Life, laughter, love

Continuing with the art tour of my own house, this picture is patiently waiting for us to hang it on my bedroom wall:

Irish words for Life, Laughter, Love, written with latin alphabet and Ogham

Beatha, Gáire, Grá are the three Irish words for Life, Laughter, Love… The only one I know how to pronounce properly is Beatha [ba-ha], and it’s a word I’m very fond of, those who work with me will know why ;-)

The lines are the same three words written in Ogham, the earliest written form of primitive Irish. The Ogham alphabet has twenty letters, each represented by one or more lines, and when it´s written vertically like here, it´s read from bottom to top.

Three simple yet powerful words, written in three different ways, reminding me to pay attention to what really matters.

An unexpected present

I´m not much into sea swimming in general; I grew up inland and it´s not something I´m used to. But what I do love is walking along the beach, dipping my feet in the water. 

Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of doing exactly that, as I watched a gorgeous sunset. It had been a very hot day, but at that time it had cooled down a little, and the temperature was ideal, even the water felt less cold than usual to me… Most people had already returned home, there were only a few left. And at that moment, it was all peace and quiet.

What a joy.

So there I was peacefully walking, enjoying the scenery, deep in my own world of thoughts, feeling happy for having set aside my to-do list for a little while to live the present moment (and in my head giving shape to a blog post about priorities, which I will write some other day) when another visitor of the beach took this cool picture:

Bea walking along the beach at dusk, her reflection showing in the water

An unexpected little present, and a lovely memory, thanks Sharon!

Recharged batteries

Every once in a while it´s good to have a change of scenery, even if it´s just for a couple of days, to set aside the daily routine, change perspective, and recharge batteries. This summer, for the second year in a row, I took the girls on a mini-vacation in Ireland, or using a popular expression nowadays, on a staycation (holidaying without leaving the country).

It´s really such a joy to go out and visit new places, or return to places you visited years ago... And these lockdown times have made me appreciate these opportunities more than ever. I´ve loved going back to the ring of Kerry, and we´ve had the privilege of seeing it at our own pace, without rushing, and without the endless row of tourist buses that usually invade these lands during the summer months. 

During this family trip, we´ve had a bit of everything: surprises, changes of plans, lots of music on the radio (of varying quality), lots of ice cream (and chocolate!), and above all, lots of amazing landscapes. Here´s an example, the Kerry cliffs:

View of the Kerry cliffs and the sea

So in summary, we´re bringing back a big load of good memories, enough to keep us going until the next break. And if going away on a holiday for a few days feels great, equally great is coming back home afterward :-)

After having this little rest (more of a mental break than a physical one, I must say), I´m resuming my day to day with renewed energy, especially the couple of projects I´m working on, that I´m really excited about, one of them this blog of course. I´ll keep you posted.

Inspiring possibilities

clear light bulb placed on chalkboard

The other day I bumped into this quote, and I liked it so much that I wrote it down on my kitchen whiteboard, that giant whiteboard that I am so fond of and find so useful:

When you have exhausted all possibilities, remember this: you haven’t. 

This has been the topic of conversation for a few days at home. It strikes me as a wonderful invitation to open our minds, and appreciate that, for any given situation, there may be other options and perspectives that haven´t even crossed our minds.

At the time I didn´t see who the author of the quote was, I´ve had to look it up now to find out it was Thomas Edison. And next to that quote I´ve found this other one, which for some reason I used to attribute to Albert Einstein:

Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.

Or as Pablo Picasso used to say: inspiration exists, but it has to find you working. Another genius, like Einstein and Edison.

And there are many, many more quotes by Edison, but I´m going to stop after this third one, which I also loved:

We don’t know a millionth of one percent about anything.

This last one, depending on how we take it, can make us feel very small in comparison with the immensity of the universe. But we can also turn it around so that it makes us feel excited, for all the room we still have to grow, learn, and discover :-)

And you, what inspires you to think about this world of possibilities?

Saint John´s Eve

On the night of June 23rd, many towns and villages across Spain celebrate Saint John´s Eve. It´s the Christian version of the summer solstice celebration in the northern hemisphere, and like many other ancestral festivals, involves fire as its crucial element.

outdoor fireplace during nighttime

I personally haven´t had the pleasure of enjoying a big bonfire celebration at the beach (my hometown doesn´t officially celebrate St. John, and also we´re not close to the seaside), although I do remember getting together with friends to mark that night in our own way… One year we even had a queimada with its incantation spell and everything, thanks to Víctor, our Galician mate :-)

Of course, we had our own mini version of the bonfire, improvised in a bowl or an ashtray, over which we jumped three times in order to attract good luck. And in that mini bonfire, we used to burn a piece of paper, which if I remember correctly, had three things written on it: something we were grateful for, something we no longer wanted in our life, and something we did want to happen to us or receive.

It was a magic night, full of possibilities.

I always liked the idea of taking this opportunity to reflect a little on our life: evaluate where we are, decide what we want, and perform a ritual so that we can feel the magic of change. The thing is that sometimes we forget that this magic is not only in the “universe”, in that abstract concept at which we throw all our wishes… this magic is also inside of us, because we are the centre of our own universe. So writing down our wishes as one writes a letter to Santa is not enough, we also need to do our part for the whole thing to work :-) 

This year I suggest that you do a little extra reflecting in front of the bonfire, and write down four things instead of three: something you are grateful for, something you no longer want in your life, something you do want to happen to you or receive, and something you´re going to start doing now to contribute to your desired change.

Fridge magnets

I´m not sure how the tradition first started, but it was a long time ago: in my family, whoever goes on a holiday usually brings back fridge magnets as souvenirs. It may seem silly, but I think it´s a nice gesture... Every time I visit my parents or siblings, I spend a good while inspecting their fridge magnets, going over the old familiar ones, and looking for new additions. I have contributed with a few of them myself, of course. And sometimes the same magnet can be found in several houses, in either the same or a slightly different version.

That is perhaps why I have a soft spot for fridge magnets, which together with my fondness of magnetic whiteboards, results in a considerable amount of magnets at home :-)

Some of them I keep always on display, some others I rotate over time. Some of them are presents from family or friends, while others are presents to myself! Today I´m leaving these three here for you, with their cool messages:

Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful
Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won´t get you anywhere
I literally love literature
  • Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.
  • Worry is like a rocking chair. It will give you something to do, but it won´t get you anywhere.
  • I literally love literature.

Balancing

Has it ever happened to you that the day feels too short? That it's nighttime already, and you still have a list of things you would like to do? And that you find it difficult to choose what to do today and what to leave for another day?

That's me at this very moment :-)

notebook with four blank tasks for today

Should I...

  • Do some yoga and stretching, to relax and feel better physically?
  • Spend some time studying for my course, so that I'm not rushing at the end?
  • Write another blog post, and keep up the momentum?
  • Or go to bed already, so that I'm fully rested tomorrow?

Those are the four options coming to my mind right now, and that's without counting the "mandatory" tasks, which are already done for today (those ones I've learned there's no point in postponing - the sooner you get rid of them, the better, and the less stress).

As you can imagine, today I opted for writing this post, not without pondering over it for a good while as I finished other tasks... Sometimes I find it a bit difficult to decide: on the one hand, knowing myself, I don't want to fall into the trap of always choosing the easy option, and leaving the one that involves more effort to the last minute. On the other hand, I don't want to dedicate too many hours to a single thing when I also want to make progress on others. And also, I know that as soon as I start doing any of them, time will very likely fly...

So what can I do? Well, keep balancing as best as I can.

The way I've figured out for the moment is setting up a weekly plan. On Sundays, I write down a task list for the following week, including X yoga sessions (replaceable by walks on days when the weather is nice), the course exercises, the blog posts, etc. I'm not assigning specific days for each task, I simply get to them as I see fit during the week, and tick them off (and oh how good it feels to tick off a task!).

That way I add more intention to my days, I make progress in all the areas I want, I can adapt to unforeseen events or take a break if I need to one day, and given that there's usually a bit more free time during the weekend, there's also the chance to finish certain things if I haven't been able to finish them earlier.

So far this my second week using this system, and of course I know that I won't always complete everything. But I think it's very useful as a reference, and it helps me to keep making progress, which at the end of the day is what matters most.

And you? How do you find balance?

Peace and good

Yesterday, as I was searching around the house looking for something else, I found this:

Wooden pendant in the shape of a Tau (franciscan symbol)

My Tau, so many good memories...

Tau is a Greek letter, equivalent to T in Latin, and it's also a Franciscan symbol. According to an explanation I heard once and really liked, being one of the last letters of the alphabet, Tau symbolizes the spirit of simplicity and service to others that St. Francis of Assisi had.

My friend Bárbara was telling me the other day that deep down, all religions and spiritual teachings end up taking us to the same truths, which we can arrive at through many different paths… In my particular case, I grew up in a Catholic environment; that's my family tradition and a big portion of my social background, so it was through Catholicism that I took my first steps in the journey of spirituality.

Between the ages of fourteen and eighteen, I attended a school run by Franciscan friars, and I have very special memories of the religious celebrations, prayer groups, retreats and pilgrimages I participated in with them, also later on during my college years. Above all, I loved the feeling of joy and peace that the friars conveyed, their spirit of prayer and service, and their willingness to roll up their sleeves and lend a helping hand for whatever it was that needed to be done.

Then as years went by, I started leaning more towards secular spirituality, which is where I am nowadays, but I'm totally convinced that the background is really the same, the Spirit is really the same, only with a different name. And I can't help thinking that for example the mantras and meditations that are practiced in yoga very closely resemble the meditative chants at those Easter celebrations in the convent of El Palancar.

Today I want to share with you a couple of pearls of wisdom from St Francis. First, a prayer that to me is as simple as it is beautiful:

Señor, haz de mí un instrumento de tu paz.
Donde haya odio, ponga yo amor,
Donde haya ofensa, ponga yo perdón,
Donde haya discordia, ponga yo armonía,
Donde haya error, ponga yo verdad,
Donde haya duda, ponga yo la fe,
Donde haya desesperación, ponga yo esperanza,
Donde haya tinieblas, ponga yo la luz,
Donde haya tristeza, ponga yo alegría.
Maestro, que no me empeñe tanto
en ser consolado como en consolar,
En ser comprendido como en comprender,
En ser amado como en amar
Porque dando se recibe,
Olvidando se encuentra,
Perdonando se es perdonado,
Y muriendo se resucita a la Vida Eterna.

And second, a phrase I discovered recently that is also attributed to him:

Start by doing what's necessary; then do what's possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.

St. Francis of Assisi

Being expert enough

Continuing with our art tour of the posters around my house, today I want to share with you this other manifesto. It used to inspire me some time ago, and it´s now resonating strongly with me again. I feel that, after spending over a year in a state of hibernation, the time is finally here to go out into the world again, to practice everything I´ve learned.

And what have I learnt? Among other things, that it´s not a question of having all the answers (or all the knowledge, or all the experience), but of having a genuine interest and willingness to learn, and above all, of being confident that you can do it, and that you´re going to do it well enough.

The EXPERT ENOUGH manifesto. We are all capable of so much more than we think. Most people never scratch the surface of what they´re capable of. Expertise is relative. Expertise doesn´t come from a piece of paper. Life is richest when we become good at a lot of different things. "Know'it'all", "Jack of all trades" and "Renaissance man" are compliments. LIFE IS AN EXPERIMENT. You don't have to wait for permission, and you don't need anyone else to grant you status. It's not about being the world's greatest expert. It's about being expert enough to accomplish your goals. The more you use creativity, the more you get. Brilliance lies within each of us. Go now. Live. Play. Explore. FOLLOW YOUR PASSION. Learn more. Do more. Be more.

Unfortunately there´s no Spanish version for this one, and the original website seems to have disappeared, but I can translate it here:

The EXPERT ENOUGH manifesto.
We are all capable of so much more than we think. 
Most people never scratch the surface of what they´re capable of. 
Expertise is relative. Expertise doesn´t come from a piece of paper. 
Life is richest when we become good at a lot of different things. 
"Know'it'all", "Jack of all trades" and "Renaissance man" are compliments.
LIFE IS AN EXPERIMENT. 
You don't have to wait for permission, and you don't need anyone else to grant you status. 
It's not about being the world's greatest expert. 
It's about being expert enough to accomplish your goals. 
The more you use creativity, the more you get. 
Brilliance lies within each of us. 
Go now. Live. Play. Explore. 
FOLLOW YOUR PASSION. 
Learn more. Do more. Be more.

Finding your voice

I have always thought I was not a very creative person, mostly because when I heard the word "creativity", what usually came to my mind were artistic skills like painting, design, arts & crafts... Precisely those things I was quite bad at.

Then over the years I´ve changed that perception, not because I started getting good at painting, design or arts & crafts, I´m still awful at all of them. It´s because I have realized two things:

First, that trying something once or twice and finding you´re not good at it doesn´t mean you´re never going to be good at it, it just means you don´t have enough practice (this seems really obvious when you see it written here, but it´s not always easy to see in the moment, especially when you´re used to getting other things done right the first time round without much effort)

Second, that you can be creative in so many different ways! You just need to find the creative outlet that better suits you personally. Your own way to express what´s inside you.

Your voice.

A couple of years ago I "found my voice" in the most literal sense, upon signing up for my company´s workplace choir and starting weekly practices with Nicola, our choir director. I had always liked music, but never realized before how much I really enjoy singing, it truly lifts my spirit.

Whether I´m good at it or not is another matter entirely; that will only be seen once we can reunite again and put together a performance, although I would say that that´s the least of my worries... The most important thing is how much we enjoy singing (and laughing) together as a group, and if other people also enjoy listening to us, then that´s brilliant, double reward.

Also in my life there are and have been other ways to express my creative side: during my childhood and adolescence it was dancing, when I moved to Ireland it was blogging, and when the gils were younger (and even now that they´re a bit older), you can imagine, being a parent also demands a fair amount of creativity :-)

How do you express your own creative side? Have you found your voice yet?