philosophy

All posts tagged philosophy

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

 

What I Like About You!

Published May 20, 2015 by Maryanne

me and my car

What I Like About YOU!

I “un-followed” quite a few blogs because the stuff I REALLY like was getting lost in the shuffle during my “window” of WordPress reading. I can’t read everything and I’m not going to press “like” unless I really LIKE something. I’m here as a creative hobby, not a contest to get the most followers.

So I guess this is kind of like awards, but I don’t like the awards thing, so, it’s more of a shout out to greatness! Here’s a list of the things I like reading most on WordPress.

1. Deep philosophy. Whether it’s satanism or Christianity or paganism, I like something extremely intense and moving that sucks me in and educates me. Devil’s Advocates (https://cassiejourney.wordpress.com/) is electrifying! And a big shout out to HocusPocus13 (https://hocuspocus13.wordpress.com/) where every day there is something new and refreshing in the magic world. And I can’t forget about Christianity. I love Mustard Seed Budget because like myself, they are open-minded, positive, non-preachy Christians (https://mustardseedbudget.wordpress.com/)  I’m always pleasantly shocked to see that they “like” some of my more controversial posts. THAT is so cool and for that I’ll follow them forever!

2. New Jersey related. Except for certain areas, I love all my state has to offer, so I’ll follow all New Jersey blogs. Like Photo Geek, a kick-ass photographer from New Jersey who writes about bands I love too: (http://photogeek22.com/)

3. Animals. Not much is better than an animal lover! Rachel Mankowitz (https://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/) writes about adventures of her dogs Butterfly and Cricket. I’ve been following her cute blog a few years now. She has over 5000 followers and is a fabulous writer!

4. Nostalgia/Vintage. Anything from the 20th century, I just love! Andrew’s “Nostalgia and Now” (https://nostalgia049.wordpress.com/) is one of my favorite blogs on WordPress. And we’re friends via email too! Andrew is one of the nicest people I’ve ever “met” in my life. I am honored to know him.

5. Pro-Women. Because nothing is more enticing than a strong woman who supports other women! That’s why I don’t want to miss one post from “Inside the Life of Moi” (https://insidethelifeofmoi.wordpress.com/)

6. Health. REAL Health. Not something a hospital dietician would write. More like paleo living/lifestyles, bio-dynamic, bio-hacking, etc. That is why I LOVE “Simple Living Over 50” (http://simplelivingover50.com/) this dude totally gets it!

7. Always Something Different. I never know what to expect from “Just Keep Brains” (http://justkeepbrains.com/) from super cool styles to unique ways to decorate your bathroom mirrors. I love blogs that aren’t particularly themed and always have something great to offer.

Other interests of mine include: happy marriages, cruelty free and hypoallergenic make-up, foodies, road trips, cats, love, inspiration, and anything over 50.

Stubborn Intellectual

Published March 3, 2015 by Maryanne

maryanne-1211Looking smart in my glasses

People have called me “too sensitive” more times than I care for. But my general make-up goes beyond sensitivity. “Smart” plays into the factor too. This is the first time I’m admitting this in public, but I truly feel if I wasn’t as smart, I wouldn’t be so sensitive.

I took this test on Face Book where they analyze your personality according to things you “hate” (the choices aren’t anything intense, just minor nit-picky things such as ironing). Turns out I’m actually a “stubborn intellectual” which makes a lot more sense than just being stereo-typed as “too sensitive.”

Here are my test results:

When you express hatred, it comes from a place of intellectual frustration and the belief that the world should make sense. There is nothing worse than people and things that waste your time and rational energy.

You are remarkably smart, but more than that, you are adept at analyzing and understanding situations and people. More than anything, you are concerned with understanding the world around you and grasping its ideas and functions. You should continue making thoughtful choices and the world will follow your lead!

It’s true I want the world to make sense more than anything! I don’t like when people waste my time. I want life to run smoothly. Some may ask, “who wouldn’t?” but many people do thrive on drama and disorganization. It’s the American way.

It’s also so true that I am adept at analyzing and understanding situations and people — to a fault almost where it backfires on me. I can see right through people who are jealous and I have a keen sixth sense when someone is not on my team. So that always makes me the person who can say, “I told you so.” But most likely I won’t, because, well, I’m sensitive and don’t want to hurt people’s feelings. Then on the other hand, I hurt more deeply because I always “just know.” It’s a very intense feeling to pick up on people’s vibes like that. Though on the flip side of the coin, I know when I’m loved too.

I don’t like the word “stubborn” as I do feel I’m very flexible. But I guess I admit I’m stubborn about the most important things in life. My standards are very high and I like to be around the same kind of people.

If you’d like to take the test, visit here: http://www.playbuzz.com/sammccarty10/can-we-figure-out-your-personality-based-on-what-you-hate?ff=1

And let me know if you’re a “stubborn intellectual” too!

I Learned God’s Most Beautiful Gift From a Cat

Published November 24, 2014 by Maryanne

Billy in the Sky

My Late Billy Cat, 1994 to 2013

“Slow down, Maryanne.”

That’s all I used to hear from my husband, Dennis. I used to do everything fast. (I still do if I’m not careful). I write fast, I type fast (92 wpm), I’m the queen of multi-task. But in my later years, I’ve come to realize how great life is when you slow down a bit. When you take a break, stop and smell the roses, look outside the window at the birds in the feeder. That sort of thing.

But what made me realize this? My cat Billy.

Dennis and I nicknamed Billy, “The Forrest Gump of Cats” because he was a simple cat who seemed to have deep thoughts in his tiny little head. Sure, once in a blue moon Billy Cat would scatter around the room like he had an agenda, but most of the time he was just sitting or lying around, sometimes with his tongue hanging out of his mouth (as goofy cats often do) just taking it easy.

I paid more attention to Billy in his later years, as I knew he wasn’t going to be around much longer. I learned from him, how to take a deep breath and stop and smell the roses. I used to work like a fiend behind my computer, non-stop. I still do if I don’t catch myself and force myself to stop. But now, most of the time, I embrace my breaks. I love to slowly drink a glass of flavored water, or even stop the world for a cup of tea. Or not eat my lunch while I’m working.

Then it dawned on me … Even though I do things fast, I was always a bit of a late bloomer. I didn’t have my first article published until I was 32. My business at 45. Marriage at 48. And my first book at 50. Do you see a pattern? (Not to mention, the best girlfriends I have are the ones I met in my 40s and 50s).

The truth is, when you take your time with precious things in life, they tend to not only last, but be the best things life has to offer. My marriage is amazing. It’s been a blessing to make a living as a writer and to have my own business book editing and as a public speaker. And all this great stuff happened to me because I never rushed into anything. I took my time with it — and believed in it.

When something is nourished, rather than rushed, it turns into something very special and dear that will be close to your heart for a lifetime.

Now at 51, I’m starting my second business. While I can go full force — promoting all over social media and having parties left and right — I prefer to take it slow. Because it’s yet another thing I love and believe in and I want to have this business around until I die. I want don’t want to just enjoy the successes of my second business, but all stages: the beginning, the growth, the spiritual aspect of it and all the amazing people the business brings into my life along the way.

Because “slow” is the most beautiful gift from God and the universe that many people tend to over look.

the-trees-that-are-slow-to-grow-bear-the-best-fruit-quote-1

It’s Always a Mystery

Published September 26, 2014 by Maryanne

Mystery

The other day someone said they felt they knew me because of social media. I had to laugh. This person hadn’t a clue.

Why, you may ask? Because what I share on the internet — articles I write, book and public speaking event promotions, concerts I go to, and an opinion here and there — is such a very small part of my life. I rarely discuss on the internet my life with my husband, or share pictures of our home and parties, speak of our/my future dreams, etc.

Though when I do share an opinion, yes, I admit, I let loose and put it all out there. That’s just my personality — honest. And because I’m on the shy side and more of a listener than a talker at parties, the internet is a great outlet for me to be heard.

But mind you, even when you think someone is “telling all” there is still so much you’ll never know, making even the most honest, revealing people A MYSTERY.

Think about it. Even on reality shows where a camera is following a person, there’s so much more depth to a person. Don’t you think? As much as you see and read, you still don’t know the vastness of what is going on in someone’s unedited mind. It’s ignorant to think otherwise.

And no matter how much you know about someone, the truth is you know nothing. I find this out all the time when people I think I could trust throw me a curve ball. People are not fixed. They are changing … constantly. So for anyone to take any person for granted and think they know everything about them and that there is no mystery, especially because of how much they write on the internet, it’s a wrong way to think. Someone who bombards the world with selfies and writes anywhere between 200 to 1000 words per day on the internet is not a good interpretation of someone’s “life” — not even a 10th of it, if you really think about it.

No matter how much someone shares, people are always a mystery, holding on to something deep and dear that you’ll never know.