Saturday, 28 November 2009

Lies, Lies, Lies ...

Throughout my whole life, I’ve found myself somehow blessed (or cursed) to be fitted with a kind of innate lie detector. Yet the older I get, the more attuned it seems to be.

Every time I hear a lie – even if it’s a little white one - it’s almost as if a string of red lights start flashing at the back of my eyes and a stream of alarm bells, similar to those of Notre Dame, start ringing inside my head. My whole body starts to oscillate very subtly as if it’s on a frequency of its own.

Although I smile politely and say nothing - as if I believe every word I’m being told - I cringe to the very core of me. My teeth shudder and my bones feel that same eerie discomfort as they do when someone scrapes their fingers along a board of polystyrene.

In my younger years when I didn’t really know what I was dealing with, I use to find it very painful and uncomfortable; especially if the person telling the lie(s) was a loved one or a friend. Nowadays, although it’s still painful to an extent, I just accept it as a part of every day life.

Let’s face it, at some point we’ve all lied about something. We might have lied at a job interview just so we could land the job of our dreams. We might have lied on a first date just to make a good impression. We might have lied to our parents when we snuck out one day. We lie to ourselves all the time when we lead ourselves into false believes. The biggest lie of all is when we say: “We never lie.” We may not like to admit that we do or we may be so self-conceited that we convince ourselves that we don’t; but we all do at some point. It’s a natural part of being a human being. Of course, there are also compulsive liars out there who can no longer distinguish truth from fiction; but I’m not even going to go down that road here.

Even with the best intentions in the world of committing, from this day forward, to never lie again; at some point in the future, we will all lie about something whenever we believe the circumstances dictate that we should do so - even if it’s just to safeguard someone we love from something – Telling a lie for the greater good. I don’t have a problem with that kind of lie; even though technically it’s still a lie.

Personally, I don’t really condone the telling of lies. Yet, even though I cringe to the very bone, I move past them and accept people as they are. However, on the one hand, there are times when I do question if my silent acceptance of someone else’s lies makes me instrumental in their continuation to carrying on telling them. After all, we are all pawns in each others’ chess games. On the other hand, each and every one of us is solely responsible for ourselves.

What I find fascinating, is the motivation behind the act of telling a lie. It intrigues me. I find it contemporaneously amusing and sometimes very sad; amusing because motivations vary and sometimes border on the ridiculous; sad because it can quietly install a deep sense of distrust and insecurity between people, which can push people apart and be very difficult, or virtually impossible, to rebuild.

So just why do people tell lies? – Well, here are just a few of my suggestions, which I’m sure you can add a whole load more to:

To hide the truth of a situation
- Because telling the truth about a situation might hurt someone else.
- Because the person in question doesn’t really want to admit the reality of the situation to themselves; let alone to anyone else.
- Because the truth of a situation could be compromising for the person in question or other people around them;
- In matters of the heart, it could be because the person telling the lie is indecisive or a player who just wants to keep all their options open; to ensure the opposite sex never strays too far away from them.
- Because the truth of a situation may mean admitting defeat or failure to one’s self and/or to others.

To make an impression;
- To be liked by others;
- To land the dream job where an extra push is necessary;
- To be promoted at work where maybe a lack of “actual merit” is present;
- To be regarded/respected in some way to make up for something else lacking in another area of someone’s life. Or, for lack of sufficient self-belief that just being one’s self would be enough;

To protect
- Parents sometimes lie to their children to protect them from harm, i.e. the classic bogie man story.
- Children lie to parents about where they’ve been all night.
- Boyfriends/Husbands lie to Girlfriends/wives (and vice versa) about trespasses, illnesses, job situations, finances etc.

The lists could go on forever and I’m sure you could all come up with a whole range of categories. I‘ve just jotted these down off the top of my head.

As a Buddhist, I took a vow not to lie. Yet, oddly enough, there is an exception clause in the case of necessity for the greater good. However, for me that is a very grey area because what might be considered the greater good for one person may not necessarily be the greater good for another. Who can make that call?

When all is said and done, there are no guidelines in life for lies; not for telling them nor for being on the receiving end. We can only take responsibility for ourselves. Before we say something that isn’t true, we can only explore what is motivating us to be untrue, put our hand on our heart, listen to our conscience and see if we can truly live with what we are about to say.

by Venerina Conti,

Friday, 13 November 2009

Where have all the good men gone?

I’ll see you in 6 months were the last parting words we said as we looked into each other’s eyes one last time; before we kissed and went our own separate ways at Dubai airport. I watched him as he walked off towards the boarding gate that took him back to Australia before I made my way back to the UK. It was the year 2000 and the last time I had a real relationship with anyone.

It was the first time since 1998, when I split up with my ex partner, that I’d brought myself to trust a man. My previous relationship had been on the rocks for some years. My ex partner and work colleague had slowly been on a downslide path to alcoholism and well, any woman who’s walked alongside someone on that track knows just what it entails; the fights, the anguish, the heartache and the violent streaks; not to mention the emotional and psychological blackmail.

My tall, dark, handsome, mysterious Australian beauty (as I use to call him) called me everyday while I was in the UK. He said he was coming. He never made it. His business took him everywhere around the globe except the UK. I got sent to China. He said he was coming there. He did make it there but only after I left. In fact, he made it to the UK after I left. His business had a way of keeping us apart all the time. I finally moved to Madeira. He told me to wait here. He told me he was coming. So, I did and I’m still here but then, the unthinkable happened. His business folded. He went bankrupt and stopped calling.

After waiting patiently for 3 years, then despairing, and then finally giving up, I met someone online who was such a great friend and such great company to be around. It seems though that I was only to be a friend in times of need; when disaster struck or when nothing better was going on. We’re still friends. I met an Italian Guy with whom I am still friends. I briefly dated a Tunisian guy who ended up spitting in my face and hitting me so hard I heard my back crack; and all because I asked him to hold me.

Then, I met another beautiful man online who captured my heart. After some time, we proposed to take things into the real world. He decided to come here and spend some time in my world. I made the decision to go and spend some time in his world and we agreed that if things worked out then we would take it that one step further and make a commitment to each other. Ten days, or so, before he was due to fly out here he went back to an ex girlfriend. That was Christmas 2006.

In the meantime, my Australian friend and I are back in touch but the trust I had in him has gone. He asked me to move to Australia but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. How could I trust a man who didn’t trust me to still love him when he went bankrupt? To my way of thinking, you don’t love someone because they have money. Many may, but that’s not what I’m about and I felt that he should have known that. Maybe I expected too much of him.

So, it’s now 2009. Somewhere between 2007 and now, I fell in love with another beautiful man who, coincidentally, I never even dated. Another “case closed” before it even started.

It’s very rare in this day and age, for me personally, to be able to say that I would trust my life in the hands of someone. Yet, it seems the very few that I would have trusted it with always end up breaking that trust in some way. I have to ask: “Do I have standards that are too high?” or “Is it because men just aren’t what they use to be?”

I have tonnes of male friends. In fact, I probably have more male friends than girl friends but no one special man in my life. I’ve put my personal life on hold since the year 2000. It’s been mine choice entirely and I don’t regret it, nor do I feel sorry for myself. I’ve dedicated my life to helping others since then and reaped rewards that no one man could have ever given me.

However, I’ve now decided to make that change in my personal life, and on the suggestion of an “eccentric” but adorable American personal coach friend of mine, I’m launching a worldwide campaign to find my one special man. I was told there are 6 million people out there, so it’s a question of trial and error. So, I’m going to try. They say: “Nothing ventured, nothing gained”

For once, I’m taking my own advice; picking up the pieces and moving on. My grandmother use to say to me that if someone wants you, they’ll find you. I don’t think that’s true anymore. Times have changed. We live in a different world and different times. It seems that if we want something, sitting in the sidelines; waiting and hoping for the good ones to notice just isn’t enough anymore.

So, where are all the good men?

I’m a simple woman really – although I can be a minefield of complexity in my sometimes irrational but logical thinking. You just have to get to know me.

It’s the little things make me happy - your smile that lets me know you’re happy to see me. A please and thank you, a good morning and good night; a kind gesture, a thoughtful act, a walk in the park or through the forest. I don’t need you to buy me flowers but I do need some sign of appreciation every now and then. I don’t need gifts but I do need hugs to remind me that you care.

I don’t need you to call me or text me or email me every 5 minutes but a hello once a day would be nice to let me know you think about me because I’ll be thinking about you. I don’t need to see you every day, but it would be nice if you surprised me by showing up on my doorstep for a cup of tea once in a while.

I am a Buddhist, so please don’t try and convert me. Don’t be jealous of my friends. If you are that special man in my life, there will be only you for me. I will be faithful and you will always have my loyalty. However, please try and understand that you are only one person compared to the thousands I promised to help. So, please give me space to help them or help me to help them.

One last thing, I may run away from you but I won’t run after you. So if you know in your heart of hearts that you’re afraid to love whole heartedly it’ll never work. As a friend of mine once said about me; when I give, it’s 150%. So, think carefully before you contact me.

My heart’s been broken too many times. I’ve been disappointed and let down too many times. You don’t have to be perfect; just perfect in my eyes. I believe that if something is worth having, then it’s worth going all out for. Do you? Then show me! Actions speak louder than words.

By Venerina Conti (

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Thursday, 12 November 2009

Where is justice?

1.2 million Tibetans dead. 125,000 counted in exile by the 1996 census. 2,500 seek asylum every year. Thousands suffer malnutrition, depression, anxiety and persecution syndrome. Thousands never see their home or their families ever again. Thousands die in exile because they never recover. Thousands die because the living conditions in exile aren’t adequate enough.

How many more have to die? How many more need to suffer before something is done? Where is human justice?

I’m not a political person. I never have been. Yet, I will stand up and be a voice when I think something needs to be heard.

The invasion and illegal annexation of Tibet began in 1949. You can read the full story here:

Since then, Tibetans have fled mainly to Nepal, India and Bhutan in search of asylum. Although, there are circa 9,000 refugees living in the United States, 8,000 living in Switzerland and a few thousand scattered throughout other parts of Europe and Canada. However, recent census figures are unavailable at this time. (Macalester College)

This year, I visited Nepal and was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time with several hundreds of Tibetan refugees. I even visited one of the Tibetan refugee camps just outside Pokhara. Believe me when I say, the Tibetan people are beautiful, kind, loving and peaceful people. They open their doors, their hearts and their homes to strangers. They have little or nothing to give and yet they give everything.

Despite their ordeal, they are not driven by vendetta, resentment or hatred. They are not motivated by capitalism or materialism. They pray for their enemy. In fact, despite the invasion of Tibet and the Chinese occupation, they don’t even consider China their enemy. During one of the retreats I took part in, I was told to pray for China. It was I, as a Westerner, who had to confront that part of me, which unlike them, was reluctant to forgive and forget. Tibetan people resolve matters with loving words, with prayers and with hope in their heart.

Although the Tibetan refugee camps are well organised with small handicraft factories, a prayer hall and basic living quarters for everyone; they are not really a place to call home.

The particular refugee camp I visited was founded in 1962 and yet the people who live there are still not officially recognised by the Nepalese government. To this day, most of the Tibetan people, living there, have no citizenship. They are no longer Tibetans because Tibet is now Chinese. They are not recognised by Nepal because they are asylum seekers. So, they belong to no country.

Citizenship would mean the possibility of a legal job. It would mean being able to travel backwards and forwards to Tibet and visit their family. Yet, it costs Tibetan refugees a tremendous amount of money to get a citizenship of Nepal. A monk friend of mine recently told me it was around 800 Sterling Pounds - if they're lucky enough to get one. Considering the monthly income is around 50 British Pounds – for some not even that - it’s an unthinkable amount of money to spend. So, they're forced to decide between living essentials or citizenship.

They mainly rely on the sales of handcraft items to survive. Monks and nuns don’t earn anything at all. They rely on the kindness and support of donations and sponsorship to survive; and the willingness of monasteries and nunneries to look after them.

During the low tourist season or during times of recession in Europe (like now) - people aren't spending much money - so many Tibetan families barely manage to make ends meet. This is something that I feel wouldn't necessarily happen if the Tibetan people were in their own country in "real" jobs - (whatever they may be defined as.)

While I was there, a Tibetan woman put all her pride aside and asked me for my clothes. She also asked if I had any sheets or other items I didn’t need. She wasn't a beggar. She was a beautiful, polite lady selling jewellery on the streets who was just trying to provide for her family in the best way any mother or grandmother would.

If a family member becomes ill, the medical bills put an enormous strain on the whole family’s total monthly expenditure.

We can say that poverty is everywhere in the world. I know this, but this is a poverty that could be avoided if the people of Tibet were allowed to have a place to belong to - a citizenship - an employment.

Worst of all, where is their voice? It seems that every time someone speaks of the Tibetan situation it’s pushed under the carpet. In fact, one day in Nepal, four of us went down to join a protest march for free Tibet. By the time we got there, everyone had been arrested and thrown in prison.

Now, President Obama is going to visit China and the Tibetan situation isn’t even on his agenda; despite his closeness to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

What kind of human rights is that? Where's the freedom of expression? I believe everyone should be allowed to have a voice.

Like I said before, I am on the side of the people - not governments and politics. I believe in human beings and their rights to the basic human necessities of life.
So, I ask: “Where is justice?”