Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Not My Circus

Asalamu Alaykom,

from the fabulous Bored Panda

For five years, I have used the word "circus" in describing Egyptian chaos---usually of the familial kind.  If I ever learn the actual Arabic word for chaos, I might retire circ.  I have a strange feeling that there is no word for chaos in Arabic since it is so much a part of the normal routine and thus is not name-worthy.

One of the problems of being an ex-pat here is that it's easy to believe that the country is just waiting for someone to fix the chaos.  That's a trap, Indy!  Somehow, Egypt has made it through the centuries without my intervention.  I continually have to remind myself to keep focused on what actually touches my life.

As an American, I don't mind my own business very well.  Americans tend to think that EVERYTHING is their business.  Saving the world is a 24/7 crusade and not even Vietnam has persuaded us otherwise.  We must save others from themselves!  NOW!

That philosophy of "It's up to me!" makes for very little peace inside your home, let alone inside yourself.  Maybe some women need a kick in the rump to become more involved but I have needed a pull to sit down.  This winter, I found a mantra which is helping me be less involved.

Not my circus.
Not my monkeys.
Not my problem. 

It's silly, yet somehow it is stopping me from opening my mouth or getting involved in someone else's life.  This isn't a put-down of the people but rather a ridiculous image of me being at a circus as an audience member, and wrongly thinking to jump down into the ring to run the show.  For me, the crazier the analogy, the better I can wrap my mind around new thinking.

I put my new thinking into practice one freezing day back in January.  Shivering, layered in two shirts over pants, I saw a crying toddler dressed in short-sleeves and shorts and I knew he was cold.  He was fussy, as he was getting passed around from person to person, and no one told the mom that her young boy was cold.  I felt like saying something because I have been programmed to...


Yet, I had my new mantra so I replayed it in my head:

Not my circus.
Not my monkeys.
Not my problem. 

I bit my lip and didn't speak to the mom.  I kept focusing on what helped me and my life.  I stayed out of someone else's life because, in the end, it is not going to be appreciated.  Really.  Even if she would have listened to my comment, and even if she would have found him a little jacket, she would have begrudged me pointing it out.

I have come to the conclusion that survival of the fittest isn't limited to animals; it includes the humanity around me.  Stupid people cannot be saved from themselves.  I know this sounds harsh.  It is not the bleeding heart that tried to beat here in our little village next to the Pyramids.  I thought that, if I simply educated a little, they would become enlightened.

For example, when I told a first-time mother that her newborn baby needed sunlight, she didn't respond and didn't get natural vitamin D for her baby.  The niqabi mom's face was never uncovered in the sun (although she could privately do so in within the walls of her home).  She was never taking her baby out into the fresh air and sunlight.  Early signs of rickets were not enough of a push so I would encourage and prompt and prod until I was blue in the face.  It seriously took a ton of my effort and energy!  Alhumdulillah, in the end, I felt like I saved that child from a misshapen skeletal frame.

Then there was the second child.  I was surprised that the mother forgot (or disregarded) everything I'd already said.  Again, there were early signs of rickets.  Again, I told of an easy cure:  simply place the child in direct sunlight for five to ten minutes a day (in sunny Egypt).  No.  It didn't happen.  I didn't push and plead.  I was tired.  Astragferallah, the child's body, at age three, doesn't look right.

The third child...has had to see specialists now.  The skull plates of the six-month-old baby are not melding together properly.  It is...yes...something that could have been prevented by getting enough vitamin D to allow for bone growth---not that any Egyptian doctor is going to pronounce this verdict.  Preventative measures, self-care, and natural cures are not part of this culture.  I'm talking a completely different language which has not been understood, even though it was in Arabic.

Both of my examples were about me trying to save children.

Believe me, there have been so many times I have stepped in and stepped over the line to try to save a child here.  That's what's always been the soft spot for me.  I know how crucial it is to make sound decisions for little minds and bodies; each day for them is a building block for the rest of their lives.  Yet, I can't be the one to save each and every child from the stupidity of their parents.  It is too taxing and alienating when I interfere.  I have had to admit that children might get injured, or even die if I don't intervene, but I simply can't do it all and survive here myself.

I could make each and every one of my thoughts known to "better" the people around me, and in the end they would banish me and my son.  People aren't going to respond well to my efforts.  I would not be able to keep myself safe within a community if my goal was to keep all of them safe from themselves.  After five years, I have realized that there might be problems for others without my intervention, but there definitely will be problems if I try to be some kind of superhero savior.

At the same time, I need to think of the many times I have been wrong.  My act of superiority aside, I'm as stupid as anyone else.  Humbly, I have needed some guidance too.  Have I always welcomed interference from outsiders?  It really depends how it was delivered and by whom.  MYOB (mind your own business) works both ways.  If I want someone to MYOB then I have to adhere to the same principle---even when I think I'm right.

Dr. Phil asked, "Do you want to be right or do you want to be happy?" and I'm telling myself that I want to be happy.  I will stop trying to fix the world, save all the children and right all the wrongs.


By practicing my mantra:

Not my circus.
Not my monkeys.
Not my problem.