What my brother taught me about authenticity

May 15, 2019

Morning comes, and I attempt to read another chapter of “Creativity: the psychology of discovery and invention” by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Sure enough, I can predict exactly how it would go. The outcome always resulted in skimming a few lines at most and putting it down due to

(1) frustration at the lack of focus/peace/quiet in my mind/house/self, or

(2) the fact I am still sleepy as hell and I need coffee.

This has been the case every morning. Unable to accept that perhaps morning reading just isn’t for me, I still try every time in the hopes that tomorrow could be a new day.

Well, tomorrow is not a new day. Tomorrow is Sunday, meaning I have the company of my 8-year-old brother Ziyad.

This Sunday morning I carried my book into the living room and spent an incredibly long time (8 minutes) persuading Ziyad to read a book too, instead of watching YouTube on blast like he usually does. This went a lot smoother than I expected because, in the end, he actually agreed. So we sat on the sofa, and I played SunSet Cacao mix by Mose on speakers to ease us into some quiet exploration reading time.

It worked… for all of 10 minutes.

Soon enough, it was near impossible to continue reading as the tune got livelier and louder – wrong music choice on my behalf. Ziyad ‘finished’ his book and I could see his restlessness as he was finding ways to get creative, at the same time trying to be least distracting for me.

It didn’t work.

He was tapping away at the edge of the table, and I could see how the music was flowing through him. It was as if he was conjuring up ideas in his head, thinking about how he could get involved musically.

I was lured into exploring this creative space with him.

Soon enough we were singing, drumming and freestyling. The pots came out of the kitchen cupboards, and there we were tuning in and turning up.

To be quite honest, it was a usual moment for us except I don’t really freestyle, ever. Or make music with others even though I am always surrounded by people who do. The negative self-talk cues before I even get a chance to entertain the idea of sharing that authentic space with others.

“I’m not that musical” I’d tell myself. I would sit back and watch. And if this were precisely two years ago, I would have been the one shamelessly drinking all the beers and passing a lighter to anyone who needed it.

It’s like I knew what I was and wasn’t meant to do.

But, here I was, playing effortlessly, fearlessly without a single question of whether I was good enough to participate or not. There wasn’t a right, wrong, skilled, talented, or perfect thing to do. It did not exist.

And then it hit me.

Why hadn’t I done this before? Why couldn’t I do this with others, who weren’t children? Is it because my friends and other adults have the potential to ‘judge’ me? And children don’t? Because there are others, who are better? Why did that ever stop me from playing, from feeling joy just through expressing authentically?

Why couldn’t I be authentic?!

I was an ESL teacher to kids and toddlers for 2 years – I know how to act a fool, and I am pretty damn good at it, but I always remember feeling slight apprehension when an adult would walk into a room.

I had quite a few thoughts that opened my perception to the damage I was doing by believing all the lies I told myself, about myself.

Anyway – as liberating and eye-opening this moment turned out to be, I was still telling myself that I had commitments to read my book and this, precisely this perfect moment of flow in creativity was distracting me from, well… reading about the flow of creativity.

At every point in my thought pattern, I noticed a flaw. As ridiculous as it was, I was still in two minds. I looked at my phone to check how many minutes had I had ‘wasted’.

And, there it was, a sign I didn’t know I needed to see. It was 11:11, staring back at me, and if numbers could talk (they actually do) this is precisely what it said.

“Girl, you are playing, you are living – this is exactly what you need to be doing, this is exactly what you asked for.”


There are so many interpretations of this number and what messages it brings up. For as long as I can remember, without fail, 11:11 would show up whenever I needed to check myself and my thoughts, in moments of questioning my disposition, wondering if I was doing the right thing or not.

I took a deep breath in with acceptance for what is and exhaled in gratitude for what had become.



No judgements.

So I closed my book and went all in.

My inner flame had been crying for moments of creative living through authentic play. And here I was, freestyling, drumming, ecstatic dancing to cacao ceremony mix in my living room with my 8-year-old gem of a brother at 11:11 on a Sunday morning.

Can it get any more authentic than that?

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