Natascha is who I would choose to have as a sister if I could choose. She has been my bff for thirty years, and I literally knew the moment we met that we’d be forever tied. When I moved away from Switzerland I worried about missing her more than anything else, but despite the distance we’ve continued to be as close as ever. Even when I converted to Islam, it never occurred to either of us that it might jeopardize our bond. When the war broke out in Libya she called me and told me to move in with her, with my four kids: we’ll work it out! I’ll get a bigger place! She said. I couldn’t possibly take her up on her offer, but the fact that this was even a possibility made making decisions a lot easier.
If I were to meet you now for the first time, what would you like me to know about you?
You (One Sister) can always count on me! 😉
What were your goals when you set out on your journey of life, have they shifted since then?
Be happy and find contentment. For a while I achieved them. After a turbulent and emotional relationship I focused on my job and found there what I needed. Now – in my midlife crisis – I am reshaping the frame, trying to let my heart speak louder. The goals are still the same, but the how is a work in progress.
What did you learn that you wouldn’t have even if someone had told you so?
Love people you dislike (have compassion).
How do you do it?
With mindfulness. During a class of mindfulness we did an exercise “Think of a situation or a person you dislike, with compassion”. The first time I could not stand it. A few weeks later I tried again, some days later again. and a bit later again: be present and aware of my feelings without judgment (not easy at all). Do not be angry about my feelings but understand myself. And forgiveness: this helps to live free of the acute suffering that comes with holding onto the past.
The next time I saw the person that I did not like I realized with astonishment that the anger was gone and I could handle the situation from a new perspective. Actually I must admit that I do not “love” this person yet. But –hey- I am on a good path!
What important aspects of your life surprised you most?
We are such wonderful creatures: from a small cell we grow to –a galaxy of cells – a person, who can love, fight, communicate, build, destroy, learn, heal and much more. In the mean time we exist only a few thousands of years. Compared to the age of earth and the galaxies we are so… “small”. We tend to think of ourselves as so important, but we’re actually a puzzle piece in the bigger scheme of things. We’re not the center of the universe and this can lighten our burden, I think, put things into perspective.
How hard it sometimes can be to follow the heart. I follow my brain, perhaps for many years because I put so much into my own work, which is highly analytical, and I forget to let my chore beliefs, or my internal purpose guide my actions more. I overlooked all other aspects of my life, and as I grow older I seek out opportunities to extend my sources of satisfaction and contentment. I try to seek joy outside of work a lot more now.
Is there something you tell yourself or do regularly to keep motivated?
It’s always been automatic for me, I’m intrinsically motivated to do my best. Enjoying what I do helps me do my best, and internalizing the satisfaction I get from achieving those goals and sharing them with my colleagues/friends/family. Having a common goal keeps me working collaboratively with any team.
What does friendship mean to you?
Trust, affection. It’s very simple!
What was the best advice you were ever given?
Be yourself at your very core. Not to try to be someone you’re not for someone else’s sake. Nothing is as constant as change, but even as things change you adapt in order to maintain your own truth and be constant in your core beliefs. Maybe it’s more about knowing yourself, knowing your limits, your deepest desires, what you can handle, and this allows you to grow, if you don’t know yourself you can’t really learn from your mistakes and experiences. All this I think goes hand in hand. The main issue is to be true to yourself.
Could you share the most defining moments of your life, and why you think they were crucial?
Trust: I did not get the promised help when I asked for it. That showed me that I had to take my life into my own hands and that at the end of the day I can rely only on myself.
Business School: It was a great experience of cooperation and enriching exchange. Learning and working with same minded people can be awesome.
Help: If I help someone, who is not committed I lose energy and waste time.
My midlife crisis: I felt stuck. Now that I am embracing mindfulness in my life, I feel excited about where my way leads me. I haven’t got a clue where I am going (that is very hard for me; I always had a goal to achieve), but I am confident that everything will be fine. I have more serenity and patience.
What’s your spice for life?
Love, friendship and hot peppers!
What would you like to be most remembered for?
My sense of humor, curiosity for the world and I hope to inspire people to try something new: follow your heart (with the last one I am struggling. Actually my heart is whispering and I cannot understand it. Was I to close to the speakers, dancing in the 80’s?).
You are probably one of the most sincere people I know, how do you maintain this honesty?
Lying is too exhausting. I would like to take a decision on true facts and not on lies, so… treat others the way you want to be treated.
What are your greatest challenges?
Me, myself and I.
You are a hard-working, highly motivated, high achiever, what keeps you going?
My need for acceptance, recognition… Validation.
You dabbled in the arts plastic and performance arts; you’ve studied theatre, painting, saxophone, rock sculpture; you’ve studied mindfulness and other esoteric arts; and you’ve travelled the world. Have you found the combination that works for you? If not, what do these explorations add to your life?
I need the “artistic” time to nurture my soul and balance with my rational thinking (which are necessary at my job, and in my other obligations). I am working on having more “soul” to balance my life.
If you could combine the best aspects of all the various lifestyles you’ve encountered, to develop one that was perfectly suited to you, what would it look like?
I would like to take more time for socializing and family life, as well as for my spiritual life. I think these would give more balance and contentment to my life. I’ve always worked a lot, and it’s time I give other aspects of my life more importance (love, friendship, arts).. I wish to integrate all these things into my daily life, just like I integrate work to my life each day. They’d give more balance and serenity to my life.
What do you see as the most valuable contribution that could be made today?
Love yourself, and love others, in the most vast and encompassing meaning of the word.