If you think that you have just one life, think again. There's the life you think you have, the life others think you have and the life you really have- three lives!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

I can, I can, I can, I can't

I can graduate with high honors
I can survive a massive haemmorage after an illegal backyard abortion in a seedy looking Cairo back street (will tell that story one day)
I can withstand the pain of child birth (for 10 hours followed by 2 hours of pain relief)
I can do the midnight dash to the emergency ward with a 6 year old who is turning blue
I can stare into the face of a violent husband, hold a knife to his throat, threaten to kill him if he hits me again, then walk away and never look back (will tell this story too)
I can let the past go and help him to reconnect with his children
I can change a tyre, fix a leaking tap, hang a picture, paint a house, sew curtains, lay tiles, put together Ikea furniture, use a jigsaw, dig a pond, plant a garden and install a shelf
I can also burn out a car engine because I forgot to put oil in it
I can raise two children on very little money
I can earn six figures
I can complete a 50 page report on domestic violence among Muslim communities in 2 (very long) days and have it launched by a senior politician a month later
I can jog for 40 minutes
I can dine and chat comfortably with diplomats, academics and homeless people alike
I can complete a Masters degree in 9 months
I can complete a PhD in 2.5 years
I can tutor my son in highschool physics even though I've never studied it
I can read Foucault and get him and then I can explain him to my students
I can stand up in a room of 100 or so men, know they are probably more interested in checking out my breasts, and within one minute, have them hanging on my every word as I talk about terrorism and fear
I can stand up to a group of armed bikies taunting a Chinese student and get the group to disperse
I can write about the dark days of my teenage years and be OK about it
I can MC an event, appear on TV, sit on a panel and go live on radio without breaking into a nervous sweat
I can forgive my sister, my parents and myself
I can perform CPR

I read an article today in which this woman talks about how she was always gunning for an A+ in her marraige and I realised that's me.
Always trying to be the best at everything- the best wife, the best lover, the best mother, the best daughter, the best sister, the best student, the best teacher, the best stepmum, the best friend, the best worker.
Most of the time I think I'm probably just scraping in with a C even though I put this incredible pressure on myself. It's not enough for me to be average, or even good. No, I have to be perfect!

I can't just finish my Phd in the alotted 3 years, like everyone else- no I have to finish it in 2.5 eventhough my generous scholarship is for 3 years.
I can't just clean the kitchen like normal people- no I have to take apart the stove, scrub the little knobs till they glisten, I have to scrub the pots, I have to polish the kettle, rearrange the bloody sugar and tea cannisters for crying out loud and clean the oven 3 times in one day.
I can't just mark my students essays with ticks or crosses- no I have to write each one of them an essay back- commenting on virtually every line they have written. Then I have to take 20 hours to speak to each one of them individually about their essays (trust me- there is no university lecturer who does this!)

The worst part is that I don't want to be like this! I don't want to be bloody perfect and I don't want to exhaust myself trying anymore. Perfection is highly over rated.
I don't want to be that little girl who waits eagerly for her husband to come home, look at the gleaming kitchen with its shiny kettle and glistening nobs- praying that he nods his approval- just so that she can give herself an A+

I don't want to do it anymore.


The Usual Suspect said...

I can't spell haemmorage

Carmen said...

Take baby steps. Go make a mess in the kitchen and don't clean it up till the next day. When you do, just do a quick wipe.

You know, if I had 3% of your "I can" and you had 3% of my "I won't because I'm such a lazy procrastinator" we'd be perfect!

Will E. said...

The stories you're about to tell us someday are a bit surreal.. would like to read them..

As for the cants

The hardest thing in life is to let go..

(although you're a great lecturer, I mean I would have loved to have that, what do you teach?)

Roman Kalik said...

You need to lighten up on the stuff that's lowest on your priorities. Stop putting in the same effort into cleaning a stove as you put into family abuse awareness. And while I would have been grateful for a teacher like you a couple of years ago, your students are not your children. Let them find out on their own just how their lack of effort can harm them.

As Carmen said, take baby steps. You want to change? Start messing up a little, from the bottom up.

The Raccoon said...

Hey, you know what I think...

Your kids are pretty much old enough. Bugger it all, take a backpack and go travelling.

Or if they are not old enough, start taking a few months at a time to travel. Thailand is good for a month. Same for the whole Golden Triangle, actually. Greece is also good for a month. Turkey. Some other places in Europe (Scandinavia comes to mind).

The Usual Suspect said...

Carmen- thanks for the advice- I'll try that and maybe I won't sweep the floors today as well.

Will e- you're right- I need to let it go- just let it go. I used to be like that- I used to prioritise and say "you know you're not superwoman so stop trying'- but somewhere along the line I lost that- I kept on getting good feedback- people telling me how great I was doing and I guess I just wanted more and more of that so I tried to be greater and better and better.
By the way- I teach a 3rd year sociology unit on sexuality and intimacy in film (it's about how social order is maintained through society's construction of female and male sexuality and how this is reflected implicitly or explicitly in film)

RK- you're right too- hey they are third year students they don't need that much attention. But I just feel that if they have put in the effort to come to my class and do my assessments- I should at least put in the effort to be comprehensive with the feedback.

Raccoooon- I do a lot of travel- but it's all for work- last year I travelled 5 times. This year I want to go to Spain but I can't just go- I have to find a conference to speak at.

The Raccoon said...


That's the point. Bugger the conference. Just go for yourself :)

Roman Kalik said...

Indeed. If you go abroad only for conferences, and need the justification of a conference to go see another country and have some fun, then we have a problem here. You kill half the fun before you even have it.

And as for your students, they are the ones who should put in the extra effort to understand you, feedback and all. They're the students, you're the lecturer. Go borrow some pride and haughtiness from the maths and physics professors. ;)

kinzi said...

You are one piece of work, TUS! Time to figure what perfectionism compensated for...and what will replace it now.

(I am trying REALLY hard not to compare myself here, and just enjoy the poetry in motion {fast-forward your normal speed?}that is you. Wow. tomorrow is big prayer day for you, good thing none of my off-line friends are in dire need)

Will E. said...

That subject you teach sounds very interesting. I can imagine myself getting engrossed with the topic and talking about it for hours on end.. (and I don't even teach it or study it). But it sounds great.. all the more reason why you give it that much attention.

I think the topic of this post is very much related to the previous one..or so it seems based on my skewed logic.

Egypeter said...

I can....admit that I love the 'Usual Suspect' and think she's one awesome Egyptian Muslimah!! :)

I can't...wait to hopefully meet her one day and shake her hand (and not be rude and stare at her breasts). lol.

Kola sana we intee tayiba US we emma demeek khafeef!

Anonymous said...

ur i cans r impressive i must say! all the reasons why u should take it easy.. and sociology was one of my fav. courses back in uni, tooo bad it was an elective.

interesting blog :)

humble simpleton said...

And you are doing all this simultaneously? Family, job, school.. You have some japanese ancestry, don't you?

Sam said...

wow u've been through alot havent u, i look forward to hearing your stories and u blog them...as for perfection....it guess it is who you are...just exept it? or lighten up and do not burn yourself out...like Carment said , take baby steps.

Highlander said...

I look forward to hearing your stories too TUS :)

A very good friend of mine once told me that the jihad for perfection is the sign that we seek approval. That's what drives us to continuously pressure ourselves to perform.
I admit I'm trying to slow down on the role too and let a few dirty socks in my room :P

You are a great woman !

GC said...

Hi There,

I've been reading your blog for a while now (knew about it through my wife), but it's my first time to comment. Just wanted to tell you one thing that I find fascinating: I feel that you are a combouination of many different people in one person. You're the academic, but you're also the fun girly girl, and you're the devoted mother, and the wife, and the politician, and the vulnerable female, and the tough leader, and more and more. I can imagine it to be a huge strain - it must be difficult to have all that (and try to be perfect in all things) inside of you. But it sure is amazing.

TeacherLady said...

I'm afraid I can't offer you any advice, as I don't know you well enough nor am I a guru on life lessons anyway... But putting things in perspective, I'd rather be guilty of accomplishing too much than too little.

HalalHippie said...

You are one fascinating girl. But you know that :-)
No advice, just a quote from South African hero Desmond Tutu:

"God loves you. But God doesn't love you because you are good. God Loves you. Period."

Path2Hope said...

Well, I think it's time that you do what YOU really want in your life and to hell with everything else:)

Path2Hope said...

TUS, where are you? I missed you:(

The Raccoon said...

I hope TUS is in Rio right now! :)

Path2Hope said...

Haha, well I can't compete with Rio:)

Drama Queen said...

well maybe u shud take it a bit easy on urself & umm..sometimes i think evn slobs can be perfect if they are appreciated without trying to make evrything shine u knw :) jst remember that whtever u do is enuf,cz people love u for who u are not how ur oven shines!

kinzi said...

Hey, TUS, adding my voice to those who are missing you and concerned! Praying for you

Another Egyptian born Australian Muslim- passionate about politics said...

That’s great.....

An Egyptian born Australian Muslim- passionate about politics..
So I am.. I am Egyptian and my name sounds Muslim and passionate about politics even much more than you I have been living in Sydney for about two years. IT WOULD BE NICE TO CONTACT AND LATER TO INTERACT IF IT DOES NOT BOTHER.

YOU.. I do not have a blog my e-mail address..


I read some of your comments specially about relationships between Muslims and Copts in Egypt you look fahma we mesh 7'awagaya.



Another Egyptian - Australian Muslim said...


Anonymous said...

I use to be just like you. Perfection was the only way. Academically, I can sort of understand. C- Students still become doctors and lawyers too. I have low-self esteem. I made poor judgement calls too. I lost my virginity at 15; this was a real bad sin. I got pregnant, and had an abortion. After going through those challenging years, I had to be the best daughter, mom, sister, cousin, friend. I had to have the cleanest house. My children had to be perfect. I wanted them to mirror me. I was so wrong. I went back to college when I had two young children. My Psychiatrist said" I was the Koolaide Mom." I was trying to please everyone. I never pleased me. I am in my 40's now. I am at peace with myself. It's a journey in progress.


Anonymous said...

I have missed you lately. It's summer and I know it's busy for you.


Will E. said...

If anyone knows the usual suspect on a personal basis let us know that she's okay please.

EgyPeter said...

Where in the world is Carm...eh, I mean, where in the world is Three Lives?

Mid June and nothing....c'mon, throw us a bone or something.

The Raccoon said...

OK, I am getting a bit worried. Anyone know what's up with TUS?

The Editor said...

I'd like to invite you to contribute to an anthology on love, sex and femininity in the Middle East. The Ruby Sandal draws upon candid interviews and original contributions from women with unique personal histories, anecdotes and observations on love, marriage, interracial relationships, motherhood, feminism, dual identity, gender violence, and sexuality in the modern Arab world. With so many government-backed campaigns calling for the "empowerment" of Arab women, my intent is to demonstrate that female empowerment doesn't begin in the boardroom but in the bedroom, and in every woman's psyche; that while many Arab women already enjoy economic and academic empowerment, they are yet to channel this power within a spiritual, artistic, and sexual context.

Submission and interview guidelines are detailed on http://therubysandal.blogspot.com/. Could you kindly contact me on rubysandal@gmail.com so we can further discuss the inclusion of 'I can, I can, I can, I can't'. Many thanks!

Forsoothsayer said...

you're an amazing woman! you're not a c in anything. i could never do half of what u have done.

how about hiring a cleaning woman?