Somehow I can’t stop thinking about the moment I stood in front of Times Square, a few weeks ago, when hubby son, and I went on our whirlwind bus tour/vacation.

Talk about electronic billboards! The whole place is plastered with them, each flashing and vying for your attention. I particularly remember the theatre billboard sign for a broadway version of Mary Poppin, and I thought to myself, “Mary Poppins!” I couldn’t even finish watching the darn thing when it was on TV during Christmas!

It seems to me that the reason why so many plays are based on classic movies (The Lion King, Phantom of the Opera, etc.) is because a play is such an investment! You’re plunking down a LOT of your hard earned money to go see live theatre! People are only liable to do that if they are actually familiar with the story, or perhaps have heard of it.

I’m speculating.

But as I stood there, in that brisk early morning breeze, in Times Square, you know what thought really occurred to me?

It was how transient having your name on one of those electronic billboards really is.

There was also another electronic billboard nearby with the name of some popular singer–and what’s really ironic and illustrates my point even better is that I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the singer!

And somehow I thought back, to the guy who must have decided that hey, this singer is big enough to be promoted on an electronic billboard in Times Square.

I could just picture the rat-faced publicist, with his shiny Italian suit and burgundy shirt, cutting deals, assessing returns on their investment, deciding how many weeks that singer’s name would be up there for all to see, and what to do if that singer’s profile was dipping in terms of prosperity.

Or maybe I was just thinking of that guy in that movie Phonebooth.

I seem to have changed an awful lot over the last few years. I wonder if it’s because of Hajj.

I really don’t know.

I have a whole different perspective on things.

I watch some of those reality shows, these days I’m hooked on Dance Moms and I can’t help feeling sorry for Abby Lee Miller the instructor. She’s huge–all belly fat–which means her cortisol levels must be through the roof and that in turn is because of stress! And she’s always got these terrible moms nagging at her and complaining.

Tonight’s show had this rival being just about as petty as anyone can possibly be, and she and one of the moms loses it and engages her in a tit for tat shouting match.

Have I gotten too mature for that kind of thing?

I swear it wasn’t that long ago that I would have felt righteously justified in taking the provocateur down!

And then when the one student whom Abby Lee has pinned all her hopes, runs off stage because she forgot her number, and with the provocateur breathing down her neck at the competition, Abby Lee starts to cry.

The Moms think she’s crying because she favours the girl who ran off the stage–but it seems to me that’s not why she was crying. Yes the girl who ran off the stage is undoubtedly more talented than most of the other girls in the class and her favourite, but I just think it was all too much for her.

And when those dance moms start haranguing Abby Lee, she just sits there and doesn’t say anything. And it looks even more like she’s guilty of favouring the girl over their own daughters.

Sometimes I think that being able to express yourself articulately is one of the most powerful attributes in the world!

If Abby Lee could have just told the mothers that she was just so disappointed, in herself for taking the bait from the provocateur rival, and for having her group number come in tenth place, after the provocateur rival’s group, and then having her star pupil run off stage and forgetting her dance was just the final straw in a very horrible day, then perhaps the mothers could have understood.

I just sat there watching the catastrophe unfold and I felt like telling her through the screen, look lady, you NEED days like this! Otherwise you’ve got nothing to strive for!

The potential of defeat is what makes competition worthwhile.

The fear of falling flat on your face only accentuates and heightens the fact that you don’t.

Frankly it makes you work harder!

And this isn’t just philosphy talking! I really mean it.

At one point she said to herself, “I’ve never been so humiliated…” And I thought that was a silly thing to say.

Humiliation itself is a pretty silly emotion.

Personally I think it occurs when you tie up your self worth into things that are outside yourself and beyond your control.

I can feel that way because of all the times I was insulted and belittled by people.

When the kids at my grade school put me down because of the colour of my skin and the peculiarities of my faith, I had to rise above it. I had to examine if they were correct in their assessment, decide they were not, and then complete disregard their opinions and instead rely on my own.

Yes there’s no vindication involved at the time, but it really is true that the best revenge is living well.

For people like that provocateur, it’s best to step back and give them room. People like that tend to self-destruct…and they do it most quickly when you don’t interfere with them.

On another note I just got back from Ottawa. It was a lovely trip. A whole different city with people unfamiliar with my work and presentations. (They hadn’t seen me in about ten years!)

But my older sister used to live in Ottawa.

The city has so many associations to her that it’s impossible to go there and not be bombarded with memories of times I drove the distance and headed down Highway 16 to her house.

And now she lies buried in the Muslim section of a cemetary just outside Carp.

And my younger sister lives in Carp.

I said to my younger sister, just this afternoon, “I wonder how many times she drove past her grave and didn’t know that was her final resting place.”

And that makes me wonder if I’ve driven past my grave yet.

My sister was born, like I was, in Lahore, Pakistan. She died a little more than 44 years later in a hospital in Ottawa. That was almost nine years ago.

All the way to Ottawa, driving along Highway 7 because it’s more scenic, I kept remembering her, and the worst thing is, it’s starting to feel *normal* that she’s gone. That she’s no longer present in our family.

Before I left to come back home, I took my younger sister and we visited her grave.

There just so happened to be a Muslim funeral going on at the time. The lanes were crowded with cars and people were gathered by the grave side a few hundred feet away.

The Muslim section of the cemetery has grown huge. When my sister was buried there, it had just opened up.

I prayed surah Fatiha for her. I made a few duas for her. But honestly, part of me just thought, she’s sleeping, leave her alone.

I’ve always felt it’s more important to take care of her children than mope about her loss. It’s what she would have wanted.

She once said to her children that if she’d never had them, her life would have turned out to be meaningless. They really were the most important accomplishment of her life. All the other projects she attempted never really fulfilled their potential.

She would be so proud of her children today.  I know I’m so proud of them! Her son is completing his masters in Economics at Cambridge university in the UK and her daughter is completing her physician’s assistant program.

My sister wasn’t even sure that her son would graduate high school!

I watch these people on these reality shows bend over backwards for some fleeting sort of fame, and it reminds me of those electronic billboards in Times Square.

Don’t they realize that good upstanding successful children are a LOT more important than having your name in lights???