arrested for driving around Jeddah and when the proclamation was made by King Salman she rejoiced, saying she was going to purchase a yellow and black Mustang to celebrate. Ford got wind of the story and chose to gift her with the car of her dreams.

In related news, the Saudi Princess Nourah University is planning to establish a women’s driving school and the Ministry says the legal driving age for women will be 18 years. The ruling allowing women to drive is expected to become law by June of 2018, but many enthusiastic Saudi women are already getting behind the wheel to practice in preparation.

Saudi Princess Nourah University to establish a women driving school

Apparently, the seeds of change were planted even earlier. According to Gulf Insider, back in June of this year King Salman ordered that women no longer need a man’s permission to travel, study, or make complaints. As Maha Akeel, a women’s rights campaigner, suggests the move is a step in the right direction, opening the entire discussion on the guardian system for debate.

The decision to allow women these new freedoms seems part of a plan to include more women in the workforce to help diversify the country’s economy. The trend towards what is often referred to as “Saudi-isation” began as early as 2011, and has resulted in a grand 78-page document authorized by King Salman Bin Abdul-Aziz Al-Saud, KSA Vision 2030.

Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Program encompasses a huge mandate for change. Goals include efficient planning within government agencies and global investments, not to mention becoming the epicentre of trade and the gateway to the world. There are plans for growth through diversification of resources. More jobs, education and skills- building opportunities for citizens are being created. There is a push to strengthen the National Identity, develop tourism, improve living and working conditions for expats, and even increase household spending on culture and entertainment.

 

 

Towards the goal of entertainment spending, another shattering announcement was made on October 2.  According to expatwoman.com, Cinemas are Returning to Saudi Arabia. I never knew they were once in existence, but upon reading the article I discovered that there were cinemas before 1980. Personally, I am thrilled at the prospect of adding going out to the movies to our current small list of entertainment possibilities and hope the decision opens the door for more opportunities here in Riyadh.

I read about these changes in the news, but I’m even more encouraged by the observations I’ve made in the short time since I moved here in May of 2015. I have witnessed the increase of women in the workforce first-hand, seeing more and more female cashiers at the major shopping centres. I have noticed each time I fly back to Riyadh from abroad more women in the airport who are dressing in fashionable abayas. They are pushing convention, adding colour and bling and even opting for fitted over the typical ‘tented’ attire.

Further updates on emirateswoman.com revealed, “Hot on the heels of news that Saudi Arabia will soon start issuing driving licenses to women, the kingdom has appointed its first female spokeswoman. Fatimah Baeshen was announced as a spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in Washington, US, on Wednesday, a day after King Salman issued a royal decree to lift the driving ban on women. Saudi national Baeshen celebrated the announcement of her new role, saying she was ‘proud to serve’ her country.”

I still find going out into the city challenging, but every time I do it feels like more Saudi men and women alike are welcoming me. I’m not postulating that everyone here supports change and welcomes new ideas, but there does seem to be a growing sense of globalism. The incentive may have begun as an economic response to the oil crisis, but it has evolved. Many progressive-thinking Saudis, including those in positions of authority, recognize that their future success involves growth, and growth demands respectful partnerships within global frameworks.

As a woman who stands for equality and liberty for all people, it is exciting to see that positive change is not just a dream. It is becoming a reality, throughout the world. Don’t believe in the negativity of the naysayers who claim that the world is destroying itself. Don’t accept that the terrorists and the corrupt and greedy politicians and corporations are the rule. There is a global rising. There is a New Earth, just beyond the horizon.

So yeah, I’m feeling excited to be an expat in Saudi Arabia, witnessing historical change.