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Last day at work: Happiness in Palestine.

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Closing of training and English classes led by Maggie Nazer at Hebron YDRC, Palestine

Closing of training and English classes led by Maggie Nazer at Hebron YDRC, Palestine

Today was my last day working at the Hebron Youth Development Center as an intern. The amazing performance and exhibition which the participants in my leadership training “Art for Social Change” organized were exceptional. It was exceptional what they managed to do just in two short days of preparation left on their own. It was so fulfilling to actually see that my words and actions inspire others! My amazing co-trainer Asala Salhab said: “They told me yesterday: “Maggie said we are leaders so we should organize the performance alone and that we can do anything” and indeed after hours spent in the theater space yesterday, today they came at 9 in the morning on a Ramadan day only to rehearse and perfect the showcase of their work.

It’s unbelievable to me how close I have grown to my English students and how dearly I love them: all of them at once and each of them in a unique way. I spent the last 3 hours in a coffee shop having one of the best times in my life (seriously!), discussing passionately all possible topics imaginable (which I didn’t imagine to be possible when I first met them) despite the many cultural norms which otherwise do not allow a girl to be smoking nargille in the company of guys.

I want to tell you all again that I love you so and you have given me more than I have ever expected! Never have my ideas and efforts for social change and youth empowerment been more well accepted and celebrated.

Last but not least, you have brought me back to Life (no exaggeration!) after a very difficult year in which I many times lost hope in the power of my voice to influence any actual change and in which I was almost about to lose my trust in others…

You have given me hope, you have given me love, you have given me an enriched sense for identity (“We Palestinians teach Life, Sir!”), you have given me your unconditional support and trust.

And I’m way too happy and inspired to even be sad that I am leaving! (Although, I guess it will hit me once I’m no longer on this sacred land.)

Carry the magic we created together with you at all times and spread it generously!

P.S. Don’t forget: WE ARE CONNECTED NOW!

Special THANKS to Center for Careers and Internships at Middlebury College and my hosting organization Hebron YDRC.

Pure Joy

Pure Joy

 


My 21st Birthday in Palestine

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In second grade I invited my classmates and friends from school to celebrate my birthday. My mom and I cooked all day and prepared a one-of-a-kind home-made Barbie-like cake with a real doll inside. It was perfect.

When nobody came I stayed at our apartment’s balcony hoping that people are just late, crying. The only kid who showed up was a girl I used to go to kindergarden with whom I had randomly met and invited the previous day. This girl, Lina Stankova, soon became my best friend and has been a best friend in the true meaning of the word ever since.

As I grew up I stopped being excited for birthdays. I think it was just less painful than expecting much and getting dissapointed, especially on the day the world tells you should be your one “special day”.

Of course, I have had great birthdays afterwards that I have shared with amazing friends.

This year, for the second time, I celebrated my birthday out of my homeland Bulgaria. And this time for the first time in a very long while I allowed myself to really be excited!

May be it’s the culture, or simply the people here, but I have felt so much loved and supported here that I have indeed grown to love this place as my second home which, by the way, it is supposed to be (my father is Palestinian). I’m also happy to say that I have found a place which I not only want to visit again, but to stay at (for a while) and work at.

on 8th of July, my birthday, I was nourished in the love of my students, my colleagues, my cousins, my friends and other beautiful people that I may not have yet had the chance to connect deeply. They all gathered and planned my celebration, gave me beautiful gifts, but most importantly granted me with their attention, their acknowledgement and unconditional positive regard.

I was so delighted to hear my cousin Dana Nazer say she saw the boys from my English classes walking around the Hebron Mall going inside all the women shops to search for a present for me!

Thank you all who were present with me yesterday and who thought of me from across continents! I am deeply touched and so HAPPY!

Happy birthday, Maggie Nazer!


My Freshman Hell

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

As I walked, biked and pushed myself over my limits for about 350 kilometres from Leon to Santiago de Compostella as I did Camino de Santiago, I learned what God truly meant to me.

I had always known that God was part of me and I was part of God. Pushing over the Spanish hills and mountains, sick, sweaty, challenged beyond my strength, I learned that God was at all time present in my life- I learned to see God in the eyes and faces of my fellow piligrims who offered me their water bottles, their words of motivation, their food or money. God for me, you know, is Love.

In 4 days I hitchhiked alone from Spain to Bulgaria.  I was alone and profoundly vulnerable, yet I felt no fear. I had unshakable trust in human beings. I knew my Love was my strength, my “weapon”; my tool for change, for advocacy, for exchange. And I was in a process of constant exchange of love, ideas, warmth and kindness which I knew transformed not only me.

There were some rear occasions when people tried to take advantage of my energy in ways I could not appreciate, yet I learned to accept and view them as simply instances of deprivation of what is so important for us, human beings- love and human connection. Nothing could hurt me. I was powerful in my vulnerability.

*

I came to college trusting that I had nothing to hide, trusting in the community I was being introduced to as I trusted the strangers I met on the highways across Europe, who often went out of their way to help me be safe, hitchiking.

I came to college in the United States of America to learn that women are, indeed, marginalized.

I learned that as a female writer tackling sexuality and polyamory I was inherently making myself a subject of discrimination and sexualization.

What’s worst I found out that people think it’s fair. If I can choose not to write about sexuality, yet I pick the alternative, than I must be searching for it…

There was this point in my second semester… I had even stopped writing my “Love and sexuality” column, which I otherwise saw as an opportunity to share my views and contribute for the diversity of alternatives, of ideas, of philosophies, and even educate, in a way.

My guy friends. My girlfriends. My gay friends. They just all wanted to explore their boundaries. With me. It was sickening.

The idea that people reduced me to just one array of my knowledge and experience was sickening.

It was sickening  to see how IT WASN’T ABOUT ME.

It was sickening to realize that in this environment I had to watch out for myself.

When instant gratification is the ultimate aim of a certain body of people, everything translates into sex. Kundalini becomes sex. Love distorts into sex. Intimacy, connection, all of that is lost for the sake of sex.

And yes, I am sex positive, but in my mind, in my life and in my writing sex is only one of many paths to human connection.

**

I learned that no one goes on dates in college and that if you are “lucky” to go out with someone, then the person will simply assume they have the right to your body by the end of the night as a prize for the extra effort to even take you out…

I learned that relationships are conditional. Relationships work as long as it’s fun, as long as you don’t have to work at it.

I remember being at New York, couchsurfing during Feb break, and just realizing how fearful I’ve become of truly expressing myself and expressing what I am and I’m not comfortable with out of pure fear not to lose any more people…

I learned that I’m “too much”.

And that the ideal relationship in college consist of no more than 3 things: partying, watching Netflix together and having sex.

I learned that both romantic partners and friends alike will not acknowledge my existence once the relationship transforms/ends. That it does not matter how much laughter, tears and secrets we’ve given to each other, people can treat you as an absolute stranger without a blink of the eye.

Do people forget THAT FAST?

HOW?

How do you sleep next to someone night after night and then treat them as shit?

How do you see your “best friend” you have pushed away and not at least tell them you appreciate them and your past even if you need something else at the moment?

How do you forget that there is another human being in front of you and that the Other is not an inanimate object, but a living being with emotions and feelings just like you?

In my freshman year at college I learned that no matter how present I am, I may still be invisible. That I can hold a “friend”‘s hand as she cries and tells me she’s all alone and I may still not exist.

I learned what it feels like to feel used. I genuinely care about people. I try my best to be available for people. I believe in the power of sharing. I believe human connection can heal even very deep wounds. But as I was listening to people and experiencing their pain with them, I found out people stopped asking: “How are you?”.

I told myself it was me. I must be presenting myself as “strong”, as not needing support. I probably just don’t give people an entry to myself, no matter how open and approachable I see myself, it probably just isn’t enough… But when after a terrible night I went to the counselling center feeling worse than I’ve ever felt (with all my past) and shared that with some people I believed I was connected to, there was nothing… NOTHING.

And we just kept on the conversation…

***

I have learned a lot in and out of the classroom this year, at college, in the United States of America.

And while I receive full financial aid and don’t really pay anything monetarily, my education is already overpriced.

I have lost so much over this year. It’s been a very high price.

I have not stopped trying to stay true to myself and Be love and Give love, no matter if there’s any return.

It’s been SO hurting. So difficult to see how nothing is working.

For me this is crucial. I learn through my relationships with people. I grow and transform through my putting my love into everything that is important to me.

I can not put aside my heart to educate my brain.

And If I waste my time writing this it is because, apart from helping me stay sane, I still hope there are people out there and on this campus who might share a similar vision with me for an education and a world that does not require you to be either happy or successful and that we can stay grounded in our humanity and make the extra effort to connect and build reationships based on honesty and love and consideration for the other.

 

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In a quest for an insight

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

“It is so hard to push away the desires of the heart”- my thoughts conclude. But what does the heart really want? Is it enough to just be paid attention to? Or does it inevitably call for action? And what action is most appropriate when the heart’s longing is for the Other, but we are tragically lacking the means to be able to ever understand the Other and brake away from the limits of our own perceptions, of our own subjective, distorted thoughts, feelings, notions. Does it mean than that we are confined to our own worlds, that mutuality, if existing at all, is an approximation? And why doesn’t that strike as a favorable enough of an outcome?


Happy St Valentine’s Day!

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Happy St Valentine's Day!

“I’m never gonna wait that extra twenty minutes to text you back, and I’m never gonna play hard to get when I know your life has been hard enough already. When we all know everyone’s life has been hard enough already. It’s hard to watch the game we make of love, like everyone’s playing checkers with their scars, saying checkmate whenever they get out without a broken heart. Just to be clear, I don’t want to get out without a broken heart. I intend to leave this life so shattered there better be a thousand separate heavens for all of my separate parts.” – Andrea Gibson


Stargirl

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download“When a stargirl cries, she sheds not tears but light.”
― Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl

Wonderful, wonderful book, which miraculously found me through the amazing Christmas gift of Kalina Bibishkova who came at home to give it to me, saying I reminded her of Stargirl- a compliment most valuable and heart-warming. I did see myself in the book, but it also served as a great inspiration to me to keep on being authentic, peeling off layers of fear…

I read the book “at one breath” as we say in Bulgarian. And at every description I saw you, too, Kalina. Thank you for the Christmas miracle. I guess we aren’t strangers if we share the same path, the same “life mission”: to be at all times in love, to create Love and to breathe Love.

“Star people are rare”- the author says. But I have the feeling each and every one has a Star person lying somewhere deep in ourselves. To be awaken as Star people we need to dig deep into ourselves, but we also need each other, to support each other and show each other our greatness no matter whether we see it or not. And to that I dedicate my life, my Love, my words, my actions, my body, my min and soul, and… I’m not giving up. I’m not giving up on wanting to be better, to be free, to Love and be Loved, … After the n-th brake up/failure/whatever, we go on, enriched, but not thrown down. We, stargirls. 

stargirlred“Of course we did other things too. We walked. We talked. We rode bikes. 
Though I had my driver’s license, I bought a cheap secondhand bicycle so 
I could ride with her. Sometimes she led the way, sometimes I did. Whenever 
we could, we rode side by side. 

She was bendable light: she shone around every corner of my day. 
She taught me to revel. She taught me to wonder. She taught me to laugh. 
My sense of humor had always measured up to everyone else’s; but timid 
introverted me, I showed it sparingly: I was a smiler. In her presence I 
threw back my head and laughed out loud for the first time in my life.
She saw things. I had not known there was so much to see. 
She was forever tugging my arm and saying, “Look!”
I would look around, seeing nothing. “Where?”
She would point. “There.”
In the beginning I still could not see. She might be pointing to a doorway, or a person, or the sky. But such things were so common to my eyes, so undistinguished, that they would register as “nothing” I walked in a gray world of nothing.” 
― Jerry SpinelliStargirl


Love unlimited: or why Polyamory is good for you!

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Maggie Nazer MouseI have been obsessing about Love ever since I was 12 and fell in love for the first time. My life over the next few years could easily be fit in one word: misery. There has been nothing I have ever wanted more than to love and be loved and thus throughout my teenage years I either pitied myself for not being with someone, suffered the consequences of my dysfunctional relationships, or grieved over my past romances. It was a vicious cycle I had fallen into and didn’t know how to break away from.

In 2012, I travelled to Thailand for a meditation retreat. The Thai monks who led the retreat promoted unconditional love and among the many different Buddhist values they introduced me to, the idea of non-attachment and non-possession in relationships were the ones I felt the most urging need to master. “Could I who was a slave of Love and always vanished into my relationships practice non-attachment and set myself free? How could it be?”- I asked myself doubtful. Yet, exhausted of the all-consuming quest for relationships and sick of searching for love outside of myself, I decided to give it a try.

It was a whole new world of perception I was entering. As I strived to learn more about the appealing practice of “love without attachment”, I wondered whether it was a mission possible for people other than ordained Buddhist monks who had anyway given up on most of worldly life’s temptations. Meanwhile, I was myself exploring Love in ways I hadn’t experienced it with a German guy, called Carsten, whom I had met on the retreat. Carsten and I spent hours talking and sharing; helping and disturbing each other’s meditations. Our relationship was unfolding easily, most naturally- without the gender games, inauthenticity and need to create conflicts to deepen the connection I had assumed to be integral components of relationships.

Magie Nazer hitchikingAs I discovered that relationships are a powerful way to learn and grow and started practicing letting go and non-possession, I opened myself for greater compassion, greater passion, and greater Love. And while Carsten and I had to part ways a couple of months later, due to the fact he was not ready to face the realities of “free love”, I knew there was no turning back for me. At about the same time I mysteriously stumbled upon the formal definition of what seemed to best incorporate the values and freedom I aspired to create and share with others- polyamory.

Polyamory or “the practice, desire, or acceptance of having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved”[1] goes far beyond justifying multipartnering. To practice polyamory is to be willing to face the social stigma and unacceptance, in addition to one’s own deeply rooted fears and insecurities, in order to intensify personal development and improve one’s relationships with others.  Polyamory as a spiritual practice is not much different from yoga or meditation- it takes time and effort, and determination. Yet, learning to be mindful towards oneself and others, taking control over one’s own emotions and behavior, and creating relationships based on mutual respect, love and appreciation instead of neediness, desire to dominate or fit social expectations is crucial. It is crucial because it empowers people to be effective communicators and to support each other’s growth, resulting in the creation of happier, more aware and more emotionally mature individuals.

Polyamory “is not a sign of an attachment problem or other disorder”- Tamara Pincus, D.C.-based Clinical Social Worker/Therapist says: “it as a valid relationship choice”.[2] Polyamorous relationships exist in different forms and configurations, yet are built on the premise that “openness, goodwill, truthful communication, and ethical behavior should prevail among all the parties involved”[3]. As I started practicing polyamory and discussed it with potential partners and friends I always came across surprised faces and repeating questions. The most stubborn one of all: “How can you love more than one person?”

Maggie Nazer, Martin Rohani, Strahil VasilevIn fact, we all practice polyamory, only without realizing it. A person has a variety of relationships and is capable of (and most often than not “guilty” of!) loving more than one person at a time. And while, of course, the love we feel for our mothers, brothers and sisters, friends and relatives is different, isn’t it Love after all?  Polyamorous people, often referred to as “poly”, do not believe that love is a scarce resource. Love is not something that If I give to you, I cannot give to someone else. For, indeed, love is different! And every time we love someone, it is as if we love for the first time for we have never loved this very same, unique person!

Polyamory does not view people as interchangeable, which is often the case in modern monogamous relationships. When people act in certain ways or reduce their array of choices out of fear not to be replaced, they are deprived from their most basic, yet most important human right- freedom. The tendency of individuals to hold themselves back to remain loved is a common denominator in many relationships. When love is assigned conditions, fear of change is installed. If the bond in a relationship is based on shared interests, views or activities, partners often feel pressured to stay as they are, so that their relationship will not be harmed. Many times people “brake up” because they become accustomed to a certain way of being together (as when they are madly in love with each other), but as they lack tolerance, when the dynamics of the relationship change (and things settle down a bit, making space for new experiences and emotions), they fail to see the positives and think their relationship is over. Lack of acceptance of change on an individual level is shadowed by non-acceptance of transformations of the relationship, too. Just as every person undergoes different processes and metamorphosis, so does any relationship. Learning to accept and value the changing dynamics is crucial to creating healthy relationships and embracing unconditional love.

Maggie Nazer Carnival PrincessSince a little girl, I had attributed to Prince Charming a long list of qualities I examined thoroughly (even though not quite consciously!) every time I was about to start a relationship. Having expectations and trying to fit men into my idea for an ideal partner was never a success. As I explored polyamory and examined relationships as we know them, I realized there will never be a single person able to fulfill all my needs and more importantly- there shouldn’t be. Every person adds something new to our lives and we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph”.[4] Objectifying people and trying to make them appear or be as we want them diminishes the chance of truly getting to know them and learning from them. The created resistance, pressure and pain cause emotional damage to everyone involved.

Another concern non-polyamorists often address is that polyamory overvalues sex. Such an argument seems to be easily proved in the context of the allowance of having multiple sexual partners in polyamory. Yet, polyamory emphasizes on building and sustaining relationships, be they sexual or not: “ Sex is not necessarily a primary focus in polyamorous relationships, which commonly consist of people seeking to build long-term relationships with more than one person on mutually agreeable grounds, with sex as only one aspect of their relationships.”[5] Monogamous relationships, on the other hand, clearly stress the importance of sexual exclusivity. While one’s partner is not (usually) forbidden to love other people, sharing sexual intimacy with others is an absolute taboo which implies that it is valued over everything else, “as if it is the one thing you must “own” to feel safe”- says Mystic Life, author of “Spiritual Polyamory”.

The reason why we only agree to open ourselves to one person at a time and expect the same is a matter of instruction. In “Sex 3.0- A sexual revolution manual” British author J.J. Roberts claims that monogamy was socially applied for economic reasons. The author presents a comparative analysis of the nature of sexual and social relationships starting with the Ancient nomadic societies. The nomad tribes had no notion of ownership, since they moved from place to place taking just as much as they could carry with them. Women and men contributed to the tribe equally and since the tribe was collectively taking care of all children born of the tribe, men and women were free to mate with each other according to their own free will. Ownership over land and consequently- women, was established with the agricultural revolution (“the transition from a pre-agricultural period characterized by a Paleolithic diet, into an agricultural period characterized by a diet of cultivated foods”[6]).

As men started to own and inherit the land they worked, they wanted to ensure that the children they will feed and give inheritance to will be theirs. “A system of control needed to be invented… to calm male paternity concern; a deal which allowed men to claim women as their sexual property”[7]- and thus marriage was created. But what is more- Roberts proposes- with the cultural transformation was introduced a second plane of human sexuality. The “natural” plane of sexuality is defined by nature and is observed throughout the mammal kingdom, while the plane defined by the word “normal” is prescribed by society. Consequently, many individuals who have the natural need to experience love and intimacy with more than one person feel pressured to compromise their values and carry the burden of what is considered “normal”.

While polyamory as a relationship choice offers countless benefits among which personal freedom, appreciation, conscious sexuality and relating, deepened connectedness and intensified personal growth, people remain critical as to whether they would personally consider it, pointing at jealousy as an excuse not to challenge the norm. Jealousy is described as a “secondary emotion that generally refers to negative thoughts and feelings of fear, insecurity, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something of value – particularly a human connection.”[8] Interestingly, jealousy is often viewed as a part of the human condition we lack control over. Being jealous has nothing to do with genetics, however. Improved control over our emotions is the result of understanding the underlying forces which trigger one’s outbursts of jealousy.

Maggie Nazer in SofiaAttending a workshop on emotion management, I learned that whenever a negative emotion arises, it is because of the lack of its positive counterpart. Whenever one feels jealous, for instance, it is an indicator that one’s need for love, or security is not met. Knowing what lies in the core of one’s emotions, significantly increases the chances of positively resolving the issue. Whether it is by receiving help or working alone on personal issues as low esteem or people attachment, or giving honest feedback that our needs are not met or that we feel threatened by certain situations are some of the options that create not only more self-knowledge and opportunities for growth, but ultimately- more love. Respecting your partner’s freedom to experience intimacy with others is a sign of spiritual maturity: “sharing the body of another human being is the greatest ego challenge we face in our desire to experience unconditional love”, “Spiritual Polyamory” insists. As jealousy and control are transcended, joy overtakes. For what can be greater than seeing your partner happy, even if it is not always you the one to bring this happiness.

“It’s funny how heterosexuals have lives and the rest of us have “lifestyles”- Sonia Johnson, American feminist activist and writer, adds. Undoubtedly, polyamory has a long way to go before it manages to overcome all deeply rooted cultural prejudices which inhibit our thinking. As polyamorists we have a long way to go to challenge the status-quo (“Nearly all of romance and sexuality has been portrayed in a monogamous context. People who are in love with someone and fall in love with someone else are usually demonized”)[9] and earn the humane respect that is our birth-right. The biggest challenge for all of us, no matter how we distribute our Love, is to stay engaged and strive to improve ourselves and bring the most out of the people we share our lives with and the relationships we build with them. Continuously. One at a time or simultaneously altogether, for those of us who like a good challenge.

Maggie Nazer happy


[1] See wikipedia
[2] Huffington Post, The Polyamorist On The Couch: Q&A With Tamara Pincus On What Therapists Should Know About Big Love, 12/12/2013
[3] Alan M. “Five speeches from Poly pride Weekend”, Polyamory in the News, Oct. 20, 2008
[4] Elie Wiesel, The Nazi Doctors and the Nuremberg Code
[5] Wikipedia; Polyamory
[6] Wikipedia; Agricultural Revolution
[7] http://sexthreepointzero.com/wiki/index.php?title=Sex_3.0
[8] http://www.bandbacktogether.com/jealousy-resources/
[9] Mystic Life, “Spiritual Polyamory”