5 Fantabulously Fun Factoids Featuring Moi by Rachel Abrahams

Seeing how my last two posts were quite serious, I wanted to take this week to provide some lighter entertainment for you. So, how about some fantastically fun facts about myself (along with my 5 fave photos I’ve ever taken)? Yah, I know people do these all the time but I promise I racked my brain to try and think of some truly off the wall and rarely known facts about myself. Consider this a gift from me to you.

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California

Golden Gate Bridge - San Francisco, California

1)      I was an actor on a children’s variety show…….in Saudi Arabia.

You read that right. My acting career (though short lived) started in the booming entertainment industry of 1980’s Saudi Arabia. When we lived there they had TWO channels, one in Arabic and the other (mostly) in English, except for the 5 times a day it would show the prayer calls or any official Saud Royal Family televised events. I don’t know how I ended up on this show but I had a huge hand in the selection, writing, and acting of the skits of this show called “Kids Corner”. We even filmed a segment in our backyard at one point. There was also a radio show and I would do interviews, commentary and readings with the adult who hosted. I never got paid despite multiple visits to the station and government agency but my dad went back to the country years later and saw the show was still running on one of the government channels (by then most folks had been introduced to satellite television). Best part though? I randomly met a local friend through the internet and we later discovered not only had we both lived in Saudi Arabia and attended the same school (at different times) BUT one day we realized she used to watch the show I was on. Just call me semi-quasi-famous. No autographs, please.

Empire State Building - NYC, New York 

Empire State Building - NYC, New York 

2)      I have two recurring dreams. Running and dancing.

Calling all therapists in training – this one may interest you. I know most people have recurring dreams but I find it highly entertaining that mine happen at least once a month. When I dream I am running (which I don’t do in real life, by the way) it’s always super slow like I am running under water. I use my arms, I try to spin, I do all sorts of things to increase my speed but never seem to be able to. If it’s not the running dream, it’s the one where I am told by my dance teacher (yes, I used to dance but that was nearly 17 years ago) that I have to stand in for someone 5 minutes before going on stage. I don’t know the dance, don’t have a costume, and everyone expects me to do perfectly. Understandably, I don’t and I wake up in a complete panic. So, what do the therapists in the audience think of these? I already know I am wackadoodle in the noggin’ so get more creative than that with your theories.

Millenium Bridge - London, England

Millenium Bridge - London, England

3)      I once had the rabies series of shots.

When I was an obnoxious toddler (weren’t we all?), I decided it would be entertaining to tease a random street kitty I encountered at a wedding in Turkey. I would take a bite of a cookie, present it to the cat and then yank it away before kitty could get to it. Eventually, street kitty (who was more gangster than me) swiped my face, ripped my lip, and caught the cookie after I dropped it and proceeded to run away. No one caught the cat, so I had to go to the doctor for stitches and the rabies series of shots, which may be why I have such an affinity for passing out around needles. Imagine holding a toddler down for repeat visits of getting painful shots? My parents were in heaven (eye roll). Mom said for weeks after people kept showing up with cats they had bagged (alive) in the hopes they caught the one who hurt me and we could check if it had rabies. No luck. That cat is still out there being an O.G. of the Turkish Street Kitty Club, for sure.

Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris, France

Notre Dame Cathedral - Paris, France

4)      I live in a surf town but only surfed once, for good reason.

Despite living in a beachside Florida town for a long time, I am a somewhat see through pale skinned redhead flanked in oodles of freckles. This means the sun and I are the best of friends and I cover myself in so much sunscreen I end up looking even whiter, which seems somehow impossible. My high school friend was shocked I had never surfed and insisted one day we get a lesson in. She scooped up her dad’s longboard and we hit the beach. She felt since there was a storm coming, it was a great day to learn. I now disagree. The great news is a longboard is like surfing a Cadillac – huge, steady, and like a boat on the water. Bad news was the waves were roiling, choppy, and the water super dark from the churning water. I managed to stand several times and “surf”. I then tried again, pushing my first-timers luck, and the board just disappeared from under me – one minute I was standing and the next I was mid-air and plummeted into the water. The angle I went in caused the board leash on my ankle to yank the board back towards me and hit me so hard in the side of my head I blacked out. My friend saw me go under, yanked me up, and then dragged me back to the beach. That was my last surf lesson ever. And no, my idiot high school self did not go to the doctor for my likely concussion.

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

5)      I tap rhythms with my fingers. All the time.

Pay attention closely and you’ll see my fingers moving all the time tapping out beats or rhythms in my head. If they are occupied (pen, phone, keyboard), it doesn’t happen, but most often it’s when I am sitting, walking, trying to fall asleep – all the other times my hands aren’t doing something else. Maybe it’s a residual of my days when my specialty in dance was tap but all I know is it’s calming for me. My husband noticed it when I’d be falling asleep and he’d feel my fingers fluttering lightly on his back or arm. Calming for me – distracting for him. It used to be a lot worse when my anxiety wasn’t as controlled as it is now but I definitely catch myself doing it several times a day (maybe more because I don’t realize it). Or, if I’m feeling self-conscious someone can see my hands I move my toes or flex my calves in rhythm (yeah, I know this is so weird). I’ve tried to stop but old habits die hard. Plus, it’s not harming anyone so who cares really?

Feeling Tiny In This Big Big World by Rachel Abrahams

I love visiting New York City but have always, deep down inside, been very intimidated by the city. It’s also made me feel a bit afraid as well despite the fact nothing threatening my safety has ever occurred while visiting. I always enjoy myself but usually with an edge of discomfort floating around on the perimeter of my brain.

Something happened on this last visit where I was incredibly comfortable in my skin and enjoyed myself to the fullest while wandering around the city, despite being 5 months pregnant. I walked around alone and never once felt the usual intimidation and edge of fear. It was very freeing. Most would say it was because I have been there enough that finally it felt familiar so I wouldn’t be nervous.

If I am being honest with myself, I know the real reason of this change in perceived fear is because of how my anxiety and depression have been doing these days. It’s not a topic I talk about too often, especially my depression, unless I show how silly anxiety can make me feel. The best way I can describe my depression is I wear it like a backpack. I feel it there, it has a pressing weight on my back, it’s an extension of me, & as long as I keep it in my sights I typically do just fine with it. 

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Park

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Park

It took me many many years (and umpteen therapy sessions) to understand that a lot of my depression is directly correlated with my daily anxiety. As a result, I have worked very hard to teach myself daily awareness, coping skills, and now make decisions to alleviate my anxiety. I have also learned there is no shame in this and I am honest with the people who love me about how I am feeling. I explain the not so great days and It feels like by doing this I don’t let the mountain of negative feelings and sadness build up because I admit to them right away. I don’t bury it deep in my secret shame drawer (which eventually explodes with being overly full and overwhelms me). This seems to do a great job at keeping my depression at bay and just hanging on me like a backpack versus cloaking me in its Darth Vader cape and making me disappear.

When my depression & anxiety does get ahold of me, it can make me feel very isolated and tiny in this big world. I get lost in the idea I am a meaningless cog in the overwhelming wheel of life. I am convinced I am a burden to the people around me. It envelopes me into a fear bubble of a perceived reality that my rational self KNOWS is not real but is too overwhelmed to fix this point of view.

Bryant Park Carousel

Bryant Park Carousel

I have had three very serious depressive periods of my life: first when I was 16, again during college, and then in my late 20’s/early 30’s. These periods didn’t come on all at once. Instead, I describe it as standing on the ocean’s shore watching a tidal wave come painfully slow at you and feeling powerless as it crashes over you and then pulls you off your feet into its murky depths – all happening at such incrementally slow speeds that you are thinking you are ok and then you are underwater wondering what has happened. Then, I fight to not drown and it’s exhausting.

During these times I was fully functioning in both school and work, an expert at performing to my fullest abilities but all while walking around inside my bubble of fear and loneliness. I was not truly connecting with those around me but still looking the part. This is exactly why when people decide to take their own lives it typically shocks everyone around them and comes as a complete surprise. During depression, the light is figuratively on but no one is emotionally home.

NYC Fire Escapes

NYC Fire Escapes

So, what changed for me? A catalyst in my finding a way to keep the depression and anxiety from becoming full blown episodes was watching the Brene Brown TedTalk Listening To Shame where she said:

            “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive”

That statement stuck with me and began a very long and involved process of teaching myself to be honest, owning up to my feelings, leaning on those I trust, and stop living in my petri dish of shame. Some might say I am overly honest these days about my anxiety and depression but it’s the biggest coping method I have to try to fight against the chemical processes of my brain.

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

And that’s how I know this is the real reason why I did not feel that overwhelmed stress and fear while visiting NYC because this time I was honest with myself and forced myself to feel empowered during my visit. I spoke aloud my discomforts and fear to my husband and friends who then gave me very rational and emotionally supportive responses. I believed them (no matter how hard my anxiety/depression makeup didn’t want to) and confidently took on the city feeling like I had the skills I needed to enjoy myself and connect emotionally with my surroundings, instead of walking the city inside my bubble of fear and isolation.

I no longer let myself take this isolating bubble tactic in life and it has made my world an incredible rainbow coloring full of love and empathy which helps me to have more good days than bad. It’s the recommended way to live. Trust me.

Sometimes I Do Not Believe You by Rachel Abrahams

Something happened to me recently that completely floored me. It's not often when I am left speechless but this left me stuttering and gaping my mouth like a fish out of water. 

I was networking at an event just chatting away and answering question for people. It was mostly the same questions over and over so I was getting my speech pretty down pat. A woman walked up to me, started to ask her question, stopped herself, and then said "Oh my gosh, I'm so sorry but you are just stunning. Your hair, your coloring and what an amazing smile. You just stopped me in my tracks. Sorry if that's weird I just feel like I had to tell you". 

Satellite Beach, FL

Satellite Beach, FL

Yup, I was left speechless. This perfect stranger just gave me the most amazing compliment and all I could do was stammer out a "Wow, thanks, uhhhhhhhh" and then thankfully my brain kickstarted itself back into gear and I attempted to continue to have a conversation with her. After we chatted and I answered her questions, I thanked her again and she walked away.

 I really doubt this woman remembers this moment all that clearly but here I am still thinking about it and in wonderment of how kind she was. It's also made me think more about her unsolicited compliment and how I reacted. 

 At first, I was in shock (What, me? Not the person behind me? Are you sure?) and then it turned into unease (Is she pulling my leg? What if she is making fun of me?) and then I came up with answers to explain her compliment (Maybe it’s because of the shirt color I was wearing. Maybe it was the lighting. Maybe she wasn’t wearing her glasses and I was a multihued but happy blur). Yup, I am a pro at second guessing myself.

Satellite Beach, Florida

Satellite Beach, Florida

How many of you suck at taking compliments? Your immediate reaction is to downplay what someone said or even not believe them at all. I once heard when you don't believe someone's compliment you are essentially calling them a liar and that really stuck with me. There are people in your life who tell you wonderful things about yourself and you don’t believe them. Are they liars? No? Then maybe it's time to start listening to (and believing) what they say. Don’t worry though, I say this knowing I am in the Doubting Thomas of Compliments Club.

 I also tend to behave poorly when people highly compliment my photography. I will say oh that one was popular because everyone loves the beach or people love that because it’s got bright fun colors. I know I am being a dummy because people wouldn’t say nice things if they didn’t mean it. Unfortunately, it is a terrible habit of mine to not believe the positively awesome comments given to me.

My theory is that many other folks (myself included) have a tendency to not believe they are the ultimate at something unless there’s arbitrary data to prove it. For instance, people think they aren’t truly beautiful unless they’re famous or a model. They aren’t talented artists unless they have a bajillion social media followers. They aren’t funny unless they are getting paid gigs as a comic. They aren’t skinny unless they fit into size 00.

Satellite Beach, FL

Satellite Beach, FL

So why don’t we trust other people’s eyeballs and hearts when they take the time to say wonderfully kind things about us? Why do we believe these arbitrary numbers and data as being proof of our fantasticalness? I am honestly not sure since I know I perpetuate this problem so here’s my own small answer that will help make me feel better about it, a letter to that kind woman:

Dear Wonderful Lady,

I wish my brain had worked properly that day you took the time to say the nicest thing to me. If so, I would have said a proper and genuine thank you. I also would have tried to ask you more questions about yourself and get to know you better (I can’t even recall your name. It flew out of my mind in shock and awe) rather than moving on to another subject in my discomfort of being complimented. I know I can’t change that day but I do hope you continue to say what you really feel and let the beautiful positive words flow out of you. You are being the change I wish to see in the world and I want to adopt your method as a role model for me. I also endeavor to believe the people in my life when they tell me I’m awesome, wonderful, talented, and amazing. It may take some time and effort but I will work on it. Many heartfelt and genuine thanks.

This Is Why Sheep And I Are Not Friends by Rachel Abrahams

One of the best things that comes from traveling is the stories. I am talking about the really awesome stories you get to tell later to all your friends and family of your adventures and fun times. In my world, these stories tend to be pretty outrageous. I have this tendency for the absurd to follow me wherever I go. When I get back from a trip, you won’t hear the story about visiting a museum and then eating gelato afterwards (which, is a good story but that’s just too vanilla for me). I have this amazing weirdo magnet which includes attracting really off the wall situations (like the time I broke my tailbone while riding a bike in Central Park ----- hours before my flight to Paris).

I was going through old photos and found one I took while I studied abroad in Ireland and it made me laugh so hard. Not because of what was in the photo – but because of the story behind it. Before my classes started, I traveled the west coast of Ireland up to Northern Ireland and then back down to Dublin. I was in a large van/bus of about 20 people and I was the only American on the bus. Most everyone else was a mix of Australian, Canadian, and French. George W. Bush was President, which meant by being the only American I was the butt of quite a few of the group’s political jokes.

The photo that inspired this post (2003)

The photo that inspired this post (2003)

Most of the tour was spent with me keeping my head in a book, listening to music, and attempting to befriend the other solo female traveler, who was very shy. Otherwise, the other travelers enjoyed the game of:

Them: Hey – American girl. What do you call fringe?

Me: Bangs

Them: HAHAHAHAHHAHA. What do you call thongs?

Me: Flip Flops. We call certain underwear thongs.

Them: HAHAHAHAHHAHA

(shampoo, rinse, repeat)

Needless to say, I stuck my face as far into my book as possible to try and become invisible.

Eventually our bus made one of its usual random stops and the driver announced to everyone “Alright! Up this hill is Queen Maeve’s grave and you guys can go climb up to see it”. He then went into the story behind Queen Maeve and explained how she was a warrior queen who ruled for over 60 years and was buried up this hill in a vertical position so she could face her enemies.

After he finished his story, I looked out the window into a very dreary, cold, wet, and foggy day (typical Irish weather), saw that this hill looked more like a mountain to my unathletic eye, and it was covered in craggy rocks and grass with no really clear trail. I was having my doubts about whether or not this was real or if it was his attempt to make tourists climb haphazardly on a hill so he could be entertained. I hunkered down in my seat deciding this athletic endeavor was not my cup of tea but then was practically dragged out my seat by some of the other travelers and convinced to join them.

What I wanted to do instead of climb a "hill" (2003)

What I wanted to do instead of climb a "hill" (2003)

I zipped up my raincoat, tucked the umbrella in my pocket, and then set off following the herd. It wasn’t long before I was left behind, slipping, getting stuck in mud, and flailing about hoping not to fall on my head. It was hot in my raincoat but too cold to take it off and I kept thinking “I should just turn around and go back. This sucks”. Out loud, I was cursing up a storm the local Irish would have been very proud of.

I finally made up my mind it was time to quit (or maybe my inability to get enough oxygen into my brain because I couldn’t catch my breath convinced me) when I got my shoe stuck in mud, yanked it out, lost my balance, and then fell forward onto the ground. I landed with a loud splat but had managed to hold myself off the ground so only my hands and knees were covered in mud. Or what I thought was mud. After processing through the searing pain in my hands and knees, I looked down to realize I had BOTH of my hands almost wrist deep in sheep poop. Yup, I found myself a pile of sheep poop to land in on a giant hill. I sat down on the grass and tried to wipe as much of the poop off my hands as I could using the grass and rocks but the smell, oh the smell, wouldn’t go away.

With even more angry curse words and some unforgivable phrases muttered to the Irish saints, I trucked back down the way I came but at a painfully slow pace to avoid falling again. I made it to the bus to find the driver had no paper towels and no hand sanitizer. He wouldn’t pull my suitcase from under the bus because it would mean unloading everyone’s. He wouldn’t let me on the bus until the others showed up and we could see if they had towels. Everyone got back eventually, word spread I had fallen in poop, and the solution was to pour a bottle of water on my hands and then to tie plastic bags on them. I then sat on the bus for 1.5 hours until we could stop and I could wash them.

How I prefer my sheep - at a distance (2003)

How I prefer my sheep - at a distance (2003)

Needless to say, I was not a fan of the Irish sheep at that moment. Great news is, I got it all cleaned off eventually and for some reason my embarrassment broke the ice between me and the shy female traveler I had been trying to befriend, which made the rest of the trip quite enjoyable. I am also happy to report that although I did run into quite a few more sheep on my trip (they are big fans of hanging out in the road and blocking traffic) I managed to not run afoul of their poop.

You take your wins wherever you can get them.

I hope you enjoyed this story and the old photos to go with it.