Thursday, January 12, 2012

Apologies for being incommunicado this week and hope none of you out there are too distraught not to be receiving the usual almost-daily MotV missives.

The reason for the silence is that I'm up to my neck, metaphorically-speaking, in research papers for my first grad course assessment. This experience has made me realise how rigorously un-academic I am in my thinking. It has also illuminated how reliant I am on red wine in order to get through endless evenings typing furiously on my laptop, not to mention the fueling of increasingly colorful curses that I feel obliged to aim at the University's online library system which consistently refuses to spit out any of the journals I'm desperate for (I refuse to believe this is 100% due to my technical incompetence...)

Oh well, if this is the price one has to pay in order to realize a long-cherished dream then it's not all that bad... No one ever said a mid-life career change would be easy. Wish me luck!

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Environment

Being an expat, a favorite topic of conversation is 'where I/you want to go next?' or 'When do you plan to go home?'

It's a good question. I'm not sure I want to stay in Dubai for ever, but I'm also not sure about how long I want to be here for or where else I would like to live.

For almost the first time ever, I have no fixed plans apart from keeping my eyes and mind open to interesting opportunities.

And as to going 'home', I have no idea where that is. Constantly moving around as a child left me with the feeling that 'home' is wherever I am right now, so in effect 'home' could be anywhere. The longest I've ever lived in one fixed place was 18 years in London, on and off, but that doesn't feel like 'home' either - I love going back to see family and friends, and it's a great place to shop, but that's about it.

I have a great love for California, which is where my extended family is from (and where most of them still live), but while a good-sized portion of my heart resides there California has only been a temporary resting-place for me. I used to think that I would end up there, somewhere along the coast near San Francisco, but now I'm not so sure.

So, where WILL I end up? I have no idea. My only criteria is that it will be close to water (being land-locked makes me feel slightly uncomfortable) with a warm and sunny climate. Good food, friendly people and an interesting history would be a bonus.

Apart from all that, it could be almost anywhere - South America, South-East Asia, the Pacific Islands, Southern Europe... ?

I do have an image in my mind of the house I will build one day; a minimalist white block with a wall of glass on one side looking out over the sea or the ocean; inside a flow of open space and double-height ceilings, polished concrete floors, lots of natural wood and a big wrap-around deck with loungers and a hammock.

It's good to have dreams but it's also nice not to be overly fixated on the details. Here's to a free-flowing future...

Friday, January 06, 2012

Recommended & the Mahiki dance-off

My GFs and I went to Mahiki last night, great fun as usual but made me feel a bit old; it seems that Thursday night is the playground of the just-past-pubescent. Oh well. Good tunes though, so whatever.

In between taking over the dancefloor - the youngsters may have youth on their side but frankly that shrinks to insignificance in the face of two decades of clubbing experience - one of my GFs and I got into a conversation about why so many people are full of bull.

It appears that many people we come across are content to live their lives in a superficial way, skimming the surface of what life has to offer and equating the ownership of stuff (cars, houses, boats, jewelry, designer clothes) with happiness. They converse in terms of status, strut their possessions as a measure of their own self-worth, take themselves far too seriously, are quick to judge others, easily annoyed, complain a lot about very little and their worries seem to far outweigh their joys.

Personally, I think all that status-related stuff is a crock and, while it's fun to drive a cool car and I very much like being surrounded by beautiful things, it's not the essence of life. If all the things I own vanished overnight, I'd survive... so long as I still have the people I love most in my life.

As usual, I digress... anyway...

The conversation went on to discuss what makes a person 'real', the qualities we admire in the people we like most, and what it is that makes someone fully 'human'.

This made me think about one of my favorite therapy textbooks, which I've been re-reading this week; John Powell's 'Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am? Insights into Personal Growth', which was first published in the 1960's. For me, the entire book makes absolute sense and is well worth a read - it's a must-read for anyone interested in the process of becoming 'fully human' through the adoption of self-knowledge, self-acceptance and authenticity.

Here's a few teaser quotes:

"We have been somehow "programmed" not to accept certain emotions as part of us. We are ashamed of them... We might reason that reporting then would disturb a peaceful relationship or evoke an emotionally stormy reaction from the other. But all of our reasons are essentially fraudulent, and our silence can produce only fraudulent relationships. Anyone who builds a relationship on less than openness and honesty is building on sand."

"In fully human people, there is a balance of the senses, emotions, intellect and will. The emotions have to be integrated. Though it is necessary to "report" our emotions, it is not at all necessary that we "act on" them. We must never allow our emotions to control our decisions."

"Most of us feel that others will not tolerate such emotional honesty in communication. We would rather defend our dishonesty on the grounds that it might hurt others. Having rationalized our phoniness into nobility, we settle for superficial relationships."

"To reveal myself openly and honestly takes the rarest kind of courage."

Please feel free to comment, anyone who can relate to this and/ or has a strong (and honest!) opinion.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

School trip!

I had a fantastic day yesterday, having managed to wrangle a place for myself on the Small(er) One's school trip - a full day of adventure out in the desert - in the guise of a responsible parent helper.

The schedule included a load of educational stuff - learning how to filter water, looking for 'dinosaur tracks', nature walks etc - but, if I'm to be entirely honest, the big draw for me was the chance to fling myself down huge sand dunes as fast as possible... to try sand boarding, in other words.

I've tried snow boarding before and I'm truly rubbish - the combination of freezing cold and permanently sliding down icy slopes on my backside (thank God for padded salopettes) didn't really do much for me. But sand? That seemed a lot more palatable.

And it was. The most fun I've had for quite a while. Sand is soft, so the bum bruising is much more tolerable. Plus it was kiddy-pitched, so not too scarily high and with the option of sitting on the board. And as is usual for Dubai, the sun was shining. Happiness all round.

The problem is that I can rarely resist a challenge, so when standing was suggested I had a shot at it... and was immediately humbled by a prompt and spectacular face-plant. Which thoroughly serves me right for trying to show off. The fact that my lack of sporting prowess made the kids laugh their socks off almost made the experience of having sand up both nostrils worthwhile.

Today, I have tender hamstrings (repeatedly dragging a board up a near vertical sand dune is a very effective workout), a few bruises and sand nestling in odd places (despite showering, it's tenacious stuff) but I'm still feeling the buzz.

It's entirely possible I may have found myself a new and exciting hobby... See you in the desert!

Monday, January 02, 2012

Global Male Stereotypes: The Hopeless Romantic

He seems perfect. A total gentleman, he'll stand up when you enter the room, his eyes aglow with admiration at the sight of your captivating beauty. You'll be showered with compliments and sweet love-notes chockablock with sweet-nothings.

The Hopeless Romantic calls when he says he will and texts just to say he's thinking about you - no gesture is too large or small and he will do anything to please. Not for him are the 'keep-em-keen' games employed by most of the male population; the HR wears his heart on his sleeve and he's happy to show it off to the world.

In essence, the Hopeless Romantic will behave like the perfect boyfriend, as described in all the women's magazines.

As in all things, if something seems too good to be true then it probably is. And in this case the Hopeless Romantic has one very fatal flaw: so desperate is the HR in his search for love, he falls head-over-heels at the drop of a hat... and out of it just as quickly.

As soon as a jolt of reality intrudes, the romantic bubble bursts and the Hopeless Romantic promptly heads for the hills. See that dust trail on the far horizon? Yep, that's your ideal boyfriend doing his very best Roadrunner impression as soon as the initial infatuation starts to subside.

What's a girl to do? Mark it down to experience, call your girlfriends for a heart-to-heart, accept your misfortune at being dragged into an illusion and sign the offending fool up for an annual subscription to 'Psychologies' magazine.

Don't pine or waste your time weeping - this Hopeless Romantic is a hopeless case. Simply dust off your best dancing shoes, laugh at your own gullibility and get out there to find a consort more worthy of your many charms.

Take heart though, for as they say: 'There's a love to be found in every town', 'Plenty more fish in the sea' and 'You have to kiss a lot of frogs to find a prince...'

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Farewell to 2011

The themes for 2012?

Authenticity... courage... self-respect...an open heart... an open mind... empathy... forgiveness.

Happy New Year to you all.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A thought

Perhaps sometimes a gift can be delivered in the guise of a tragedy. It's just a matter of perception, after all.

I suspect that the talent lies in looking beyond the surface to what lies beneath and beyond. And, of course, being able to make sense of it all and going on to apply that knowledge to building a productive way forward.

Here's hoping.