Conversation Part One

During a recent book sale at our public library, I came across the book “Something More: Excavating Your Authentic Self” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I had never read her books nor heard of her. I read the book in almost one sitting and I loved it. The book was full of quotes by other writers and philosophers and activists. So I wanted to read more from her.
I borrowed “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort And Joy” from the library. A few pages into the book and I had this strange feeling that I had read the book before, it sounded so familiar. When I reached the section ‘January 27 The Daily Dialogues’ I just had to stop.

Hadn’t I read this in The Artist’s Way, I asked myself? A friend had introduced me to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way two years ago. Although I had read the book several times since then, I started reading it again. Here’s what I discovered.

“The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity” written by Julia Cameron with Mark Bryan in 1992, targets artists, creative beings who for some reason or another are blocked. The book itself is divided into 12 week sections, where each section comes with its own tasks for the reader to tackle and practice. 

On the other hand, “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort And Joy” written by Sarah Ban Breathnach and published November 1995, targets women readers of all ages. The book is also divided into 12 sections, one for each month of the year, each including daily essays and exercises to complete.  

Julia starts her book by introducing ‘The Basic Tools’ necessary for creative recovery. She writes: “There are two pivotal tools in creative recovery: the morning pages and the artist date.”

Sarah in her book writes about ‘The Basic Tools’ that she thinks will help her readers too, chief among them being The Daily Dialogue.

Julia writes: “I have been doing the morning pages for a decade now.”

Sarah writes: “I have been doing my daily dialogue for several years now.”

Julia: “The first time I did morning pages, I was living in Taos, New Mexico. I had gone there to sort myself out – into what, I didn’t know. I’d gone to New Mexico to mend my heart and see what else, if anything, I might want to do. Living in a small adobe house I began a practice of writing morning pages. Nobody told me to do them. I had never heard of anybody doing them. I just got the insistent, inner sense that I should do them and so I did. I sat at a wooden table looking north to Taos Mountain and I wrote.
“The morning pages are three pages of longhand writing, strictly stream-of-consciousness. They might also, more ingloriously, be called brain drain, since that is one of their main functions. All that angry, whiny, petty stuff that you write down in the morning stands between you and your creativity. Worrying about the job, the laundry, etc. – this stuff eddies through our subconscious and muddies our days.”

Sarah: “One day, desperate to quiet the voice in my head, I took a spiral notebook and began having a conversation with myself on paper. Everything I was worried about just spilled out in a rapid stream of consciousness. What I was doing was eliminating the mental minutiae that was depleting my creative energy and driving me crazy.”

Julia then goes on and writes: “The morning pages are the primary tool of creative recovery. They get us to the other side: the other side of our fear, of our negativity, of our moods. We find our own quiet center, the place where we hear the still, small voice that is at once our creator’s and our own.”

Sarah writes: “I always look forward to checking in with my consciousness because the inner tool really works. It clears my head and calms my restless spirit. I call this ritual the daily dialogue because you are really conversing with someone much wiser and saner as you write: your authentic self.”

Julia: “It is impossible to write morning pages for any extended period of time without coming into contact with an unexpected inner power. The pages are a pathway to a strong and clear sense of self. It is very difficult to complain about a situation morning after morning, month after month, without being moved to a constructive action. The pages lead us out of despair and into undreamed-of solutions.”

Sarah: “When you start writing the daily dialogue, you will probably be shocked at how much complaining you do at the beginning. That’s actually a very healthy reaction. You can’t moan about a situation for months and not decide to do something about it. You’ll get tired of the sound of your own nagging and be inspired to get moving.” 

Do you notice the similarities? Some of the terms Sarah uses like “stream of consciousness” are the exact same words that Julia used in her book, except Sarah’s book came three years after Julia’s. 

The only difference I found was that Julia advises her readers to “buy a nice notebook for your morning pages” while Sarah suggests her readers “don’t use a fancy, pretty journal for your daily dialogue.”

Before I go any further I feel the need to mention that I am not making any statement or accusation of any kind. I do not intend to. Whatever I say is just a simple observation of how close the two books are in content, principle and even writing. I admire both women for turning their circumstances around and being an inspiration for many of us.

I hope that this will be the start of a long conversation you and I have on my page. 

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An Ice Cream Cone So Big

Another year is coming to an end. I don’t know about you, but usually around this time of the year I get mixed feelings. It’s always sad to say goodbye, but at the same time there is this anticipation, the excitement of being on the threshold of something new, something promising.

I wonder sometimes if what drives us, what makes us tick, what makes us get out of bed every morning and face the world, is nothing other than fear and hope. The fear of tomorrow, the unknown, just the simple thought of it not being as good as today, or the hope that it will even be better.
I have a horoscope app on my phone that I like to check on a daily basis. It also has a yearly zodiac section, and for my career for this passing year here’s what it said:“Of all the important areas of your life, your career will be enjoying the most significant changes and excitement. By the end of 2016, you could receive an amazingly huge opportunity- one that is bigger and more thrilling than anything you have experienced before. If you maintain your typical dedication and ambition, this is something that could put you over the top in terms of financial success. Overall, 2016 could be your best year in many years- by leaps and bounds.”

Sadly the only thing that I got towards the end of this year relating to my career as a writer was an email from an agent, a rejection letter addressed to a Mr. Hanssian. (Which proves my point that agents do not read queries sent to them, and if you have an unrecognizable foreign name like mine, God help you.)

With only three days left for the New Year, could that something big still happen to me? Could such an amazing opportunity still come my way?

2016 was a tough year for me and my kids. I had to face a big challenge quite a few times throughout the year but thank God all went well. 

Everything in this life comes to an end. We all know that. What we don’t know is when. Even in my happiest moments I cannot help but think that this is all temporary. Some things I want to hang on to for as long as I can, for as much as it is possible for me to do so. But nothing lasts forever.

This New Year I will try to change my attitude. Instead of having resolutions I have decided to jot down my dreams, my aspirations, and longings that I have kept tucked away for when the time is right. There is no right time. Past experience has taught me that there is no perfect time to go after what you want. That you can’t wait for it to come your way, because your time to leave this life might come sooner than you expect.

I have come to realize the hard way that you have to grab every second, every minute, every hour, every day you are given on this earth to move towards your dream and make it come true.

Life is full of surprises, good and bad. But even in our bad times, there are moments in each of our lives when we feel a certain calm. For me it’s the times when I am having coffee with a friend and talking and listening, or when I am with my kids watching a movie and eating popcorn, or getting some ice cream. Blissful moments that I know once over will never come back again. To quote Ray Bradbury:

“Ice cream cones are always gettin’ done with. Seems I’m no sooner bitin’ the top than I’m eatin’ the tail. Seems I’m no sooner jumpin’ in the lake at the start of vacation then I’m creepin’ out the far side, on the way back to school. Boy no wonder I feel bad.”
“It’s all how you look at it,” said Doug.
“My Gosh, think of all the things you haven’t even started yet. There’s a million ice cream cones up ahead and ten billion apple pies and hundreds of summer vacations. Billions of things waitin’ to be bit or swallowed or jumped in.”
“Just once, though,” said Tom, “I’d like one thing. An ice cream cone so big you could just keep eatin’ and there isn’t any end and you just go on bein’ happy with it forever. Wow!”


“There’s no such ice cream cone.”
“Just one thing like that is all I ask,” said Tom. “One vacation that never has a last day… Gimme just one thing with no tail-end and I’d go crazy. Sometimes I just sit at the theater and cry when it says ‘The End’… And there’s nothin’ so sad as the last piece of popcorn at the bottom of the box.” 

Wishing you all a happy and successful New Year. May all your dreams come true.


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Till We Meet Again

Today is my late husband’s birthday. It is already the fifth birthday we celebrate without him. Today he would have been sixty-two years old. God only knows how much we need him, how much I need him beside me now more than anything.

Nothing in the world prepares you for something like this. You fall in love, you get married and you think you will spend the rest of your lives together. And then tragedy strikes. Suddenly your life changes and you find yourself all alone. And that hurts no matter what.

Deep down you have all these dreams nestled somewhere inside of you and you don’t know what to do with them. These dreams are not only yours but his too. How can you carry them when there is only you after thirty plus years of togetherness?

When my husband passed away four years ago it came as a shock for us, even though he had cancer and was fighting for his life. At the time and for a while after I felt paralyzed. I kept asking myself questions like Why? Why are we here? Why am I here? What’s my life about? What’s my purpose in life? Do I have a mission in this life? If yes then what is it? Do we love to lose? Do we live to die? What’s the truth? What’s my truth? The question that kept popping in my head relentlessly was, “What’s the point of all of this?”

There was this void, this emptiness inside of me that kept growing and getting bigger and bigger with the passing of each day. I felt more helpless and vulnerable than ever before. I wasn’t alone thanks to my kids and my family who surrounded me with their love and support, and who continue to do so to this day. But I was lonely and deep inside I felt frozen. I needed answers to my questions.


At some point life became so overwhelming that I felt I couldn’t breathe and needed help, just so I could get up on my feet and start breathing again. I went for counseling and met a few interesting people who introduced me to a different type of literature. A new line of books that I have to admit, had I not experienced what I did, I wouldn’t have read or bought on my own, not at this point and time in my life.

Being a blogger and a writer I felt blocked, I was blocked. Whenever I took pen in hand to write, my thoughts went to him and the immensity of my loss. Three months before losing him I had lost my friend, the only good friend I had here in Montreal, to a heart attack.

Suddenly this new place we had recently moved to start a new life seemed to me as this remote place that swallowed my loved ones. All my thoughts and writings focused on my losses and my loneliness. I saw myself as a victim of my fate, my destiny. I desired nothing other than to spend my days within the walls of my room. 

Because I felt lost. I felt that I had wasted so much time and so much of my life thinking of past regrets, imagining future problems, puzzling over current troubles and choices. And I felt that I totally and completely missed the present, the now, while days and weeks and years passed by. I sensed that Montreal had lost its charm for me and I so wanted to change that. I had to change so I could be at peace with myself and feel at home again. 

During one of my visits to the clinic I met an interesting young woman who introduced me to Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. I bought the book the same day and started reading. One book led to another and ever since that day I’ve been reading and studying all kinds of inspirational and spiritual books that could help me rediscover my authentic self. 


Recently there was a book sale at our public library and I went and bought as many as I could lay my hands on. I was lucky to get some of the books in mint condition even. After reading a few, I started to notice similarities in the ideas and the text. That’s when it occurred to me that perhaps I should write about them in my upcoming blogs.

Needless to say I am no literary expert. I am not a critic, but I can observe and connect and that’s what I will try to do. Make observations and leave it to you to decide. You’re welcome to join the conversation with me to let me know if you agree or disagree, and add your valued opinion and comments.

Until then I wish you all the best.


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Loyalty Integrity Honesty Dignity

“The human journey is so short. We no sooner realize that we are here than it is already time for us to be leaving.” John O’Donohue

For the past two weeks I’ve been contemplating writing an article for my blog. It’s about the spiritual books I read two weeks ago and the one I’m still reading now. In my mind I made a comparison of all the dogmas and the teachings these books and the authors offered, and the striking similarities between them. It’s a big task that one day I would like to tackle on my blog, and I hope that day is soon. But until I do that, there’s something else that’s nagging me and I think it’s also blocking me from further writing. To quote Zora Neale Hurtson:
“There is no agony like bearing an untold story inside you.” 

It’s that time of year again. November 16. Today marks the fourth anniversary of my husband’s passing. Four years ago today we didn’t know it would be his last day with us here. I still remember that day as if it was yesterday.

I play the events of his last two days in my head. It happened so quickly. We didn’t say goodbye, he didn’t want to. He said he was coming home with us and like a fool I believed him. He looked so peaceful and calm with a smile on his face before he breathed his last breath. Sadly we drove home alone leaving him on his hospital bed. Four years have passed and the pain is still strong.

“Death in its way comes as much as a surprise as birth.” Edna O’Brien

Those days and the days that followed were a nightmare. I felt like a robot accepting friends and well wishers and trying to be strong for my kids. I didn’t know what was in wait for me. I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was get it over with, the funeral, the condolences, the emails and the phone calls.

It was only at night when I went to bed that I cried myself to sleep. But sleep also failed me on most nights. I was like a lost soul trying to find comfort somewhere, I didn’t know where.  

Four years (1460 days) later, and after going through some really difficult times and facing new challenges, we are still trying to find some comfort. And I know we will never be the same again, ever. There are times when the kids are back from work and we’re gathered in the kitchen having dinner and they start talking about their day where I stop and stare at them, unable to eat or talk.

I think of all the things he missed and is missing, even the little everyday things like the weather, which is so beautiful today like it was on that last day, and all else. All the dreams he had for our kids, the way he would have held his head high proud of their achievements. His dreams, especially his dreams as an artist, the painting he left unfinished on the easel, his sketches, his studies, his canvases, his books and paints. All of these and more.

He wouldn’t know how highly some art critics think of his paintings, that they find his “images intriguing.” I guess he would never know. And that hurts.


Shortly after he passed away, my uncle Setrak in an email wrote the following about him:

“He was smart. I could tell that when I used to watch him play cards in Ainjar. He was a good bridge player. He could even outsmart his small computer (then in black and white) when he played poker. He was also a good chess player. He was intelligent and wise… and his colors were vibrant and beautiful, his paintings…” and the list goes on.

In my hand I hold his ring, the silver ring that was given to him as a service recognition award by the company where he worked for over two decades. Carved on one side is the company’s logo, the logo that he redesigned, and on the other his initials, VH. Carved under his initials are the words, LOYALTY and INTEGRITY. I would like to add HONESTY and DIGNITY to those words. 

Yes to me, to us, he was all that and more. He was one hell of a guy.

I don’t remember which year he received that ring. His rewards and certificates were so many. We were so proud of him. But his biggest prize is that he was the best dad, and the best husband and friend the kids and I could ever wish for. I feel so blessed to have traveled with him on this journey, life’s journey. I wish that we never stopped and continued ’till old age, like he always dreamed of. 

Robin Sharma writes:
“Painful events come to help us learn the lessons we need to learn at that point of our paths. Sad experiences arrive to help us heal, and grow more philosophical.”

During these four years I’ve learned a lot about myself and about others. I’ve come to realize who my true friends and the people who really care about me, about us, are and I am forever grateful for having them in my life.

And after four years, after going through really hard times, I realize things are never as bad as they seem. The situation that causes us sorrow is also the reason behind our strength and power and wisdom.

Lots have changed in these four years, but the one thing that hasn’t is our love. If anything it has grown stronger. In the same way we feel his love and believe that he is our guardian angel, watching us from a more powerful and peaceful place, from heaven.

Rest in peace my darling and rest assured that your legacy lives through your kids, who by the way have all your characteristics and more.


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How Did That Happen?

Yesterday morning after everyone left to work I sat at my desk to write. But first I had to tidy my desk since there were a few books piled up on it. So I took them to the sitting room and put them back on the library shelves in their proper places.

Back at my desk, I decided also to check my email one last time before I put my laptop away. Then of course I convinced myself to sign in on Facebook just for a few minutes. As usual I got carried away, until a notice at the right corner of my home page caught my attention. It read: “You Haven’t Posted in 17 Days.”

And I thought, already! How did that happen? Am I back to my old habit of procrastination? I promised myself to blog often and yet I didn’t write anything for 17 days. That’s not good. Because it means I haven’t done much with my life and my time other than to reflect, think and contemplate.


By nature I am a blind optimist, or at least I was. On most days now when I sit at my desk to write I procrastinate and indulge in thoughts and daydreams, wondering if I could have had a different life. But somehow or other I have come to realize that this was my path in life no matter what happened or how things turned out to be.

When I think of how blind I have been to take anything that came my way or was given to me for granted, including my life, I shudder.

Sometimes I wonder, amidst all my past mishaps, was it ever possible to fight my destiny? Was it possible to follow a different path than the one I was destined for? Or do we always become what we are meant to be, not what we think we want to be, nor what we strive to be.

They say freedom comes with a high price tag. So true. Because now I have all the time in the world to read and write. Everything about the present and the future seems so blurry for me. To be honest on most days I don’t know what I want, I don’t even know what I am looking for. I am free yes, but at what price?
According to Julia Cameron, personal drama is the enemy of art. She writes: 
“There are two uses for drama. We can use it to distract ourselves from work or we can use it to fuel our work.”

The day that I don’t work, I am a miserable creature. The best cure for my misery is to work. If I can avoid drama I am better off. But how can I do that when drama is all around me and the world we live in is so stressful. 

Writing every day is my only protection against depression and loneliness. If I don’t write I lose my optimism, my well being. And I become lonely and miserable. But when I write, at the end of the day I carry the lives of my characters into my own life. And I feel so rich and happy. I am not alone anymore. 

Then again, absenting myself from my page, not only do I lose contact with them but these ugly feelings begin creeping up my spine and I am filled with doubts and uncertainties. And the moment I hold my pen and start scribbling, all these senseless thoughts and fears, all this pointlessness and emptiness, vanish from my life.  

I don’t want to fight my destiny, whatever is meant to be will be. I can’t plan my life as it is already planned for me by someone bigger or by some higher power. I can only change my circumstances. I have come to realize early on that by writing I know I am doing what I was meant to do. 

Eckhart Tolle writes:

“You can improve your life situation but you cannot improve your life. Life is primary. Life is your deepest inner Being. It is already whole, complete, perfect. Your life situation consists of your circumstances and your experiences. There is nothing wrong with setting goals and striving to achieve things. The mistake lies in using it as a substitute for the feeling of life, for Being.” 


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Nothing Else Will Give You That!

It’s a beautiful day outside. A bit breezy but really beautiful. 

Last night I had trouble sleeping. I woke up from a bad dream in the middle of the night. In my dream I was being chased and attacked and I was screaming for help but there was no one around me. My screams woke me and afterwards try as hard as I could sleep wouldn’t come. I felt so vulnerable and lay awake wishing and praying that the night would pass quickly. 

On nights like last night I wonder if I shall ever get over this feeling of blank hopelessness. And on such nights a strong feeling of loss overwhelms me.


It’s a beautiful day outside. It’s the first week of autumn and it’s cold. I look out my window and see the evergreen tree standing tall and alone but triumphant. The different shades of green, with the sun shining on some branches. Such a lovely sight. I think of all the winters and summers, all the seasons that it has stood there throughout the years, against all odds, growing taller and looking simply beautiful.

I realize that I have also lived my dream life intensely while it lasted, though it didn’t have to end this way. I realize that I had gotten farther in life than most people are lucky enough to get. It’s been almost four years now since my husband passed away, sometimes I still get upset and angry, and think that whatever happened was not fair, not right. Not for him, not for me, not for us. But who am I to question? Who am I to judge?

This past year has been kind of dark, nightmarish and confusing for me. Each time I faced a challenge, I became aware of how vulnerable I was, of how vulnerable we each are. Afterwards I felt this emptiness inside of me that never left me. And that hurts.

Looking back, I cannot believe I made it so far especially when on some days my courage left me. And I have to admit at some point I even considered accepting defeat. And on those days there was nothing I wished for than to have him around. To have him walk through the door and tell me that “everything is going to be okay.” But I pulled through thanks to my kids and my family. 

I realize now how important family is. How important it is to be loved and have people around me to support me. Even on days when I want to be left alone but they won’t let me, because they care. I realize how lucky and blessed I am to have them in my life. And for that alone I am forever grateful. 

Mitch Albom writes:

“This is part of what a family is about, not just love. It’s knowing that your family will be there watching out for you. Nothing else will give you that. Not money. Not fame. Not work.”


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To All Those Who Dream Of Writing

While going through my emails the other day in an attempt to clean my mailbox of the junk mail I receive on a daily basis, I came across a “rejection” letter from a publisher. It was dated decades ago when I still lived in Dubai and was for my book The Lost I. I don’t remember what I did to go that far back in my inbox but knowing me I must have pressed the wrong button or icon.

Now I know I have an unusual name that people find hard to pronounce. So when I email editors, agents, and publishers I always go the extra mile and try to explain in my letter that I am a mother of two, etc. What was weird about this particular rejection email was that not only had they addressed me as Mr. but they didn’t even have the title of the book right.

I had a cover letter, a synopsis, and title page included in my email. And in all of these documents I had the title mentioned not once, not twice, but several times. Could it be a typo then? How could they have missed it? There was one answer to all of my questions. No one bothered to read anything I sent them. Period. 

Over the years and following the advice of other experienced writers I have learned to accept rejections with an open mind and not take them personally. But this one still hurt. And I thought, would it have made any difference if I had sent a letter instead of an email (not that they are accepting letters anymore)? Would it have been easier to accept had the publisher addressed me as “Dear Author, sorry not for us …” instead of Dear Mr.? So I did what I do at times like this. I grabbed my book and started reading success stories of other writers. Here’s one I would like to share with you.

When Linda Stafford was 15 she announced to her English teacher that she was going to write and illustrate her own books. Her classmates laughed at her and her teacher said: “Don’t be silly. Only geniuses can become writers. And you are getting a D this semester.” 
She was so humiliated that she burst into tears. That night she wrote a short poem about broken dreams and mailed it to the Capper’s Weekly magazine. They published it and sent her $2. The next day she showed her teacher and class, they still laughed.
“Just plain dumb luck.” her teacher said. But this time she didn’t cry because she had sold the first thing she’d ever written.
During the next two years she wrote and sold dozens of poems, and by the time she graduated from high school she had a scrapbook filled with her published work and a C-average. But she didn’t mention her writing to anyone.Then years later she met a new friend and here’s what happened:
“It’s easy to write a book,” that new friend told me. “You can do it.”
“I don’t know if I am smart enough,” I said suddenly feeling 15 again and hearing echoes.
“Nonsense!” she said. “Anyone can write a book if they want to.”
I had four children- the oldest only four. We lived on a goat farm in Oklahoma, miles from anyone. While the children napped, I typed on my ancient typewriter. I wrote what I felt. It took nine months, just like a baby.
I chose a publisher at random, put the manuscript in an empty Pampers diapers package, which was the only box I could find (I’d never heard of manuscript boxes). I enclosed a letter that read: “I wrote this book myself, I hope you like it. I also drew the illustrations. Chapters 6 and 12 are my favorites. Thank you.”
A month later I received a contract, an advance on royalties, and a request to start working on another book.(Crying Wind became a bestseller)
People ask what college I attended, what degrees I have and what qualifications I have to be a writer.
The answer is none. I just write.
I’m not a genius, I’m not gifted and I don’t write right. But I have beaten the odds because I tried and I didn’t give up. I wrote what I loved and had the guts to mail it. If it was rejected (many were), I put it back in the mail the next day.
To all those who dream of writing, I’m shouting at you. “Yes, you can! Yes you can! Don’t listen to them.”



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