i don’t want to be like you

All posts tagged i don’t want to be like you

Being Authentic… to Ourselves and Each Other

Published May 28, 2020 by Maryanne

Being Authentic: A Memoir by Morhaf Al Achkar, MD, PhD

Review by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

While many people are complaining about being cooped up during the pandemic, I’m secretly rejoicing because I’ve been doing what I didn’t have much time for before—READING! Since the mid-March lockdown, I’ve read six books, all special in their own right.

Prior to writing this review, I questioned myself… Is it weird to say I can relate to a man who was born in Syria, two years after I graduated high school? A man who became both an MD and a PhD–whereas I struggled just to get my diploma?

First, I took the safe route and wrote the blog as a regular book review. However, after a re-read, my review appeared dull and stale. This author deserves so much more. After he exposed his deep feelings for all to read, I promised myself I should do the same. I do not see that as narcissistic, but rather compassionate. In this review I want people to see me as a person who can find something in common with almost anyone—male/female, young/older, rich/middle class/poor, black/white/mixed. Because this is what the world needs right now, to focus on what we have in common, rather than what sets us apart. (And, honestly, I’ve been quiet about politics for too long, so read on!)

Leo

Author, Morhaf Al Alchar, MD, PhD, and faithful companion, Leo! 

Morhaf Al Achkar has not reached his 40th birthday, yet he ponders death.

I question: Why is he thinking about this now? Perhaps because of his struggle with both Crohn’s disease and a stage four lung cancer; perhaps because he dealt with the devastating loss of his own mother at a young age; or perhaps because we are in the midst a pandemic, all of us facing a virus that has no cure yet. And so many people are at each other’s throats, making it political.

In his memoir, Dr. Achkar strives to be authentic—his true self. And that he is. His story is direct as he gets right to the point with no apologies. And he is vulnerable. There is absolutely no pretense. You do not feel like you are reading a book written by a doctor, with both an MD and a PhD. Instead, you are chatting with a brand new friend.

Growing up in Syria, in a family of nine children, Morhaf often locked himself in a room reading books. He was labeled the “philosopher of his family” by his father. Early on, one of his major struggles was living in a culture “with hypertrophied masculinity.” Men boasting of foolish things like beatings or shootings was the norm. There were also bullies and schoolteachers who were abusive. Wise beyond his years, Morhaf made sense of it all and did not let any of this hinder his growth as a human being. As a person who was also bullied, I relate to this.

Once I began sharing my story to others, I no longer felt shame, but rather a big relief—even empowered! When I read about other people being bullied, it’s a soft spot for me. I can’t help but get a lump in my throat. Then I immediately switch my brain to the good parts of one’s life; their triumphs!

The saving grace in this picture is Morhaf’s mother, a warm, trusting woman, but one of authority and one who greatly valued education. Reading about how his mom pushed Morhaf to take the first steps on the dance floor reminded me of my grandmother.

Grandma practically raised me since my parents were divorced and neither were around much. I think about a family reunion we had when I was about 12. My sister, cousins and I danced to the hired band. When the reunion came to an end, my grandmother encouraged me to “talk to them.” I was shy, but wanted to make Grandma happy, so with my older cousin, we went up to the stage and asked the musicians for their autographs. A parent or grandparent encouraging the kids to dance or talk to someone at a party is a great move to get a kid out of their shy shell.

Another way I relate to Morhaf is not being satisfied with religion and rituals. As a Muslim he reflects on his faith after his mother passes. I was raised without religion, so I had nothing to go by except the standards Catholic holidays that Italian families practiced. When I was 24, I met an older Filipino gentleman who became my mentor. Together we studied religions and philosophies from all over the world.

Remaining open-minded until I met some Christian friends, I decided to give Christianity a chance. But then after my grandmother died, I lost faith, the same way Morhaf felt his faith was faltering after his mother died.

I stopped going to church and celebrating any holidays that had to do with Jesus. When I returned to faith, I took it all with a grain of salt, saving the positive and discarding what seemed overbearing. I now believe in Jesus, but also Buddha, God, and The Universe.

Perhaps this is something people of all faiths go through, but not many admit. So once again, as I’m reading the book, I am grateful to Morhaf for his honesty.

Amongst his great successes, he has had his shares of disappointments too. His passion in activism inspired was an option to leave his family, but after failing a commission-based job, he returned home.

Some of the best times seem to be spent in America. At first, Morhaf lived in Columbus, Ohio with his sister and continued to study. He traveled extensively throughout the USA. In addition to his studies, he had fun adventures that young people experience like dancing, hookah nights, playing cards, consuming cheap drinks, and adopting a canine companion named Leo.

Sadly, dating was an issue, especially in Indiana, where he lived and where many women were prejudiced to his color and didn’t think twice about making racist remarks. It felt terrible to read this. I am sorry that many USA women put a bad taste in one’s mouth, but I want people from other countries to know we are not all that way.

I live in NJ, a democratic state where we are open-minded to making friends of all races and colors—without judgement. I know behind my back my conservative friends and family refer to me as a “Libtard.” It’s wrong and very hurtful.

As a spiritual person, I refuse to retaliate with words and placing derogatory memes on Facebook. Instead I pray for them. And I pray for our president, who I do not care for.

During the month Donald Trump was elected president, Dr. Morhaf was diagnosed with cancer. As a Syrian immigrant he felt affected by the ban on Muslims, fearing he would not be able to say goodbye to his family. He wrote a letter to speak of his struggles. It was published in a Huffington Post blog, entitled “Dear Mr. Trump, You Are Cancer and I Only Live If You Shrink!” The letter explained what it was like to live with what he had then perceived as a terminal illness and as a Syrian immigrant affected by the ban on Muslims. After writing the letter, he felt empowered and liberated him to engage with the Syrian struggle.

I suppose many have friends who have immigrated to the United States and have been affected by Trump’s stance. It is absolutely heartbreaking seeing families being broken up. I know one personally, and will leave it at that to protect their privacy.

Aside from the prejudice Morhaf experienced from American women, he has decided to stay single because he doesn’t want to be a burden to someone should his health fail. I seriously hope he changes his mind because true love is mending.

I’ve shared the story many times and am happy to share it again. When I first began dating my husband I was going to many doctors because I never felt right. A few doctors feared I had cancer. After many ultra-sounds, CAT scans, and countless opinions nothing was found. Seven months after dating my husband, I had one final test that showed I was cancer-free and perfectly healthy! A week later I felt better than I did my entire life! Having a supportive loving person by my side healed me. I believe that!

So, you can see why I’ve enjoyed “Being Authentic” so much. There’s enough to relate to, but also much to learn. And, that, is what a good book should be!

Morhaf’s reflections on life in his later years, while he is now, fortunately, in stable health, we see that he is a true humanitarian and invites others to be as authentic as he is. This is what I wanted from my book, “I Don’t Want to Be Like You.” I want others to share their stories without feeling disgrace. The troubled times are what got you to where you are today. Always remember that.

When we look deep inside ourselves, and share our notions in writing, the reader gets a peek at our true soul. A reader may not “get it” entirely, but the more open an author is, the more we can learn about each other; and love each other. After all, deep down we are more alike than different. This is a book everyone can learn from. And Morhaf will be remembered for writing it.

To purchase “Being Authentic” (and have a sneak peek inside the book) please click on this link: Being Authentic

Follow Morhaf Al Alchar on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/morhafalachkar

95849294_2817039011678255_9072810759997620224_oBeing Authentic book cover

 

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing. She is also available for book signings and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: 10 Ways to Become Your Own Hero” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback or Kindle version, visit: https://www.amazon.com/Be-Extra-Ordinary-Ways-Become/dp/1733546227

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

 

Anti-Bullying Talk and Book Signing

Published October 5, 2019 by Maryanne

Photo by Jayne.JPGMaryanne Christiano-Mistretta (photo by Jayne DiGregorio)

This afternoon I was honored to do a book talk and book signing at The Caldwell Library, Caldwell, New Jersey. The event was sponsored by The Caldwell Library and The Women’s Club of Caldwell. NJ Hills Media Group was also there.

My book, “I Don’t Want to Be Like You” shares my experiences growing up in the 1970s and being bullied relentlessly.

The moral of the story is that it’s bullies who should be shamed, not the victim! According to psychology, it’s never the victims fault, but the bully’s fault.

How did my experiences end? When I fought back! My sweetest revenge is having an amazing life and a beautiful marriage. But I do forgive the bullies. My wish for them is that they have changed for the better and if they have children they are raising them right; that they have learned from their mistakes.

By sharing our experiences and being vulnerable, we take the “shame” out of bullying. The more we speak out against it, the more we evolve and have something done about it! I’m in my mid-50s, and God willing I’ll have another good 40 years left on this planet. I’d like to see us evolve as a human race to the point where bullying no longer exists.

Let’s make bullying extinct!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books :

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

And check out her anti-bullying You Tube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCLq6J9MSvcjd-haQ30ycLWA?view_as=subscriber

 

Love Cats Now Out of Print — Seeking Traditional Publisher for New Edition!

Published July 30, 2019 by Maryanne

Love Cats front and back cover

Love Cats by Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta

It was the ’80s and it was hot! The romance of Beck Stewart and Janey Peyton took place in the new age dance clubs. They bonded over their love for books and music; and of course their intense sexual chemistry.

But major red flags were revealed when Beck brought Janey home for the very first time. He not only discovered that she was a snoop, but that she wasn’t fond of his beloved cat Morticia.

Then the drama truly reared it’s ugly head when Janey’s jealousy got the best of her. You see, Beck was a hard worker. Janey was a trust fund baby who didn’t have to work. Janey began spending her lonely days going on sexual escapades to “get back” at Beck for “neglecting” her.

Will this couple make it? And what happens when a kitten shows up at Janey’s doorstep? Can she learn to love cats?

Love Cats was my very first work of fiction. Making a living as a journalist most of my adult life, I only knew how to speak of the truth. When creating these characters, I did so much research to “re-live” the 1980s through them. I wanted the book to be as authentic as possible. I wasn’t going to use phrases people use today in my book.

I also had a good friend, Todd Gordon, who is a screenwriter, go over Beck’s words. Is this how a guy talks? I asked him.

In Beck, I wanted to great a guy who was cool, but also a bit of a pushover. In many romantic novels, you see the woman as a victim. I wanted to illustrate that men can be victims too in the world of romance. Throughout Love Cats Beck remains hopeful for the relationship, until Janey pushes his button to the max the time she comes home when the sun comes up, wearing a completely different outfit she wore the night before.

With Janey, I wanted to create the most selfish character possible. As a late bloomer in social media, I started using Facebook in 2013, against my better judgement. One of my clients, who I helped ghostwrite a book, sold me on it. She said that she was able to sell many books thanks to her presence on Facebook. When my first book, On the Guest List: Adventures of a Music Journalist, was self-published, my publishing company said that I sold more books the first day than the average author sells in a year! Anyway, being on Facebook, I witnessed firsthand how selfish people could be. You can’t blame social media. People were always like this, but social media magnifies it tenfold.

For example, in my article for Gasm, “Selfish Sex” I explain how I believe most of the population are takers: http://gasm.org/article/and-now-back-to-me/

When I see selfishness taken to the maximum level in real life, I can only imagine how bad these people are in bed. With that, I created sex scenes where the lead character Janey Peyton takes. She’ll get her rocks off and not reciprocate.

But as a humanitarian who believes people are truly good, I give Janey’s character much room for growth. And how else can that happen but through making a major connection with a little animal. In this case, a kitten who shows up at her doorstep.

Throughout the book, I keep the 1980s element, in both music and style. For example, nose rings were far from popular back then, but every now and then, you’d see some cool person wearing them. I also featured Betsy Johnson fashions, and some throwbacks who still wore featured hair in the 1980s. There’s a major fashion upgrade when Janey Peyton gives Heather makeover tips and she emerges with her blonde hair slicked back like the ladies in Robert Palmer’s “Addicted to Love” video.

While it was the 1980s and ’80s music was a stand-out, I didn’t ignore the fact that there were 1960s bands doing reunions, like The Monkees.

And what would a book about cats be without some reference to the play, Cats? Lyrics by both Robert Smith (The Cure) and Iggy Pop were purchased (and used by permission) from Hal Leonard Music publishing.

My all time favorite review from a reader spoke volumes about the novel: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/love-cats-maryanne-christiano-mistretta/1122001262

Since Love Cats was published May 2015, I’ve donated portions of proceeds to various animal groups. Now that it’s out of print, it seems to be more popular than ever as it’s climbing the Amazon ranks! Just last week, I received a phone call from a stranger asking, “How can I purchase Love Cats.” Knowing that it was now out of print, I told him he could try Amazon. I only have two copies left for myself. I noticed that Amazon was selling two books for $44.17. With some poking around, I discovered they were bought by another book selling company and you can now purchase them for over $80!

I’m determined to make another great go of it in a second edition, so readers do not have to pay extraordinary prices to feel the love that is Love Cats!

Love Cats was my second self-published book. Since then I’ve published three other books, traditionally. This is why I am turning down self-publishers who have been soliciting me ever since Love Cats first became out of print (and will continue to do so).

There is now a  Love Cats Too in the works. It’s the conclusion with characters from Love Cats and my other work of fiction, The Gypsy Smiled (not yet out of print and available on Amazon): https://www.amazon.com/Gypsy-Smiled-Maryanne-Christiano-Mistretta-ebook/dp/B074VC7MT9

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following traditionally published books:

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your paperback, Kindle or audio copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

 

Anti-Bullying Book “I Don’t Want to Be Like You” Now Available on Audiobooks!

Published June 21, 2019 by Maryanne

BookCoverPreview Mistretta

I am ecstatic that my book “I Don’t Want to Be Like You” published by Higher Ground Books & Media, is now available on AUDIO! (https://www.audible.com/pd/I-Dont-Want-to-Be-Like-You-Audiobook/B07TB2VKWY?source_code=AUDFPWS0223189MWT-BK-ACX0-155390&ref=acx_bty_BK_ACX0_155390_rh_us)

Sarah Staton is the voice who made my story come to life!

My book takes place growing up in the 1970s when I was bullied in both grade school and high school. And I’m sad to say, that even in this day and age bullying continues. Children are committing suicide because of assholes who have not yet evolved. Adults are secretly emailing me, “Write something about bullying in the workplace.”

It makes me so angry that 50 years later, it’s not getting better but worse.

Bullies target those who are unique; those who speak up for themselves; those who are shy; those who are creative; those who are very smart and think out of the box; those who don’t follow the crowd; and those who are very good looking. If you recognize yourself in any of those words, you most likely were a target for a bully. Because victims are often so smart and creative, they also carry around insecurities. Smart and creative people never feel good enough. You know that old saying, a genius never sees himself as one. Bullies pick up on this and attack.

The good news is, there is no reason at all to feel shame. It’s not you, it’s them. Bullies are the ones who feel hurt, sad, unloved, ugly, dumb, so they target others to make themselves feel big. Bullies are also masters at gas lighting (making others think THEY are the ones who are crazy). It’s a manipulative way for a bully to “win.”

Truth be told, all bullies are losers. If you can’t come from a place of love, you’ll never evolve. And isn’t evolution the ultimate goal? 

I recently sent out a call for speaking engagements. I let everyone know I am READY to speak out against bullying — in libraries, schools, corporations — and I will travel.

One of the responses I received was that bullying isn’t going away.

I did not know how to answer that. From what I wrote above, you may think I agree that it’s not going away. But hear me out, I now believe differently.

I was speaking to someone in a health food store earlier today. This man asked me if I was a vegan.

I said, “No, but I eat vegan for several days at a time.” I further explained I was a vegetarian/vegan for 28 years, from ages 23 to 51. Then I started eating meat (grass-fed only, and some chicken — no pork or veal!) to get my health in order. (I went from having low blood sugar, thyroid issues, low white blood cell count, very low blood pressure/borderline anemic as a vegetarian to a person of perfect health with some meat back in my body!)

After hearing my story, my new vegan friend thanked me for being one of the leaders in the movement back in the day when it was HARD. Now it’s easy! There are more vegans than ever and you can get vegan food anywhere. But in 1986, I was considered a “weirdo” for not eating meat.

What does this have to do with bullying, you may ask? 

You see, over 30 years ago, people didn’t get vegetarians. But we’ve evolved. Now we get it. And people are health conscious and accepting. The smarter ones are getting along in harmony. THIS can happen with bullying too!

At age 55, I see myself having at least another good 30 years on this planet, in this body I rented. In the year 2049, I TRULY BELIEVE, bullying will be on its way to extinction. We will evolve and change the world. Bullies will be the new neanderthals … so over. People who love will no longer be the weirdos. They will be the WINNERS! The meek will surely inherit the earth.

I CAN’T WAIT!

In the meantime, please purchase my book or audio book, it may save your child’s life when he or she hears about how I was bullied, but grew up to be successful and happy!

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for blogging, ghost writing, writing, and motivational speaking engagements. She is the author of the following books:

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261

 

Anti-Bullying Book Club!

Published April 7, 2019 by Maryanne

IMG_20190406_172624_591 (1)Say “yes” to acai bowls and “no” to bullying! (Photo by Sara Liptack)

I was so honored to be a part of an anti-bulling club this weekend!

Sara Liptack of the Little Free Library, Westfield, New Jersey, invited me to her home to discuss my book, “I Don’t Want to Be Like You” with young readers in the Westfield neighborhood.

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is about my experiences growing up in the 1970s and dealing with bullying throughout grade school and high school. The girls had a few weeks to read the book, but they all said they finished it in one or two sittings.

It was refreshing to be in the company of such inspirational young ladies who are all anti-bullying advocates and have dreams for a bright future.

What I’ve learned, unfortunately, is that when it comes to peer pressure and bullying, not much has changed in the last 40 years; especially now with the internet.

The good news is, the four girls I’ve spoken with were confident to be themselves and truly have it together when it comes to standing apart from the crowd, going after their dreams, and not worrying what others think of them.

One commented, “I can’t wait to go to college. I’m going to learn so much!”

I asked the girls what part of the book they liked best. Most agreed they liked the whole book, in general, and that it was a quick read. One young lady said her favorite part was when I started fighting back.

In a comfortable, private setting, everyone, including the adults Sara and myself, shared their experiences with bullying and how they handled it. It was an awesome event and a great learning experience.

Maryanne Christiano-Mistretta can be reached at: maryannechristiano@gmail.com.

She is available for motivational speaking engagements and is the author of the following books: 

“Be (Extra)Ordinary: Ten Ways to Become Your Own Hero” will be available October 2019. To pre-order, go here: https://kicamprojects.com/shop/be-extraordinary/

“I Don’t Want to Be Like You” is available on Amazon. To get your copy, go here: https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Want-Be-Like-You/dp/1726273261