Laugh Motherducker !

laughcat

A beggar will go up to a car sadly, plead, whine, mewl. The driver will stare at her sadly, then drop some money in her hand. She will walk away sadly and he will drive away sadly. A bunch of teenagers will hang out sadly, and between “yaars” and “bros” will commiserate with each other about how sad life is. A gaggle of housewives will sit down behind expensive china, and sadly talk about how shitty their husbands and lives are, with a little servant boy sadly bringing them pastries, while in the background HumTV sadly tells them what to think. Waiters, shopkeepers, businessmen, news anchors, cricket players, even the Prime Minister, will always look perpetually sad and despondent. And most of the time they aren’t even faking it.

This place has become one big pity party. Everyone is sad, and comfortable being so. Almost every social transaction is undertaken beneath the umbrella of gloom and depression, so that you are actually worse off for having reached out to another human being in many cases. Simply put, sad people will make you sadder. It’s infectious, and more harmful than a zombie outbreak. Over here it’s considered a normal, accepted way of being. Happiness is looked upon as weirdness. If you laugh too much, or too loudly, people will give you funny looks. You better shut the fuck up with your happiness, their eyes warn. Be miserable like the rest of us.

This is just not good enough.

The poor are sad because the nature of their daily trials don’t allow them the luxury of mirth. Fair enough. The more well-to-do are sad because the poor are poor. We don’t want to be that asshole – laughing and joking while the country burns. So the big lie we feed ourselves is that our sadness is justified; that it counts for something. Look at me, I am commiserating. Boo fucking hoo. I am showing solidarity with my fellow brethren. Now excuse me while I sadly eat some more samosas and sadly play on my iPad and leave sad comments on social media.

We also play sad because life is cheap here; just about anyone is expendable. Personal safety is simply not guaranteed. And that’s a pretty sad notion. Let’s just keep our heads down to up our survival rate; that crazy person who is super exuberant and joyful is going to get it one of these days, we say to ourselves. We are simply being realistic.

But both of these notions, and any others that lead to the same behavior, are wrongheaded lies. Your being sad doesn’t help the poor of this country. Your being sad certainly doesn’t improve your odds of escaping the fickleness of fate. All your being sad accomplishes is your sadness. It is a selfish, vicious cycle which loves to feed off itself; before you know it, the years in your life and the life in your years have been wholly consumed by your sadness. And then you can die sadly.

Because being perpetually sad is unnatural. Man was designed to laugh and make merry, it’s a critical aspect of being human. I’m not saying we should all start crazy happy laughing frolicking and running around (even though more of that would be beautiful to see) – but I am saying that sad people are fucking useless; they are too busy being sad to get anything done. If you think you are helping by commiserating, then that is you being silly. Which isn’t really a surprise, because sad people are silly people.

Consider the alternative for a moment: to be brave enough to be happy, joyful, appreciative of life, no matter what pile of poop smacks you in the face. This is a more difficult option – choosing love is always more difficult than choosing fear – but it is infinitely more effective. Because let’s face it: most of our problems aren’t really that bad, we’ve just gotten comfortable complaining about meaningless shit. All of us, boys and girls, men and women alike, have started acting like arthritic aunties, scrambling past each other to see who can woe-is-me our lives away faster. And as for the real, pertinent problems that we do have: those will only be solved by action, not by pity or guilt or misery.

A friend of mine very rightly says that it has gotten fashionable to be depressed over here. That’s the persona many well-to-do and well-off people, especially youngsters, will adopt, because it fits the cultural narrative. But it’s a bullshit, debilitating character to embody. It helps absolutely no one, except maybe hash dealers.

The Law of Attraction has been built up a lot, but at its basics its a poetic description of a simple human concept: our brains operate on patterns, and sift through external information based on whichever pattern is activated within. If you think the world around you is shitty and sad and mean to you, you’ll find evidence for that wherever you look. But if you dig deeper and search for love and happiness and courage and beauty, you’ll find evidence for that too, often in the most surprising places. Including within.

So laugh motherfucker. It’s all going to be over soon anyways. Do yourself and those around you a favor and stop being so sullen. Make mistakes, get hurt, laugh it off, rinse and repeat. Taking yourself, or this life, too seriously, may well be the greatest waste of time. Let go of your need for control. That is all a lie anyway. Instead, offer all that you can to the world, every ounce, every kernel, every nugget, instead of sitting around complaining about how little the world offers you. You might just make a difference that way, and you’ll have some fun doing it too.

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Lose Yourself

The Tao which can be expressed in words is not the eternal Tao.” – Lao Tzu, 6th Century B.C crazy person.

“I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” – Vincent Van Gogh, famous ear surgeon.

We dont know one-millionth of one percent about anything.” – Thomas Edison, famous plagiarizer of celibate Austrian scientists.

A girl once asked me to describe myself in one sentence. I think it was a test of some sort. I said I was a wanderer, and I still don’t know if I passed the test.

Regardless, the exercise is interesting. You’ll hear this sort of thing asked at job interviews as well. Describe yourself in a single sentence. We love so much to simplify an entire person in to a bunch of words because it helps us fit that person into our world model, which is also just a bunch of words.

But words will never measure up. No matter how great your vocabulary, we are bigger than the words used to describe us, bigger than mental constructs. We will always squeeze and bloat through the cracks of the box a word tries to fit us in. Though incredibly useful, words can often be limiting.

Imagine, if you will, a marble sculpture of the human form, perfectly chiseled and glistening. Then imagine a large white box of roughly the same size upon which someone has scribbled, with a marker, “head, torso, arms, legs”, and so on, in the appropriate anatomical places. On one side you have a sculpture, and on the other, a large box with words on it.

This is the difference between absolute reality and our perception of reality.

“To make biological survival possible, Mind at Large has to be funneled through the reducing valve of the brain and nervous system. What comes out the other end is a measly trickle of the kind of consciousness which will help us to stay alive on the surface of this particular planet. To formulate and express the contents of this reduced awareness,  man has invented and endlessly elaborated those symbol-systems and implicit philosophies which we call languages.” – Aldous Huxley, famous drug abuser.

And so we build these boxes all around us, starting from a very young age. The process is so slow, so natural, that we forget that we are trapped. Safe and snug we remain inside our boxes, like cats. Every one does this, but the great trick is that no one is aware of it; we all think we are observing the statue in its entirety while everyone else makes boxes. Ha ha, stupid people can’t see the truth, we say smugly to ourselves. Most pompousness and chest thumping is a consequence of this inadvertent hypocrisy.

For the longest time I was cool being a box-builder, borrowing tools and templates from elders and society at large. But maybe I’m not a very good box builder, because the world that I found myself in was one which I didn’t quite like. The rules seemed arbitrary, forced, contrived, for that is exactly what they are. More than anything I couldn’t help but wonder what all I was missing by living in this little boxworld, what wonders I had denied myself only to keep my ass safe from the harsh truths of existence.

So then came stage 2: the total destruction of the boxes, a rejection of boxworld. The disintegration of mental models, fighting against all ‘truths’ that I had taken for granted, losing myself to the chaos. This stage is still ongoing.

And now I’m finally starting to get a glimpse of stage 3. A stage where reality, in all its awful glory has started to become visible to me in little flashes. I see the boxes for what they are, and I use them for what they are, but they remain expendable, like so many hats to be worn and discarded as required. It’s much more fun to be an animal in the wilderness, barking at trees and howling at the moon, than a box-drone, doing what you are told with the placid smile of false comfort plastered on your face, maintaining a strict tunnel-vision view of reality because it feels safer that way.

I have lost myself, or to be more specific I have lost the dress-shirty well spoken shareef larka obey-the-rules version of myself. And in the process I am coming closer and closer to finding out who I really am.

*

Let’s play a game. You are the scientist and you are the guinea pig, and the mission is to lose yourself. The following are a bunch of experiments to aid that cause.

– For starters, answer the following question: how would you define yourself in a single sentence?

Define yourself as male/female/engineer/doctor/democrat/Taher Shah fan/any terrestrial labels of choice.

Define yourself as your hopes and dreams, your intelligence, your imagination, your appointed purpose on this planet, your inevitable marriage to Natalie Portman/Thor guy.

Define yourself as the transient physical manifestation of energy, as atoms, protons, electrons, quantum ‘particles’, meticulously arranged, zappin’ and buzzin’ in a matrix of energy fields mutually interacting with one another.

Define yourself as a finite, time-bound carbon and water based biological creature, eating smaller biological creatures and pooping them out as noxious waste, seeking desperately to propagate your species, the as-yet final product of a process of evolution which has been taking place for more time than you can fathom.

Define yourself as the denizen of a colonized little rock floating around an inconsequential star on the outer edge of an inconsequential galaxy in a vast and impossibly large universe.

earth-from-voyager

Realize that you are all and none of these definitions. Realize that you have no fucking clue about what you really are.

If you don’t know what you are, how can you know anything about the world around you?!

Time to destroy them boxes.

–  Think of your likes and dislikes, label yourself as someone who, for example, ‘loves rap music’ or ‘hates waking up early’. Then do the exact opposite. Find reasons why rap music sucks. Wake up at the crack of dawn and watch the sun rise for a whole week.

– If you are conservative ‘by nature’, think like a wild and reckless animal for an hour a day. If you are wild and reckless ‘by nature’, think like a cautious, conservative person for an hour a day.

– If you are shy in public, go to a crowded place and scream as loud as you can. People will stare at you, but the world won’t end. If this sounds like suicide, at the very least go up to random people and start talking to them. Wear something utterly ridiculous. Let people laugh at you.

– There is this guy at the Uni where I work who, each time he sees me, gasps, touches my feet, bows before me, and asks me to bless him because he is my most humble servant. All because I’m Syed. That word means a ridiculous amount to that man. He has a Syed box in which he has placed me, entirely oblivious to the fact that I am one of the least qualified people to bestow any manner of religious blessings upon anyone. But I am forced to fight through the embarrassment and play along, lest I destroy his box models.

The next time you interact with a person and find yourself applying labels to them, like ‘shareef’, ‘liberal’, ‘maila’, ‘khoobsoorat’, or whatever, and then modifying your behavior to interact with that label rather than the biological entity in front of you, stop yourself. Find ten other labels about the same person, and see how each one changes your behavior. Label that person as simply ‘a fellow human,’ and see how that changes your behavior.

– If you believe strongly in Islam or Christianity or Judaism or Atheism, temporarily take up an opposing belief. Educate yourself. Build a case against your faith.

– If you believe strongly in something like Marxism or Capitalism or democracy, imagine life without those things. Embrace the exact opposite of those beliefs, and build a case against yourself.

– If you hate someone, do something incredibly kind for them. And then move on with your life.

– Meditate over all the evil that exists in the world. Then meditate on all the good. Realize that there is more good happening at any given moment than evil – MUCH MORE ! – and find evidence from your daily life to prove this.

– Meditate/pray/exercise/do yoga daily. Silence your mind and watch how your identity changes. Watch the traits which you long thought fixed parts of your personality melt away.

– Respond to anything you are told with “yes, but…” and then use your head to come up with valid counterarguments. Even if you agree with what is being said. Don’t overdo it or you will lose all friends.

– Go out in nature and start looking at everything in terms of negative space; instead of trees and grass and ground, observe the spaces in between.

– Go out in nature and try to count all the shades of green that you see. Then try to count all the leaves. Then try to count all the plants. Then try to label things as ‘trees’, ‘bushes’, ‘grass’, ‘wind’. Then stop counting and labeling and take it all in at the same time without focusing on any one thing.

– Exercise your peripheral vision daily. Take in all the visual information without focusing on any one thing. Including this computer screen.

– Play with little children as often as you can. Let them lead. Those little bastards remember ancient truths which the rest of us have long forgotten.

– Spend a day lying shamelessly through your teeth to anyone you meet. Then spend a day being completely, brutally, honest. Learn how important both qualities are.

– Get really, truly, mind-numbingly, forget-who-you-are stoned at least once in your life.

– Look closely at the following picture:

eye

That is what your eye really looks like. At that level of magnification at least. Zoom in further and it will look even stranger. Meditate on what else is going on around you that you simply can not see, or choose not to, since you are so caught up in your boxes.

–   Define yourself as Pakistani. Imagine the boundaries on the ground that make this fact true. Then realize that 66 years ago those boundaries did not exist, and you were Indian. Then realize that a few thousand years ago those boundaries did not exist either, and you were member of a tribe. Then realize that a hundred thousand years ago the tribe did not exist, and you were simply an Earthling.

Imagine, like John Lennon said, that there were no countries, no invisible lines on the map. Imagine there was no homeland to provide you with a convenient identity. How would you define yourself then?

– Be completely comfortable saying “I don’t know.” Because you don’t.

“I know that I don’t know anything, but the others don’t even know that” – Socrates, famous village idiot.

– Learn about mind control, about media, about television, about advertising, and how they attempt to provide you with convenient little thought boxes to get you to buy shit and behave in certain ways. Understand that the more you associate with thought-boxes, the easier you are to control.

– If a little voice in your head tells you anything about yourself in absolute terms, make it a mission to prove that voice wrong. You will be surprised at how often you have fooled yourself into believing things that have no basis in reality.

*

And so it goes. I wonder if this post will make sense to anyone, given that the only way to express this thought is through words, of which I am but an average wielder at best (especially when stoned, as is the present case). But I really believe that we need to recognize the boxes we build around ourselves as being nothing more than mental projections applied upon an unfathomable reality. People would be less shitty to each other if they realized that we are all in this together, lost and wandering, no better or worse than the next human being, our boxes no more or less the absolute truth than theirs.

I am trying every day to challenge my hard-held beliefs, to break through boxes, both my own and those imposed upon me by society. I have no idea where this will lead (straight to the loony-bin, some would say), but the process is quite liberating. Reality is a wretched bitch, cold and overwhelming, yet beautiful beyond belief, and the few glimpses she has offered me of herself have left me spellbound. No box will do anymore, I choose instead to remain naked and exposed and let the show play out how it will.

Does this mean anarchy, hedonism, chaos? Far from it. It just means acknowledging the puppet show. And the strings. And the invisible hands behind the curtain. It means being humble enough to, like Socrates, be comfortable accepting both my utter insignificance and my paramount significance in it all. It means being satisfied being an idiot.

In sum, this is some pretty potent hashish.

“It may be that we are doomed, that there is no hope for us, any of us, but if that is so then let us set up a last agonizing, bloodcurdling howl, a screech of defiance, a war whoop! Away with lamentation! Away with elegies and dirges! Away with biographies and histories, and libraries and museums! Let the dead eat the dead. Let us living ones dance about the rim of the crater, a last expiring dance. But a dance!”  – Henry Miller, dead guy.

FTS

escape-cat-1

This place needs more original thinkers and less blind followers. More entrepreneurs and less office slaves. More Calvins, less Charlie Browns (our supreme leader is exempt of course, for he can’t help the Charlie Brown resemblance).

Maybe then things can start to work out. Because the problem (one of many) is that the current state of affairs sucks ass. The system is broken, the machine no longer provides for us citizens, and we’re going to have to start taking care of ourselves.

The system of which I speak – adopted as is from the Fahaash West – is as follows, at least for us fortunate ones: Wake up early, wear a uniform, go to school, sit behind a desk – one of many, arranged neatly in grids – listen to a teacher spew forth as much knowledge as his shitty salary incentivizes him to accrue, learn to shut the fuck up, learn to do what you are told, learn to obey the rules, learn to compete with your friends.

Then go to University, supposedly to ‘expand your horizons’. But really in Pakistan all that means is study more, study harder, study longer, all the while continuing to obey/cheat/bypass the same rules of conduct and picking up niftier tricks to do the same.

Then you graduate, celebrate, act like that piece of paper means something. Get a job. Continue to apply what you have learned: wear a ‘uniform’, sit in an office or a cubicle from 9-5, listen to a boss chew you out, learn to shut the fuck up, learn to do what you are told, learn to obey the rules, learn to compete with your coworkers.

And eventually, if you have been a good little boy or girl for enough years, you will get promoted to head drone, where you can chill a bit and supervise the minions and take out the frustrations of your past by making their lives more difficult.

Clearly, I am not a fan. For this system comes with some twisted mathematics built-in:  do mind-numbing chores for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year, for a bullshit salary, sometimes in a field that you don’t have much interest in, all in the hopes of that promotion in a few years for which you’ll have to battle your colleagues every day. Those are your best, most productive daily 8 hours, of your best, most productive years, that you are giving to some job for monetary compensation which it is difficult to argue is compensation enough for even half the time you are relinquishing. Throw in ridiculously involved office politics, shitty, egotistical bosses, and a soul-sucking conformity enforced by HR regulations, and you have the ecology within which you will spend many of your best hours. And here’s another factoid which nailed it for me: Monday mornings record more heart attacks than any other time of the week, due to the elevated stress associated with returning to the workplace after the weekend.

Sounds like a real fuckin’ dream.

I’ve been off the grid and out of the system for over a year now. And in the words of the great philosopher Borat Sagdiyev, “Is nice!”

Right about now the Sceptical Saleems are wont to speak up. You just want to bum around, they’d say to me. You want to waste your life and are now trying to get others to do the same. Kya beghairti phela rahay ho, haramzaday, etc etc. 

Far from it. I’m more productive now than I ever was doing engineering, mainly because my heart wasn’t in it. All I’m saying here is a simple, obvious little idea, which is this:

The system is not good enough. We have to recognize this truth, and we have to stop making do with mediocrity. Sceptical Saleem may bring forth the argument that yes, it is broken, but the only way to fix it is from the inside. I say fuck that, the way forward is to develop alternative systems, better systems, more up to date systems not tethered to the previous century. More entrepreneurship, more businesses, more internet, less office work for multinational corporations. More Calvins, less Charlie Browns. Think outside the machine. Actually contribute instead of just clocking in every morning and being patient for 8 hours.

The best way to ensure that you make a contribution of worth is by doing work that is personally meaningful to you.

Obviously, it’s not that easy. What is one to do until he finds his life’s work? Who is going to pay the bills? After all there is cable to pay for, CNG to buy, jalebis to eat. One can’t just bum!

If it’s all about making money and saving time, here are a few off-the-grid alternatives that have served me very well:

Think Outside the Office: Or, look for jobs online. The Internet has torn a hole through conventional ideas of making a living. Some of us have woken up to this, but more of us can easily jump on. Anything from writing (technical writing, search-engine-optimization, content writing, etc.) to art (graphic design, illustration, web design) to computer programming and development (insert nerdybabble here), are now fairly lucrative income streams that offer the chance to work from the comfort of your home.

And the best part is, once you factor in the conversion rate from $ to Rs. (currently 1:107.5), even an extremely low paying job will pay your bills, and then some (a $5/hour job means a monthly income of Rs. 86,000).

I write technical articles online for a Canadian firm for about 4 hours a week. That is my main source of income, simply because of the ridiculous conversion rate. A friend of mine offers computer programming skills to international developers, and he makes $60/hour, whilst sitting at coffee shops and other places of poondi. You do the math.

But if it’s so lucrative, asks Sceptical Saleem, then why isn’t everyone doing it?!

Simply because people are unaware of this alternative to office drudgery. Also, it’s kind of anti-establishment, quitting your job and working at home without trousers on, so of course it’s not going to be publicized. And it requires a decent amount of effort to set up right. But it’s worth everyone’s while to look into online income streams, even if on a part-time basis.

A good place to start is Odesk and Elance. Google how best to utilize your individual skills, and have at it. It’s not an instant cash-cow, there will be a learning curve involved, as well as a few months of low-income work, but freedom comes at a price.

If you can make a decent living working just a day a week, you have the rest of the week to do whatever the fuck you want. Then the possibilities for what one can accomplish really get interesting.

Optimize Your Office Work: Or, if you absolutely must work at an office, learn to most effectively utilize your time. Let’s face it, we don’t actually work 8 hours a day in 9-5 jobs; a big portion of that time is spent on Facebook, gossiping with co-workers, waiting on some lazy bugger, or staring out the window daydreaming about another reality. Especially here, where the system is slow, inefficient, and bureaucratic. That is all time you won’t be getting back. If you learn to optimize the work you do, that is time you can then redirect to more meaningful pursuits.

I teach at a University, and it didn’t take long to realize that all the work I have to accomplish can be taken care of in two full days. So I managed, with the help of a totally awesome department chairman, to set it up so that I’m taking classes on two successive days. I am available to the University beyond my classes whenever they need me, for meetings, seminars, events, and whatnot, but it turns out they don’t really need me that often. Two full-time workdays is all I need to take care of my academic duties, leaving the rest of the week free for my own pursuits.  

Do What You LoveI keep coming back to this, but since it’s changed my life, I can’t stress it enough. Do what you love, start moving towards that as a career, even if it’s in baby steps at first. Too often we sideline what we love to do just to do what is considered conventional. But conventional is not always the best way (over here it’s often the worst). Do what you love instead, give it your all, and eventually you will reap the dividends. Your future self will thank you.

I have just recently started earning money off of my artwork, and it’s awesome. It doesn’t pay as much as Engineering, and I don’t know if it’ll make me super wealthy, but the feeling of getting paid for doing something that you enjoy: priceless.

Start a Business: Maybe you make the best gulab-jamans in the neighborhood, or have found a way to run generators on gobar. Whatever your major brainfart, take that next step and make a business out of it. Maybe it fails, maybe it makes you the next Steve Jobs, but regardless, there is no greater teacher than getting bitchslapped by life as you try to steer your own ship. It’s tough, especially dealing with flaky clients, vendors, and service providers, but it’s well worth it in the long run. You will learn valuable lessons that will hold you in good stead for the rest of the ride. And you might just make a difference.

Take More RisksTrust me, you won’t die. The cost of living here is ridiculously cheap (a scrumptious breakfast of Halwa-Puri and Channay costs Rs. 30) ; cheap enough to provide adequate cushion for some good ol’ experimentation. Jump into the unknown. Take paths others are unwilling to try. More Calvin, less Charlie Brown. Go against the conventional nonsense which is being propagated as the best life path. It really isn’t. 

Right now I’m engaged in all four income streams described above. And although I started off with the intention of being an off-the-grid happy-yet-poor bum, it turns out that I’m making pretty decent money this way too. I’d love for more of us to do likewise.

Because the system is broken, this much is fact. You can either continue playing in it, hoping that it pays off someday, or you can detach, and blaze forward on a trail of your own making, learning as you go, holding yourself accountable rather than relying on a boss to tell you what to do. We don’t need more cigarette, soap, or cell phone chip makers. We need more Calvin. We need more Edhi. 

Of course there is risk involved with jumping into the unknown and going against the grain, but to paraphrase Steve Jobs, what do you have to lose? You are naked anyway.

Might as well enjoy it, Charlie Brown.

The Slut and her Dogs

In an old room of a large apartment complex there lived two sisters. They were similar in many ways. They had a child each, wore the same clothes, ate the same food, spoke just about the same language. But the way they viewed the world was slightly different. Not enough to cause trouble, but that was their one big difference.

Their ‘father’, who looked over them for the past few years, wore a monocle and drank tea with his pinkie pointing upwards. One day, because of rising trouble throughout the apartment complex, he had to leave for good.

“Wait!” said the sisters together as he walked out the door, “what about us?”

“I don’t want you coming back!” said the older sister.

“I want a room of my own!” said the younger sister.

The man acceded. And so the younger sister packed her belongings, picked up her child, and left for a neighboring apartment. During the separation, the two sisters fought like they had never fought before. They argued bitterly and stole each others clothes and pinched each others children. Maybe their love wasn’t that strong after all. The man made good his escape as they fought, never to return.

They moved in to the new place. The younger sister was ecstatic about getting a space of her very own. She vowed to have the best apartment in the whole complex. She lifted her child high and promised him that his life would be joyful and wonderful now, not like it had been with the stupid monocled man and the mean older sister. She got to work with vigor and anticipation, cooking and cleaning and fixing up her new home.

But, as always happens, the newness of it all eventually wore off. She found herself bogged down in chores and duties, and no matter how hard she tried, the work just kept on coming. She wondered how the monocled man had done it. Soon it got overwhelming, and she started to slack off, and the room gradually got dirtier. She spent most of her time on the sofa, watching TV and eating food from the fridge. She turned off the lights in the apartment to save money, leaving just the TV and the fan above her sofa powered on. Her child learned to fend for himself. He crawled around under her feet.

Once the pantry and the fridge were empty, she started going door to door around the apartment building to trade her pretty clothes for food. It worked well. She was a darling of the apartment complex, because she was beautiful and exotic and intelligent. People from other apartments gave her plenty.

She kept the food for herself, throwing crumbs and leftovers down on the floor where the child could reach them. When the child learned to speak, she told him how she was looking out for him. He was too young to be given the responsibility of the food, so she will take care of it for him. The truth was that she knew the child was used to this; after all, this is how it had been under the monocled man too, so she may as well just keep it going.

One day the child tugged at her dress and asked her why he was still hungry, even in this new apartment. She then told him about the green elephant.

“Long ago,” she said, “there lived a green elephant. We will believe in that green elephant, and that will keep us safe. No matter how bad things get, the green elephant will save us. Remember,” she would say, as she ate a croissant and sipped some wine, “the green elephant expects you to behave in certain ways. You must live within your means and never complain about anything.”

The boy nodded, but then something struck him. “But what if I want to believe in a pink elephant?” he wondered.

She slapped him. “The elephant is GREEN!” she yelled.

“But what if I want to believe that the green elephant is still alive?” he wondered.

She slapped him again. “You will believe in NOTHING but what I tell you,” she yelled.

The boy nodded. Parts of him still believed in other things, but he kept them secret lest he be slapped again.

And so life went on for these two. Sometimes the boy’s mother would get off the couch just to fight with her older sister, usually over who gets to keep the little closet which connected the two apartments.  Their fights got severe a couple of times, and the other residents were forced to intervene. The sisters were bitter enemies now, completely forgetting about how it used to be, and throwing things through each others’ windows whenever the opportunity presented itself.

The young sister also got off the couch sometimes to sell her clothes for food, which kept her well fed and provided enough crumbs for her child as well. There was one man who took special interest in her. He wore a cowboy hat and lived in the penthouse suite. One afternoon, as she brought her best clothes to his doorstep, he invited her in. She said yes.

Later, as they lay in the large penthouse bed, smoking cigarettes, he turned to her.

“Darlin’,” he said in a sing-song accent, “I need your help. I’m fighting with someone in the apartment next to yours, and I gotta keep some stuff in your apartment.”

The girl was hesitant, but after he gave her a basket full of food, she agreed. After all, she had plenty of space. And he seemed trustworthy. And a basket full of food! Yum!

The next day he came by with a small box. Something grrr-d and growled inside. She took the box into the pantry and opened it. Out popped a mean little dog, yipping and yapping and snapping at her heels. She closed the door in haste, surprised.

“Will you help me train him, darlin’?” The man said to her, holding out another basket of food. She nodded. Of course she would. She might be able to use this dog herself, she mused, glancing at the disputed closet door. The man with the hat and the boy’s mother then went into the bedroom, where they made the bed creak.

The next day training began. The woman entered the pantry, and the boy kept his distance. He could hear her talking to the dog about the green elephant, only the stories she told it were a little different. The green elephant, she said, wanted the dog to be vicious to anyone that she pointed out. After many days, the dog understood. The man came by once the training was complete and started taking the dog for walks. Every evening the dog came back, mangled, dirty, angry, and was put back in the pantry.

“Darlin,” the man told the boy’s mother on day, “this dog is winnin’ me the fight!” Joyful, they then went into the bedroom and made the bed creak.

When the man was away, the woman found her own uses for the dog. She would sometimes hide it in the closet connected to her sisters’ room, so that when her bitch sister – or bratty nephew – would enter, they’d get a nice barking surprise. She giggled when she heard them scream. Her sister used to complain to the apartment building’s owner, who would show up at the woman’s door. But the woman would shrug innocently, and say her dog probably got in there by itself, and it won’t happen again, and that she is very sorry. Only it did happen again. Over and over and over.

 

After a while the man stopped coming by to get the dog. He stopped visiting altogether. The woman stirred on her sofa, and wondered where he was. Her food supplies were running low. She labored to her feet, now fat and slow and less beautiful than she used to be, and made her way to the penthouse. She knocked, and the man answered.

“Hiya darlin’,” he sang, “the fight is over. I won’t be needin’ that dog anymore. Thanks for everything. Here’s a food basket.”

And with that he shut the door on her fat belly.

She was stuck with the dog now, and too lazy to remove it. Besides, it would probably be useful against her sister. So she went back to the couch and started eating more food and let the dog be.

Then one day, to both her and the boy’s surprise, the dog had a litter of children. The boy went to the pantry door, curious, and opened it. The litter was large, and the little dogs were as mean as their mommy. Some of them escaped the pantry and ran around the apartment. The woman slowly put her feet up on the coffee table and continued watching TV. The boy slammed the pantry door before others could escape. He now had to deal with little critters as well. They were mean little buggers, nipping at his heels when he least expected it. He couldn’t play or study in peace anymore. Each time he was bitten the woman would say “tsk,” and back to the TV her attention returned, leaving the boy to fend for himself.

A few days later there was a loud banging on the door. The woman labored to her feet and opened it. It was the cowboy.

“Woman, remember them dogs we had let loose in the apartment next door? Well one of those darn dogs came into my penthouse and broke my two most prized vases! I’m going to get rid of them dogs! You are going to help me by keeping the dogs in your apartment under control.” Before the woman could say anything, he handed her another basket of food. She smiled and nodded. Of course she would help him!

And so began the fight against the runaway dogs in the apartment next door. That apartment was a total mess. The man came in with a dart gun and tried to tranquilize as many dogs as he could. Some dogs managed to dig their way through the wall plaster, and sneak in to the woman’s apartment. The boy was getting bit a lot now, and he tugged and tugged at the woman’s dress, but she just said “tsk” and told him to think of the green elephant.

The man came back one afternoon with a basket of food, which he handed to the woman.

“Woman,” he said, “I’m taking care of business in the apartment next door. But how are we going to deal with the dogs in here?”

The woman considered the question. She didn’t want the cowboy coming in here and fighting the dogs for her, because he seemed a bit too hardcore. She told him she would take care of it, as long as he kept sending her food baskets and red bull.

And so every morning she labored off the couch and tried to chase the dogs down. In some areas she was successful; she managed to get them out of the kitchen after a lot of effort. But for the most part they still ran loose. She didn’t know much about her own apartment, since all her time was spent on the couch, so the dogs hid in places that she could not discover. She didn’t want to put in too much effort because there were delicious food baskets just waiting to be eaten. Besides, these dogs were very useful against her sister, so she didn’t really want to get rid of them. Day in and day out she tried halfheartedly. Every day she got more food baskets. Every night the dogs used to sneak into the other apartments through the cracks in the plaster, chew through furniture, and come back to her apartment.

After a week of this the cowboy returned. He was mad. “I gave you so many fruit baskets, and you still haven’t taken care of the problem. Not only that, but I keep hearing that you are actually using them dogs yourself! I hear that it was your dogs that went in to your sister’s apartment and attacked the guests she had over!”

“No, no, nothing like this,” the woman said. “They are simply too many. And my poor child is getting bitten so much. I need more fruit baskets for many more days, and I promise I’ll take care of them.”

“No can do, Ma’am. I’m going to take care of them myself by using my latest and greatest creation,” he said proudly. You just sit back and don’t interfere, alright? It goes against my better judgment, but here.” And he handed her one last food basket, and she sat back down on the sofa and got back to watching TV and stuffing herself.

The latest and greatest technology was a little remote controlled helicopter with a dart gun and camera attached. The man would send it through the vents and remotely shoot darts at the dogs. This way neither the man nor the woman would have to do anything; the man could worry about other issues, and the woman could continue watching TV and stuffing herself.

The problem was that the remote controlled helicopters weren’t very accurate. Sometimes the boy would get hit, and he would scream and cry. Each time he did, the dogs would get mad and nip at his heels. The boy was getting no peace!

The man sent over no new fruit baskets, because he didn’t really trust the woman. Besides, this helicopter business was working out all right. He kept sending in more and more helicopters, until they buzzed and whirred around the apartment, and the boy ran this way and that. The woman ignored them for the most part. They stayed well away from her sofa anyway, and if she turned the TV up loud enough, she could almost drown out the ruckus ensuing behind her.

But it wasn’t long before she had chowed through all the remaining food baskets. No more came. She had no more scraps to give to the boy either, so he scrounged around and made do on trash. She got more and more bitter towards the man in the hat. He had left her with so many problems. Life was so good before he had arrived. Stupidly, she blinked, and looked around the room. Her room. Everywhere there was filth. Little dogs scurried this way and that. She could see her little boy huddled in a corner, trying to stay out of their way. It almost brought tears to her eyes, seeing her wonderful apartment so decrepit. Her stomach growled. From next door she could hear her sister singing songs and dancing and making merry.

“Boy, come here,” she called, her double chin rippling with the effort of speaking. The boy made his way over and sat by her feet. She wanted to inspire him, to tell him it would be all right, to give him hope for the future, to send him away charged up, so that he may take his destiny in his own hands, and fight the good fight.

But that is asking a lot of a slut. Instead, she said: “I know life is difficult for you, boy. It is all the fault of the man in the hat. We must blame him for our poor condition.” Another helicopter whizzed by their heads, chasing down a dog. “See that helicopter? If he stops sending those helicopters, the dogs will go away also, and our lives will be perfect, just the way I had meant it. It is all his fault for doing this to you and I.” She paused, finding a piece of pie in the sofa, which she gobbled up. “All of our problems and hardships, and the only reason the dogs are tormenting you, is because of that damn man and his damn helicopters. I’m on your side, and that man is the enemy.”

From behind them they heard a yelp. The helicopter had successfully stung a big dog, one of the largest and oldest in the apartment, a real terror. The woman shook her head.

“See,” she said to the boy. “That dog is a martyr. Any dog who is hit by those devilish machines is a martyr, and the green elephant loves them. We must talk to these dogs and tell them we are on their side, just like I am on your side, and reason with them so they won’t hurt you anymore. All of your troubles are that man’s fault, don’t you forget it…”

She went on. The boy simply stared at her, confused.

*

And so it goes. There are two possible outcomes from here on out. One is that the boy nods his head, as he has gotten accustomed to doing, and goes back to his corner, waiting for his fate to play out the way it must. The other is that the boy bitchslaps the woman, pushes her fat ass off the couch, and demands that she be the sort of mother he deserves. It could go either way, but my hope is that the second option plays out. For that little boy’s sake.

Why Malala Yousafzai Should Not Win the Nobel Prize

Malala

Because we won’t be able to take it. We can barely take the nomination; if she were to actually be awarded the prize, some sort of bhook hartaal and tire burning and fatwa screaming would likely ensue. As a country, we fucking hate Malala Yousafzai.

In my misguided quest to let every voice be heard and attempt to engage whoever I’m talking to in civilized discourse – regardless of how unfortunate their beliefs may be – I’ve run into many a Malala hater from all walks of life. I’d say there are more people who hate Malala over here than Justin Bieber. That in itself points to how twisted things have gotten.

After all, she is a 16 year old CIA super-soldier, right? She hasn’t actually done anything for peace, it’s all one big drama, the whole shooting her in the face thing was staged by the CIA at the same Hollywood studio where the moon landing ‘happened’, she’s too young to be giving speeches in the UN and winning Nobel prizes, she’s Pakistani for fuck’s sake, nothing good ever happens to us. This is obviously some plan hatched by the West of which Malala is either an active evil 16 year old agent or an innocent 16 year old puppet.

But why would they do this?

Well it’s obvious, isn’t it. They want to control the Muslim masses, and the best way to do that is by controlling what our children are taught, and the first step to doing that is to create a champion from amongst us, someone they nominated and who will carry out their bidding, but someone who we can stand behind and support, a pawn in this cosmic game of crusader chess which the West plays against us fine Muslim people.

Okay, aside from the simple fact that it’ll be easier to pay some corrupt moustache than to groom teen champions, how about the work she did before being picked up by the foreigners? How about her slightly disfigured face after the shooting and therapy? How about the Taliban leader’s letter which is testament to their shooting her? How about the fact that she may finally be a voice of our own representing our interests, since God knows our ‘leaders’ have long since stopped representing anyone but themselves? Shouldn’t we at least give this kid a chance?

Nope. This is the era of Photoshop baby, anyone can be made to look disfigured. And why did she leave for England after being shot in the face, why didn’t she stay in her country if she loves it so much? And why her? Why not the hundreds of other kids who died in drone strikes? Why aren’t they being given Nobel prizes, why Malala?

What does one have to do with the other?

Infidel! Heathen! Bewakoof! <insert mother-sister curses here> ! RAWR!

And so it goes.

This is all too common, and if it weren’t so tragic it would be funny. Somehow a person sitting in District Upper Whogivesashit Pakistan has knowledge of the long term plans of the CIA. He has some manner of ESP or telepathy, he is fucking Morpheus, or of course the trusted mothers-sisters-bhateeja’s-in-law’s-cousin who works in the ISI has made him privy to certain information. Bottom line is Malala sucks. And sometimes they won’t even bother with backstory. Sometimes no justification is presented, except for emotion and emphasis as some clown says “I HATE Malala, fucking drama,” as he gobbles one more samosa and farts.

As with most things, it’s all in our heads. We’ve become so pessimistic as a people that the potential good of any event is drowned out in the concocted potential evils which could maybe ensue somewhere in the future. We’ve stopped trusting anything in an attempt to keep ourselves safe. Like ostrich-people, we burrow our heads that much deeper in the sand, not realizing that this makes our asses stick out that much higher in the air.

Okay fine, suppose there is a 5% chance that she is indeed a superspy. That still leaves a 95% chance that she isn’t. Shouldn’t we be focusing on that? Even if the percentages were reversed, shouldn’t we at least in part be focusing on the positives? This blanket baseless denigration, this maligning of her character and her motives without any sort of basis in reality helps no one.

But the simple truth is that we’ve come to see everyone on the planet as scumbags in what can best be described as good ol’ fashioned projection. Obviously Malala is trying to steal our cow. The alternative explanation; that a highly intelligent and gutsy little 15 year old Pathan girl stood up to the Taliban, was shot in the face for her troubles, survived, and now continues to fight the good fight while the rest of our sit around with our thumbs up our asses, just doesn’t jive, man. We believe that we suck in our heads. Any external evidence provided to the contrary, especially by the Fahaash, harami West, must be contrived. It can’t possibly be true; sitting around with our thumbs up our asses has simply gotten too comfortable.

By the way, here is what Malala thinks when she hears about your utter bullshit.

I guess my main reason for not wanting you to win is selfish, Malala. Simply put, if you win, it’ll be conspiracy conversation galore for a spell, and I fear for my sanity. I guess I’m just not as strong as you, and it’s just a matter of time before I put a fist through some ostrichman’s face.

In seriousness though, if I can get past my issues, I hope you do win. The Nobel prize may not mean much anymore, yet having a Pakistani be the youngest winner ever will be awesome. Especially someone as amazing as you. But yours’ is a unique battle; you are going to try to save a people that don’t want to be saved, especially by you. You will face adversity the likes of which you haven’t seen before. Much like our other Nobel prize winner, you will be hated by millions. Because you are different, because you are better, because you rose above, you will be hated. But you are brave and wise beyond your years, beyond your people, beyond most people, and I have no doubt that you will find a way. I support you wholeheartedly kiddo, you are the first Pakistani in a while who has made me proud to belong to this land, and if that makes me a bewakoof chawwal burger insaan according to these clowns, I wear that mantle with pride.

God bless you Malala. You have the makings of a hardcore feminist, but I still love and support you.

 

 

 

[EDIT: Absolutely floored by the traction this post has gotten. Thank you. It seems that many people feel the same way – and that makes me hopeful. Much love, even to the ostriches out there.]

The Happiness Habit

happy-kitty

When I came back to Pakistan from the US last year, I was all bright-eyed and optimistic, excited to start a life in my Motherland. But I was quickly smacked in the face by the one glaring difference between life here and life there: people in Pakistan are simply less happy. You can see it on their faces, you can hear it in their voices, you can feel it during chai conversations. I couldn’t really blame them, since unspeakable atrocities occur every single day which we are forced to stomach. Hopelessness and apathy stared back at me as I talked to family and friends, and I realized I would probably have to become a miserable sod too as I assimilated back in this environment.

I didn’t know what I wanted or where I was headed in life, but more important than all that was this one question which needed answering: Is happiness a function of external factors? If this turned out to be true, I was fucked.

And so began a quest which lasted for a bit over a year. I did eventually find an answer to the question, a smiling fat hairy no of an answer: happiness is accessible to anyone regardless of circumstance.

First, a clarification: by happiness I do not mean the feeling you get while, say, eating a chocolate brownie. That’s a shallow definition and impossible to keep up. That was me a couple of years back, getting my happiness ‘fixes’ through short-term caveman stimuli. This is what leads people to such things as gambling or sex or drug addictions as they desperately try to recreate that initial high. This is not true happiness, it’s more like the other common definitional fallacy of wanting to get in someone’s pants and labeling that love.

True happiness can better be described as a sense of mental, emotional, and physiological well being. It is a sense of wellness, of calm, peaceful determination. It is when you disconnect from external influences and carry your own internal weather, so to speak. This does not mean one becomes a lifeless automaton, for to be human is to feel crazy emotions, but it does mean you no longer associate with those emotions.

Note also that the title says the happiness ‘habit’. You can literally condition yourself to be a happier person by cultivating it like any other habit.

Over the course of a year, these are the practices which helped me develop my happiness habit in a seemingly hopeless place:

1. Do What You Love

I wrote about this here. This is a simple principle but incredibly important. Your job directly influences your well being because you will spend a sizable portion of your waking hours doing it. And it’s directly related to your sense of personal fulfillment. So it is essential that you do something that brings you joy, peace, and satisfaction. An easy way to figure out if you are on the right path or not is to ask yourself these two questions:

a. Why do I do what I do? If the answer is money, or because someone else says so, or because it is expected of you, or any other lukewarm cop-out, you should look to make changes.

b. What would I do as a career if money was not an issue? What is the one thing that drives you, that you are passionate about, that makes you forget about time and about yourself? Chances are, within reason, that is what you should look to make your profession. Or at the very least make it a part of your life.

2. Tune Your Physiology To Happiness

There is now a healthy body of research which affirms that you can physically change how you feel. There are three basic things which you could do right now for improved happiness.

Sit up straight   My father used to constantly pester me to stop slouching and keep my chin up. Turns out he was right. Correcting you posture can quite literally change your biochemistry. Standing in ‘power poses’ for only two minutes, with your chest out and your head high (if you’re really into it you can raise your arms high as though celebrating), increases testosterone (the power hormone) and decreases cortisol (the stress hormone) levels. Try it for yourself. You can quite literally fake yourself to more confidence and happiness.

Exercise This is the too much important! The effects of exercise on mood are well documented and difficult to ignore. Not only will the habit of exercise make you happier, but that shalwar will start to fit again as well.

Breathe We all do this, but I mean really breathe. Not the little shallow breaths, but big slow deep breaths, using your entire lung capacity and your diaphragm for each breath. You’ll feel the difference pretty quickly.

3. Practice Gratitude

All too often we will blow something out of proportion, lose perspective, and start wallowing in self pity. A way to counter this is to practice gratitude. Make a list of things in your life that you are truly grateful for, no matter how small or ineffectual they may at first seem. Do this daily, and you will keep a solid reminder of why your life isn’t really all that bad. If you are really down in the dumps and can’t find anything, be grateful that you are alive. That really is the greatest privilege, and deserves a moment of contemplation at least once a day.

4. Meditate/Pray

One of the greatest habits for wellness is meditation. Not only does it give you better control over your mental/emotional faculties, but it allows you to get used to the feeling of peace and calm, of happiness, something you can return to even in the most terrible conditions. There are ample resources online to get you started, and you can get a primer on meditation here. The same effects can be observed through prayer, so long as you understand that there is no magic wizard in the sky waiting to solve your problems; the legwork is still yours to do.

5. Nurture the Relationships in Your Life

One of the primary regrets of the dying are ignoring the relationships in their life which matter. I’m guilty of this too, and it is something I am actively trying to get better at. We are social creatures, and it is essential to keep your relationships alive for your own well being.

6. Take Some Time to be Goofy

Play has been around since the beginning of our history, and it is crucial to wellness. No matter how sticky life gets, no matter how many adult issues bog us down, we must take some time out just to play. This improves mood, releases serotonin (the happy hormone), and ensures that we don’t take any of this silly little game too seriously. Pick up a sport and you get exercise while you play, which is a double-win. One is never ever too old to play.

7. Choose Love and Give Back

The reason why I chose to write about this topic today is mostly selfish. Explosions have rocked my home town of Peshawar the last few days and taken many lives. It is difficult to rationalize, difficult to accept, really difficult to feel upbeat and positive. Honestly it was difficult to get much good work done today when all I could think of was the carnage that the people of my hometown are dealing with.

But there is a decision to be made here; to choose love or to choose fear. Fear would mean I’d sit down and post an angry Facebook status, call up a couple of friends, bitch about Imran Khan’s wrongheaded policies, and be miserable. But I want to choose love. I want to keep going. I don’t have the power to solve the problems of Peshawar or of the families who have lost loved ones today, but I do have the power to share what I have learned about happiness and wellness. Even if one person can find some use for these ideas, especially in these testing times, that will be a major win for me.

The simple truth is that we can’t afford to mentally halt in the face of adversity, because the adversity is going to keep hitting us day after day. It behooves us to keep going, to keep contributing in our unique ways, and believe that the weight of all those individual contributions will sway the course of this nation. So that’s the last point, and probably the most important: no matter what is thrown your way or what you are faced with, choose love, and look to give back in whatever capacity you can.

The True Nature of Being Phattu

kitty

You stand facing a forest of impassive faces, clutching tightly the edges of the podium to keep it from flying from you. Your palms are sweaty, your throat is tight, the poundings of your heart are throbbing in your ears. A voice in your head suggests that you should just run off stage and not bother making a fool of yourself, and it makes a compelling case. And you’re somehow expected to make loud sounds that make sense when you are having a hard time even breathing.

This is a common fear. Scientists claim that more people are afraid of public speaking than are afraid of dying. Go figure.

Or often we’ll be afraid of the sketchy stranger, or the attractive stranger, or the boss, or failure, or success, or change, or spiders, or bhaoos in horror movies, or growth. We’ll peg these fears down as parts of who we are, make mental notes to stay away from those situations, and move on with our lives.

Fundamentally, aside from the obvious existential fear of premature demise, human beings fear sudden loud noises. That’s about it. All others have been crafted in our individual noggins, which is why the set of phobias which people possess vary so much. Fears are created by the reptilian part of our brain, the lazy horny part that wants desperately to live. This is that annoying little voice in your head telling you not to overexert on that treadmill, not to make a public joke of yourself, not to do that new thing which will require you to grow and change, not to disrupt the comfortable, safe status quo, not to ever try a project beyond your means, and to look with disdain at people who do. That voice wants nothing more than for you to lounge around and stuff your face and watch TV. That asshole is responsible for most of your fears, self-doubt, and self sabotage.

How do you keep your fears from overcoming your life? You literally have to embody the cliche and ‘face your fears’.

But this doesn’t mean what people think it means. There is no grand battle, no dragon to slay, no victorious war cry once you smite your enemy and place your foot upon his twitching chest, looking forward to a future without that voice in your head.

That isn’t how it works. The hard truth is that Bitchvoice will stick with you till the end. Questioning, niggling, doubting. You just have to get used to him. Henry Fonda was throwing up before each stage performance even at age 75, yet he went out there anyway. Walt Disney was afraid of mice, yet giant ones roam his theme parks and feature in his cartoons. Steven King fears the macabre, the gory, the demons in the darkness, yet he built a career confronting those fears. The most successful people in the world aren’t fearless. They just know to go on in spite of their fears.

At it’s basics, this is what one needs to know about phattuness:

Fear Never Goes Away. Accept and embrace your fears, and move on in spite of them. Study and understand them and then ignore them. All of us have fears and anxieties, some have just done a better job of overcoming their effects. We can all do this, but we first have to understand what those effects are. Calmly, impartially, objectively observe the rapid heart beating, sweaty palmness, nebulous sense of dread, whatever other symptoms present themselves. Observe them, understand that you are separate from them, realize that they are hardly life threatening, and keep on moving.

Do the work anyway. The only way to overcome your fear is to keep on moving. Keep going to the gym even if Bitchvoice says not to, keep speaking in public, keep talking to strangers, keep shooting for your dreams, keep confronting crooked policemen, keep on and on, in spite of the physical symptoms you are facing. The war never ends. You must keep showing up, day after day, ready to battle.

Accept that you suck. May as well. That’s what Bitchvoice wants you to believe and he won’t let up. No matter how much you have and how much you do, he will always find a way to prove your suckiness to you. It’s his greatest trick; you suck, so just stop doing that thing you’re doing. You’ll hear this not only from yourself but from others too, even loved ones and family. It’s just their reptile bitchvoices talking. We all have one. Accept what it says, but don’t believe it. And then show up and do the work anyway.

If you are thinking it, you aren’t doing it. We can sit around and think up a thousand different scenarios, but all that means is we aren’t taking action. We can sit around and dream up a thousand different fears as well, but that means the same thing. If you’re sitting around afraid, you’re not working. If you’re working, you don’t have time to be afraid. So get off your ass and get to work.

Keep yourself in the battle. Bitchvoice will never let up because he is a part of your being. There will be times in your battle where you’ll feel like giving in, letting up, not fighting. Do whatever it takes to keep this from happening. Inspire yourself externally by reading autobiographies of people who pulled through, quotes, anecdotes, stories. Surround yourself with brave, positive people. Cut out the people who hold you down. Keep rising, keep trying, keep fighting.

The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity,
which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”  – Steven Pressfield

There was a time where I used to look at seemingly fearless people with awe. But there is no such thing as true fearlessness. The trick is that you have to have the balls to keep on going regardless. I have a long way to go still. I’m running into Bitchvoice over and over again in different forms, in unexpected places. But I’ve learned to identify him and drag him along with me, kicking and screaming and bitching, and it’s made a world of good to my life.

Because the truth is that fear is a good thing. It lets you know where your character is lacking. It lets you know the direction you have to move in next. That direction is often towards and in to the thing you fear, but that is the direction in which growth lies. You just have to sack up, take a deep breath, and push through. Always do what you are afraid to do, says R.W. Emerson. Whenever I feel the symptoms – the pounding heart and pit of the stomach hollowness and overwhelming urge to turn back, I know now that it’s nothing more than a new battle that awaits me.

Bitchvoice and I tangle practically every day. A simple example is pressing ‘publish’ on each new blog post here. Bitchvoice gives me a thousand reasons not to do this foolish thing, based on my utter inadequacy and the ridicule my thoughts will face by whoever happens to read this. My counterattack is a counteroffensive; I don’t press publish until I’m sure I’ve honestly, completely, wholly expressed myself and held nothing back. By doing the exact thing Bitchvoice tells me to fear, I’m able to overcome the fear. At least for today.

Tomorrow we’ll battle again.