Ilaria: Resilient Egyptian Woman
Ilaria: Resilient Egyptian Woman

Ilaria: Resilient Egyptian Woman

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My cultural background has provided me with: the fire to pioneer a unique path for myself and others, an expansion of my being, and a compassion for and in all things.

My parents left Egypt in search of a life where they could be treated as equals, practice their religion freely, and build a better future for their children in the Land of Opportunity. This move came with a heavy price; one that pains them daily. To leave their families, friends, and colleagues in a state of ongoing instability and persecution is the last thing they could have wished for. I can only imagine how it feels, as removed as I am, and it is absolutely gut-wrenching. Waking up to the news that fellow Coptic Christians in Egypt are being killed for their faith, a situation largely ignored by the news media, absolutely breaks me. And yet, there is a unique strength that comes out of this brokenness; it defines us as a people and it expands my being. The Copts have a bond that will never be broken. Their blood runs through my veins. The faith that the Copts loudly proclaim - that strength in their last moments - is unparalleled. This acknowledgment of resilience and mercy among a people who have been persecuted for centuries fuels my everyday. This is their life and so it is mine.

I carry this.

The struggle that we have faced as an ethnic religious minority in Egypt has helped me to rediscover kindness, mercy, forgiveness and strength in vulnerability. My people have so boldly stood in the face of oppression and have always stood, not with revenge, but with compassion and mercy. Because of the great loss we experience as a people we are more inclined to find great joy in unexpected moments. Exposed to these experiences early on, I knew I was meant to navigate the embodiment of love in this life and to shower those whom I encounter with an unbridled compassion.

My day begins, with a “good morning and thank you God for giving me life and ability”, after I’ve rolled over and turned my alarm off after the 3rd (or 7th) snooze. I then ask Siri what the weather will be for the day, set my intentions, ask God to grant me wisdom throughout my day and then jump out of bed to get ready. Sometimes, I make myself a quick breakfast and tea before heading to work. I look forward to lunch as I usually come back home for a quick power nap, a bite, a cuppa tea and some tidying up. My work day ends around 5, or 6, or 7 and as I head home for the evening I reflect on my day and give thanks for its successes and opportunities to improve. When I get home I decompress by cooking a creative and delicious meal. After the nom-noms, I give myself room for “me time”. My “me time” happens daily, but I like to block out Monday evenings for intentional reflections. My evenings consist of a combination of activities: reading, spending time with friends, immersing myself in music, staying on long rejuvenating calls with my favorite humans, catching an episode or two of a show, writing, painting, coloring, brewing tea, catching up on my own life tasks or simply being by my Self. Then it’s time for dreamland. I’m usually in bed by 11 and before I close my eyes I thank God for the full day that he has given me, wish the world sweet dreams and whisper a prayer my mother used to say with me before I fall into my own sweetest dreams:

Please, Lord, send us your angels. Four angels here (point to one corner of the room), four angels here (another corner), four angels here (another corner), and four angels here (last corner). From every corner, on every bed, and in every place. Guard us from above and under, from the entrance of this home to its end, and give us a peaceful night’s sleep. Amen.

There are so many sacred moments throughout the day: like when you first open your eyes after you've been dreaming, or the silence between the rustling of leaves in the wind, or the chuckle after a silly moment, or the experience of awe and wonder in the way the world evolves which just tickles your spirit. Cherish those. Remember to breathe and keep the sparkle of life in your heart.

At my best...

See. Like really SEE people; their goodness, their beings, their souls. And hold space for them.

Listen. Humans are born storytellers; how lucky are we to hear, read and experience the unique narratives around us in this day and age. I live to soak it all up.

Brew tea. Tea is LIFE. That is all. ‘tea gives vigor to the body, contentment to the mind and determination of purpose...’ [Shennong]

Communicate. When we are impeccable with our word we are able to better understand one another. Speak up. Clarify your thoughts and intentions. Be real with each other.

Problem-solve. If there’s a problem you bet I’ll be searching for or creating a solution. Smooth dem wrinkles [insert girl with hair flip hand here].

Laugh. Because laughter is awesome and giggle fits are extraordinary.

Hug. If you ever see me in person and are comfortable enough to ask for one of my whole minute hugs, I WOULD LOVE TO HOLD YOU. Hugging is good for the soul. We need to do it more. Often. Please.

Feel all the feelings.

Passions...

I have a passion for developing authentic relationships with others. Building bridges across divides. Relating and connecting to people of all backgrounds. Helping others understand and develop a sense of purpose. Really, I have a deep appreciation of humans. There is a sense of curiosity that comes with interacting with the beautifully diverse humanity around us. I like to tap into that. I tend to spark conversations with strangers, newcomers, and friends and engage them in fulfilling conversations that encourage both listener and speaker to dig a little deeper. There is such power and life-enhancing capacity in human connections.

I truly am in awe of humanity and yet, there are times when I am also disappointed by it. This disappointment propels my passion to see the goodness that resides in all that I encounter. I hold space for my family, friends and strangers alike and try to remind them that they are loved and are powerful beyond measure.

Now, this also ties into my passion for learning. I have always been curious about the world we live in, how we interact with it and those who are here with us. I believe that education does not only occur in the classroom. We are surrounded by a vast and exquisite platform for learning. All we need to do is step out of our routine and find space to allow ourselves to observe and absorb all that is around us. And BOOKS. Books are also helpful tools to learning. You will ALWAYS find me with my nose in a book or two (because I can’t just read one at a time). The growth is real; fall in.

What you wish people knew...

I wish people knew that I’m not as sensitive as I appear to be. I have simply given myself permission to feel all of the feelings and to be overwhelmed by them. AND I LOVE IT. Even when I’m sad and I’m super in my feelings. It has helped me fine tune empathy - to really feel others’ pain and joy - and I know that this is incredibly vital to my very being in this life.

Osho articulates it best:

[ Never be afraid of tears. The so-called civilization has made you very afraid of tears. It has created a kind of guilt in you. When tears come you start feeling embarrassed. You start feeling, “What will others think? I am a man and I am crying! It looks so feminine and childish. It should not be so.” You stop those tears...and you kill something that was growing in you.

Tears are far more beautiful than anything else that you have with you, because tears come from the overflow of your being. Tears are not necessarily of sadness; sometimes they come out of great joy and sometimes they come out of great peace and sometimes they come out of ecstasy and love. In fact they have nothing to do with sadness or happiness. Anything that stirs your heart too much, anything that takes possession of you, anything that is too much, that you cannot contain and it starts overflowing – that brings tears.

Accept them with great joy, relish them, nourish them, welcome them, and through tears you will know how to pray. Through tears you will know how to see. Tear-filled eyes are capable of seeing truth. Tear-filled eyes are capable of seeing the beauty of life and the benediction of it. ]

My entire existence is heavily influenced and defined by my cultural narrative. I am blessed to have ancestors who were pioneers in the ancient world. They were thinkers, creatives, lovers, engineers, scientists, musicians, entrepreneurs and much more. Their intellectual and artistic richness provided me with a foundation to explore and identify the talents that God has given me. As a young first-generation Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Christian girl, I knew I was different; and I knew I wanted more out of this life. I forged ahead, breaking down cultural and societal barriers, keeping in mind my father’s lessons on maintaining balance between emotion and logic. My parents, culture and religion have shaped me. And, in my own creative barrier-breaking ways, I continue to discover the woman that I’m meant to be… and I’m quite fond of her.

I want to leave this world better than I found it. It would make me the happiest if you joined me in this pursuit. 

You read the narrative, now use it as inspiration. 

Shop this collection of Ilaria below!

 

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